How to Make Street Stencils

Stencils for street spray-paint art are a great way to create complex works of graffiti art with minimal effort and time. Since graffiti art is often a personal artist's expression, it's a good idea for any dedicated graffiti stencil artist to learn to make stencils.

Things You'll Need

  • Craft Knife
  • Permanent Marker
  • Paperboard
  • Drawing Supplies
  • Spray Lacquer
  • Cutting Board

Design and draw the image you want to use for your stencil. Either draft it directly on paper or print it from a computer. Choose or make an image that can be rendered in a single color and with the fewest number of intricate and fine lines possible. You also may create an image made up of two overlapping layers of one color each and make each layer its own stencil. This is easiest to do using an image editor with a “layers” function, such as Photoshop.

Study the image to figure out how to convert it to a stencil cutout. Look for any sections where a portion of the image is fully encircled by other lines of the image (such as the inside of certain letters, like “o”). Make connecting lines in these sections to keep the enclosed area attached to the rest of the stencil.

Cut the image out of paper. Use a cutting board or self-healing mat and use a sharp craft knife for the cleanest lines.

Trace the image onto paperboard. Use the paper cutout as a preliminary stencil to trace the shape onto the cardboard. Use a thin-tipped permanent marker for the best balance of precision and clarity.

Cut out the image in paperboard just as you did with the paper, using a craft knife. Use short strokes for the most accurate shape.

Spray the paperboard with lacquer. Spray one side, let it dry according to the instructions on the lacquer, then spray the reverse side. This will make your stencil more water-resistant and help it last longer.


  • Graffiti art is only legal when it is applied to private property with the permission of the owner.