Make a Reusable Silkscreen Stencil

Make a Reusable Silkscreen Stencil main article image
Posted on July 2, 2021 by Jan Hunter

Vinyl cuts used for stencils are generally one-time use. Mylar or acetate stencils generally need a bridge to keep all the little elements intact (especially for lettering). Silkscreen stencils offer more than one use – generally, no bridges and are easy to make (and don’t require weeding) clean up, and reuse again. And you can create multistep stencils as well for projects that use multiple colors or have distinctive layers. For this project, the following was used:

Arkina Font Duo – created by: Sibelumpagi Studio

When choosing to purchase a collection or single quote, be sure to check all of the License Use terms before using. Some collections do not allow creating silkscreen stencils if you plan to sell the stencil. So read the notes and terms carefully before purchasing and downloading the files.

For this project, we’re going to create and design our own quote. So let’s get started!

You will need:

  • Arkina Font Duo
  • IkonArt Stencil Kit (kit includes light, stencil material (blue or purple), printable emulsion sheets (inkjet or laser)
  • Stopwatch (most phone have a stopwatch feature)
  • Paper towels or absorbent hand towel
  • Printer (inkjet or laser) – make sure your printer sheets are for the correct type of printer
  • Editing software (SCAL 5 PRO was used, but  you can use GIMP, Inkscape, PhotoShop or similar software)
  • Pail of warm water
  • Sink with a spray hose

For this sample the following additional items were also used:

  • Craftwell USA eBrush with Tombow adapter
  • Tombow watercolor markers
  • Acrylic paint (your choice of colors)
  • Foam brush
  • AC cardstock (smooth finish)

We all have a few rough edges – waiting to be refined and those nubs along the edge of the card front go perfectly with the quote shared in this silkscreen stenciled card front.

Choose any of the fonts you have on your computer or browser the library at if the Arkina duo doesn’t quite suit what you have in mind. TIP: If you’re new to silkscreen stencil making, test your printer and water pressure using smaller designs to the find the best settings.

Step 1: Design and Print

The design for this project was created in SCAL5 Pro. Select the font you want to use and create your quote. Set the typeface to black fill – for a bolder look, also set the stroke to black.  For a leaner font look, you may want to set the stroke to None. Do not use grays. Black fill is required for a clearer and more detailed stencil. AGAIN: Make sure that anything you want to print is set to black. The black will be the area that will wash out after your template/pattern has been exposed to the light on the silkscreen material.

If you have lots of fine lines or intricate details, reverse the image on your software screen before printing.

The acetate that will go into your inkjet printer has some emulsion on it making it cloudy. That will be the side that your print will print on. You can cut the sheet if you’re only doing one stencil… just set your page set up in the software to the size of the piece and be sure that your printer, best quality print and on the printer we use, Premium Plus and photo paper are used in the settings. Be sure that your printer will also accept that size and make any adjustments as needed. When you’re ready, click on the print command for the software and print. If you’re using a laser printer – follow the directions in the kit for best results.

Because this image doesn’t have lots of details, it wasn’t necessary to reverse the image for printing.

Step 2: Expose the stencil film

The next step is to expose the stencil material. The stencil material is light sensitive. Keep what you’re not using in the bag the sheets come in.

You can use your paper trimmer or a pair of scissors to cut one piece of the stencil at a time or fill the entire sheet with multiple prints making sure none of them overlap.

Place the blue stencil material with the textured side up on the base of the lamp stand. Once the images are in place on the stencil film, you need to place a clear sheet over the top and smooth the printed images so they are making contact with the blue stencil material.

Turn on the light and expose the images and stencil film for 32-35 seconds, using the stopwatch on your smart phone. Turn off the light and now, you’re ready for the next part of the process. Remove the clear sheet and the prints from the stencil. You will not see the images – don’t worry.

Step 3: Rinse/Wash and Dry

If possible set up a bucket or plastic bin with about 1 inch of lukewarm water in it.  Place the exposed stencil material into the bucket.

Leave the clear backing that is on the stencil film in place. Do not remove it. Within a few seconds, you should see the image you’ve exposed turning white. Now, using the sprayer in your sink, carefully, rinse out the stencil exposing the white portions that have been “burned” into your stencil using barely warm water. Once you’ve completed this process, place face down on a towel, some t-shirt material or paper toweling to dry. It takes about 30 minutes for a small stencil. Allow longer for larger sizes.

Step 4: Post Expose

Once your stencil is dry, place back on the base of the light and expose for 2 minutes. This step is important as it will help keep your design from distorting during future use and cleanings.  Once your stencil has been exposed for the 2 minutes, it is ready for use.

Let’s use your stencil!

You can use paper, canvas or wood. Canvas and wood surfaces need to be prepped prior to using the stencil. For this article, we’re using some AC cardstock with a smooth surface.

Cut the card to size for the intended purpose… for this instance, the card is cut to size for a short slimline card. 3.5 x 5.5 inches.

Place your cardstock on a surface that is flat. Remove the backing from the stencil and lay on top of the card. Smooth in place. There should be some tack to keep the stencil from sliding.  If there isn’t, you can secure the stencil to the paper with a little bit of painter’s or low tack tape.

Place a bit of acrylic paint on your “palette” and using a foam brush, apply the paint to the stencil. You can lift the stencil a bit to make sure that you’re getting the desired coverage.  Replace and repeat if needed. Once completed, remove the stencil and place in some warm water to keep the paint moist until you can rinse it out. TIP:  Acrylic paint can fill the mesh in the stencil if not washed out promptly.

Set the card aside to dry. Wash out the stencil, replace the backing and let dry. Once dry, your stencil is ready for another use.

This next step can be done before or after you have used the stencil. For our purposes, the extra color was added after the stenciling using Tombow markers and the eBrush (an airbrush system using markers). Once you have created the background, you can add your card to the card base and personalize as desired.

The following designs require 2 stencils. They make quite a statement, don’t you think?

BONUS TIP:  Save your printed images. You can reuse them to create new stencils when needed.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the idea presented here. You will find more inspiration on Jan’s page on The Artistry and on her blog. We’d love to see what you create – so be sure to share with us.

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