In this tutorial, you will cut the tote bag stencil that you can use to stencil the same design in the Stenciled Tote Bag post. The design was one that I drew and had professionally laser cut when I taught a class at the annual stenciling convention many years ago (1997… 1998?). The stencil is not one that is commercially available. But you can have the design by cutting it yourself. This is a single-layer stencil design. I will have more instructions in the future on making and using multi-layer stencils.
The design provided in my resource library is a one-quarter design because the full design will not fit on an 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheet of transparency film. I will teach you how to use the one-quarter design for your complete project. This will be a stencil you can add to, or use to start, your collection and reuse!
First things first, you need to cut the tote bag stencil.
Hand Cutting or Craft-Machine Cutting
This post is specifically about hand-cutting the stencil. If you haven’t tried hand-cutting stencils, I recommend you go through my tutorial on cutting your own stencils. The tutorial includes some video clips and has links to practice sheets. I go into some detail about the materials and technique in that tutorial.
If you have a craft machine, such as the Cricut, I have provided the one-quarter design and the full design in .SVG format in my Free Resource Library. You may need to scale and flatten the design once you bring it into your design software.
Materials and Tools to Hand-Cut the Stencil
I go into details about stencil cutting tools and materials in my stencil cutting basics tutorial.
- Transparency Film (or 3-5 mil Mylar)
- Cutting Tool such as an X-Acto Knife
- Cutting Surface such as 1/4″ Tempered Glass or Self-Healing Mat
- Stencil Design (print one copy from my Free Resource Library)
Place your cutting surface in front of you. I prefer to use tempered glass.
Take the printed design (page 2) and cut out some notches along edges of the paper. I do this when the design is the same size as the stencil film. In this example, the design is printed on 8-1/2″ x 11″ paper and the stencil film is 8-1/2″ x 11″ transparency film. This keeps the design from shifting around as you cut the stencil.
Place the printed design, design-side down onto a sheet of transparency film. If you are using Mylar, tape onto the matte side of the Mylar.
Attach the printed design to the transparency film by taping the paper to the transparency at the cutouts.
Before moving to the cutting section, I want to answer a question you may be thinking. Why not just run the transparency film through my printer? That’s fine for practice pieces, pieces you will not use as actual stencils. Any toner left on the stencil will flake off into your stencil paint when you begin stenciling and you will have black speckles on your finished project. Yeah, I learned that the hard way. Learn from my mistakes. 🙂
Cut the Tote Bag Stencil
The best method for cutting stencils is to cut the smallest pieces first. If you cut the largest pieces first, it reduces the structural integrity of the stencil film which allows it to potentially shift around on you as you cut other areas of the stencil. For this design, the last pieces you will cut will be the large arc shapes. On page three of the design sheets, I have marked a recommended order to cut the tote bag stencil.
For curved lines, turn the film as needed. NEVER LIFT YOUR BLADE when working in one of the design elements. This will result in jagged edges. Again, there are instructions (with practice sheets) and some video for how to cut stencils in my stencil cutting tutorial.
For those of you reading this who are still new to stencil-cutting, I thought it might be helpful to watch me cut out one whole piece of the stencil. It is one of more curvy parts of the design. There is no voice-over on the video. It’s just me cutting it and the video is almost 3 minutes long.
Once you have all the pieces cut, you can remove the design sheet from the transparency film.
The design you just cut is only one-quarter of the whole design. This section will show you how to line up the stencil on another section of your project three more times to complete the full design.
Because this is a one-quarter design, you will need to mark your project for placement. I’m doing this project again on the other side of the same tote bag I used in the Stenciled Tote Bag post.
Find the vertical and horizontal centers of the project – the tote bag in this example. I used straight pins to mark the centers.
The stencil you cut is only one-quarter of the pattern. In the picture below, I have marked the horizontal and vertical centers of the whole design.
You will need to place the stencil on the upper left corner of the tote bag so that the whole stencil design center lines align with the tote bag center line marks. Once aligned, tape it down. I had to drop the contrast on this picture so you can see the clear cut stencil on the tote bag.
Stencil this portion of the design onto the tote bag. You can go back and re-read my post about stenciling the tote bag and watch the videos showing the pouncing technique. When you finish the stenciling, lift the stencil off the tote bag.
About “Registration” of the Alignment
Shift to the upper right portion of the tote bag and rotate the stencil 90 degrees clockwise. Align it again with your center line marks and use the overlap elements to help align the stencil. In the picture below, I have arrows pointing to the two sections of the stencil that are the same as the part you already stenciled. You can use these as “registration” to help you line up the stencil.
Masking Areas of the Stencil
Press the tape into place and begin stenciling. You do NOT want to stencil in those sections that are over the part you already stenciled. You mask those areas by using a piece of paper, low-tack tape, an old piece of stencil, or anything that will keep paint from being applied in those openings. The reason you should mask those is that is it not likely that the pieces you cut out are cut exactly the same.
Complete the stenciling in this section.
Continue Positioning and Stenciling
Shift to the lower right portion of the tote bag and rotate the stencil 90 degrees clockwise. Align it again with the previous stenciling and your center line marks. Begin stenciling.
When the third section is complete, shift to the lower left portion of the tote bag and rotate the stencil 90 degrees clockwise. Align it again and stencil.
Remove the stencil and you now have a completed stenciled tote bag!
Here I show both sides of the tote bag, the side I just completed and the side I did in the original post about stenciling on a tote bag.
I mentioned that I used this stencil design for a class that I taught at a stenciling convention. In that class, I had the students stencil gutta onto a 12″x 12″ silk handkerchief. If you don’t know, gutta is a rubber-based product that is used as a resist in silk painting. After the gutta had set for a minimum of 30 minutes, they got to use silk dyes in any colors they wanted to paint the handkerchief. The areas where they stenciled the gutta were untouched by the dyes. I wish I had pictures to share with you from that class. I might just have to recreate that as another blog post, someday. 🙂