Have you ever wondered how to make large wall art stencils for your art or DIY projects? We decided to ask one of our maker friends how he does it.
We love getting to know more about our friends in the DIY / Maker world. We also like getting to pick apart their minds to find out about cool concepts and ideas. Often times these things are discussed in private chats or groups. We thought it would be a neat idea to bring the answers to some of the questions we have to you, so you can share in some of this valuable knowledge.
For our first installment of this “series” we tapped Dan Quiroz from Dan The Maker Man for some knowledge on how he creates his amazing large wall art stencils for his super hero wall art pieces and exactly how that process plays out.
How To Make Large Wall Art Stencils?
Here are the questions and his responses. Enjoy.
What got you interested in doing these large scale wall art pieces with stencils?
It is something that I wanted that nobody else was making.
The first one I made was for my son’s room. I didn’t want to put up a poster; I wanted something more, something that stood out. One weekend the idea just popped in to my head to make a cutout of Batman jumping through the air. I had some ¾ inch MDF leftover from a project so I decided to use that as the medium. MDF is flat and takes paint well and it is very easy to cut with a jigsaw. As for the size I figured the bigger the better. I didn’t want it to be full size though; I knew that much at least.
What method do you use for creating these enormous stencils?
I usually try and find a black and white image to work with, they are less work upfront. If I can’t find a black and white version then I will use a color version. When I search “Google” I will sort the image from largest to smallest. The large versions (higher resolution) will have better detail when enlarged. It’s not super necessary they be high resolution but it helps. If the image is black and white I will save a copy to my desktop and then open it up in Adobe Photoshop.
The first thing I do is duplicate the layer to save the original in case I mess up. Then I will begin deleting the background or extracting the image I want using the selector tool. I try to get rid of anything I don’t want to print, this saves on printer ink.
Next I try to figure out how big I want to make it. The Photoshop canvas size I am working in is 8.5×11, so I will resize the image to get the final size I want. This takes a little math because I end up printing the final template on to multiple sheets. I will usually print out the main image on 16 total sheets or rather a 4×4 grid of 16 sheets. So let’s say an image is 10 inches tall, when I print it out on the 4×4 grid of 16 sheets it will be 40 inches tall. If I print out that same 10 inch image on a 3×3 grid of 9 pages the final image will be 30 inches tall. Sometimes I print out the image and its too big or too small so I will resize the image in Photoshop and reprint it. Mainly I am just trying to make sure that the image will fit on the piece of MDF I plan to use for the project.
If the image has color then I will convert it to black and white by going to Image menu>Adjustments>Threshold and adjust the slider to what looks about right. This will turn the image black and white and vary the thickness or heaviness of the black lines. Every image is different so adjust the slider to where you can see most of the black line work. Once I am happy with the thickness of the lines I click OK and then carefully erase the background. I erase the background after adjusting the “Threshold” because a lot of times the background will get erased during the adjustment. Then I resize and print it the same as described above.
Once everything prints I will trim off any excess paper since I do not print to the edge of the paper. Then I will tape together the seams with clear tape. I do this for the front and the back. With everything taped together I will then use a razor to cut out my template.
Approximately how long does it take for you to create one of these pieces from start to finish?
The more colors the longer it takes. It can take a few days from start to finish. Getting the image ready can take 30 minutes to an hour. Cutting out the image on the MDF can take 45 mins to an hour. Then sanding and sealing the edges with wood glue adds at least another 30 minutes to an hour including the time it takes the glue to dry. Waiting for the paint to dry in between coats also adds to the time.
I also like to wait 3-4 days after I add all the detail to spray a clear coat; I do this to make sure that all of the paint has had time enough to cure. If you spray on a clear coat too early it may cause the paint to wrinkle. All in all about a week probably but that’s more of an estimate.
Since each image is different they take as long as they take.
What are some of the challenges when creating the stencil?
One challenge is trying to find an image that will work and has the right amount of detail. This is more of a personal preference. The more detail an image has the longer it will take to complete. Also finding an image with the full superhero body shot is tougher than you would think. There aren’t a lot of whole body shots, most will have a portion missing because of the way the original artist drew it. Another challenge is cleaning up the image after converting it to black and white.
It’s not so much a challenge as time consuming. Then there is printing it out and hoping the size will work. I have printed out images that were on 16 sheets of paper only to tape them together and find they are too big.
What are some of the challenges when going from large wall art stencils to finished pieces?
One of the biggest challenges is figuring out the order to apply the different colors of paint. I usually try to start with the dominant color or rather what color is used the most in the image. Then I will work my way down through the colors. There have been a few times when I apply too many layers of paint and a section will wrinkle. I’ll have to remove that paint and start over and redo that section. “Patience is key, don’t rush it or you’ll screw it up”, is what I constantly tell myself whenever I make one of these. I don’t always listen to my own advice though.
What advice do you have for someone looking to try this method?
Start with a simple image that doesn’t have a ton of line work, like an image from an animated tv show. Try making a black and white version or one that only has 2-3 colors. I really feel anybody can replicate this method it just takes patience and a lot of blue painter’s tape.
Large Wall Art Stencils
We hope you enjoyed this look into how Dan makes his large wall art stencils and how that entire process unfolds. We highly recommend you check out Dan’s YouTube channel as well as Instagram. He is always making unique projects that are beautiful and out of the box.
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