How to Make Homemade Stencils

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Things You'll Need

  • Printer
  • Printer paper
  • Scissors
  • Wax paper
  • Wax crayon
  • Tape
  • Craft foam sheet, 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick
  • Ironing board
  • Iron
  • Cardboard
  • Craft foam-board cutter or craft knife

Stencils can help you create highly detailed and one-of-a-kind projects. Whether you want to add decorative accents to furniture or embellishments to walls, or you're creating printed T-shirts, using stencils turns something ordinary into something extraordinary. If you need a custom stencil that you just can't find in a store, make homemade stencils that you can reuse for multiple craft applications.

Choose an image you would like to turn into a stencil. Do not use a highly detailed image that might prove challenging to cut out. Download or scan the image, and print it out on a sheet of printer paper. It doesn't matter what color ink you choose when printing the image.

Cut a piece of wax paper to match the size of the printer paper. Tape the wax paper on top of the printed image, making sure you center the image in the middle of the wax paper. This ensures you have sufficient room to cut out your image later without getting too close to the edge.

Select a wax crayon in any color you prefer. Drawing on top of the wax paper, carefully trace the image from the printed sheet below. Do not fill in any colored or solid areas. Instead, only trace the outlines of the image.

Lift up and remove the wax paper from the printer paper. Be careful not to wrinkle or tear the wax paper. If wrinkling or tearing occurs, start the process over again until you have a clean tracing on flat wax paper. Fold any excess tape over or cut it off with scissors.

Lay a sheet of 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick craft foam on top of an ironing board. Lay the sheet of wax paper on top of the foam sheet, crayon tracing side down, and tape it into place. Do not apply any tape over the traced area. Set the iron to the lowest setting, and iron the wax paper for about one minute, or until the crayon tracing appears on the craft foam sheet below. Carefully remove the wax paper and tape.

Lay a sheet of cardboard on top of a flat surface, and place the craft foam sheet on top of it with the trace image facing up. Tape the foam sheet into place. Cut out the tracing from the foam sheet using either a foam-board cutter or a standard craft knife. Use smooth cutting motions and make sure you insert the blade all the way through the foam sheet. Discard the cut out pieces of foam or save them for later use.

Trim off any straggling shards of foam from the stencil using scissors so all the stencil's edges are smooth. You can now use your homemade stencil for several crafts and projects.


  • If you do not want to use craft foam to make homemade stencils, replace the foam with a piece of card stock or a sheet of acetate. Make sure you lay the card stock or acetate on top of a thick piece of foam or cardboard before cutting out the tracing with a craft knife.

    Do not use the steam setting on the iron when ironing the wax paper against the craft foam sheet. The hot steam may cause the tracing to smear.

    If making letter stencils, it does not matter which way you iron on the letter pattern because the finished stencil can be used both front and back.


  • Always use caution when using craft knives and irons.

    Keep all knives and irons away from children.