Why do I like to use homemade stencils and stamps, when there is an abundance of stencils and stamps out there?  I like to create my own designs to produce artwork which is original or personal to me.

Homemade Stencils

A wide variety of ready made items can be used as stencils.

To name a few – 

  • Forms of packaging.
  • Netting
  • Lace
  • Cheese cloth
  • Doilies
  • Really, anything that has holes.

Cutting stencils by hand

Mylar is a strong material for cutting stencils, however, it is expensive and hard to cut by hand. Here are a few alternatives I have tried.

Cardboard and acetate, using a scalpel or exacto knife to cut out the stencils. Cardboard may sound flimsy, but it becomes quite strong when layers of paint get dried on to it.

Stencil cut from folded paper
Stencil cut from folded paper
Stencil cut from file folder divider using an exacto knife
Stencil cut from file folder divider using an exacto knife

Depending on the details of the design, the cut out areas of the stencils can be retained and used for masks. 

By far the quickest and easiest way i’ve tried to create stencils by hand, is with a wood burning tool, using the plastic dividers used in file folders. This melts instead of cutting.

A wood burning tool is like a small soldering iron with a fine tip through which heat is transferred to burn designs on wood, which is called pyrography.      

After drawing the design on the divider, I go along with the wood burning tool fairly slowly, to give the burner time to melt the plastic.

Stencil made from file folder divider using wood burning tool

Homemade Stamps 

As with stencils, many everyday or household items can be used.  All they need is a textured or patterned surface, although other objects such as bottle tops, corks and bobbins make interesting marks.

Methods of making stamps.

Sticky backed foam works well. Shapes can be cut out and stuck onto a support, such as wood, plastic or cardboard, or even two shapes of foam stuck to each other creating a flexible stamp.

Stamp made from sticky backed foam shapes on card
Stamp made from sticky backed foam shapes on card
Bird shaped stamp made from sticky backed foam
Bird shaped stamp made from sticky backed foam

I have also stuck various shapes of wood or cardboard onto foam board with PVA. There are various shapes of wood in crafts stores, such as butterflies, flowers and letters. I have found that more pressure, and even pressure needs to be applied with stamps made from wood and cardboard.

Styrofoam is especially good for making stamps. All you need to do is draw a design onto the surface with a ballpoint pen, applying enough pressure to create groves. Meat trays from the supermarket are ideal. 

Stamp made from Styrofoam scored with a ballpoint pen
Stamp made from Styrofoam scored with a ballpoint pen

Actually, I purchased a kneeling mat from the pound shop, made from a kind of hard polystyrene type of foam. As with the styrofoam, it is easy to make grooves with a ballpoint pen, cutters or knitting needles etc. And because it’s about 2cm thick it’s good to hold and work with.

Stamp made from a foam kneeling mat scored with a ballpoint pen
Stamp made from a foam kneeling mat scored with a ballpoint pen

I also purchased a product called Magic stamp from Amazon to make stamps. I’m not sure which retailers stock it. 

Packaging for magic stamp
Packaging for magic stamp

This is a kind of foam and comes in packs of four blocks, about the size and shape of a large bar of soap. You have to heat the surface, preferably with a heat gun, then create marks before the foam cools. This can be achieved by drawing to create grooves, or pressing an object or textured surface onto the hot foam, even something as delicate as a feathers and leaves. When the foam cools, which is almost immediately, the impression stays. I don’t have a heat gun so I used a hair dryer, which worked, but the impression on the foam was not as sharp as it would have been with a heat gun. It was difficult to maintain enough heat on the foam.

Stamp made from magic stamp, scored with a sharp point
Stamp made from magic stamp, scored with a sharp point

The foam can be re – used as the impression can be erased by reheating. The foam can also be cut into different sizes or shapes.

3 cards small greeting cards, showing the use of homemade stencils and stamps.

I’m sure there are many other items and methods for making homemade stencils and stamps. I have just mentioned a few.

Whenever I go, I keep my eyes open for potential stamps and stencils. For example, the decorative band from a cup cake I had in a coffee shop would make a nice stencil. Or the corrugated band round my takeaway cup is a stamp. It’s also a good way of reusing discarded items. 

If you have found any interesting ways to create homemade stencils and stamps, please let me know in the comments section. 


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Homemade stencils and stamps

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