Cut Your Own Stencil Material

Blank mylar in both sheets and rolls can be used for cutting your own stencils and for may different uses. Create your own designs or trace designs that you want to emulate. This is the best stencil material to use.

Mylar Properties: All grades of mylar are:

  1. Translucent material, you can see contrast through, it so it is easy to place in the correct spot.
  2. Food grade material.
  3. Very durable yet flexible. Dimensionally stable and do not stretch like vinyl
  4. The only difference is in the thickness of the mylar. A mil is 1/1000th of an inch. Newspaper is approximately 3 mil, a business card is about 12 mil. We offer 4, 7.5, 10 and 14 mil. As you get thicker the mylar is stiffer and will be slightly more opaque.

Which Mylar is best for cutting stencils?:

  1. All of our mylars make great stencils. The major difference is in how they will be cut.
  2. For manual knife cutting we recommend 4 mil mylar. It cuts easily with a scalpel like knife though we recommend our Gyro cutter. This tool is easy to learn and can easily cut straight lines and curves. It is perfect for tracing a printed picture.
  3. For consumer grade electric cutters like the Cricut and Silhouette 4 mil Mylar is the best stencil material. 4 mil will cut consistently, the thicker materials will not.
  4. 7 mil mylar can be cut with a gyro cutter with significant pressure. 10 mil and 14 mil cannot be done.
  5. A heated cutter like a Wall lenk is the only manual cutting tool for 10 mil and 14 mil mylar.
  6. Heavy duty industrial grade cutters like the Cricut Maker can cut 7 and 10 mil mylar.

Tips for creating your own stencils:
1. Use the correct surface. when using a manual knife or Gyro cutter protect your table, I like using a self healing mat or you can use a cutting board from the kitchen. A cutting board also works for the heated cutter though you will likely get soe plastic residue on the the cutting surface so don't use your favorite kitchen board...I learned the hard way.
2. Tape or use our Repositionable Spray Adhesive to hold the stencil to keep it from moving during the cutting. If you are tracing a picture or printed lettering fix that first to the cutting surface and fix the stencil material over the picture.
3. Slowly and methodically cut the stencil along your pattern. You can lift up to insure that you have cut corners completely.

Why Mylar is the best material for stencilling?
Stenciling is a traditional yet still highly effective method for rendering lettering, graphics and artwork on surfaces. It allows those of us without the ability to draw to make professional and pleasing displays.

So the stencil material:
1. Must have openings cut precisely into it with available tools.
2. Must maintain those openings spatial relationships from the time it is cut until it is used.
3. Must not be impacted by the paint or material used to project the art.
4. Must be able to be cleaned or be a few use stencil.
5. Finally unless the stencil is being cut with a computer controlled machine, it needs to be transparent enough so that one can see contrast through it.

Paper stencils are problematic: The simplest and most common material is paper. While usable paper has some fatal flaws. While easy to cut,it is even easier to tear. While OK for large lettering, fine stencilling is not possible as the smaller breaks will tear. It if is not kept flat or rolled carefully it will fold or crinkle and lose its spatial integrity ( the art will not be in correct place.) It is hard to trace as it is generally too opaque. Unless it is coated it will absorb paint. Finally it is not cleanable.

Be wary of vinyl. People also try to use vinyl. It easy to cut, and it does stand up to paint. But it can stretch and tear fairly easily. Take great care when placing these stencils.

We recommend mylar. If you are cutting by hand or using an electric cutter 4 mil is easy to cut, it does not stretch or crinkle with reasonable care. It is still quite tough and can handle fairly fine detail. It is fairly transparent making it easy trace cut from a drawing or a picture. It can handle most paints and can even be carefully cleaned. 4 mil also can be molded around curved surfaces which is very handy.

The thicker grades of mylar 7, 10 and 14 mil increase in durability, but are tougher to cut. These require either a hot knife, a commercial grade cutter, or an laser cutter. They also become milkier is they are thicker and 14 mil is difficult to trace cut. The also become somewhat stiffer. We do not recommend 14 mil for rounded surfaces. However these stencils can be cleaned and with proper care can last for hundreds of uses.