STENCILRY

How To Make Huge Foldable Stencils

Every once in a while, we all consider making something big. however, unlike smaller stencils, these are hard to conceal and carry, posing many risks and problems. so here i’m proposing a method that’s worked for me in the past, mostly developed out of common sense. this works better for me than rolling up stencils because many materials ‘remember’ their shape, staying curly when i’m trying to tape them to the wall. the key to these folding stencils is that cheap, clear packing tape doesn’t remember its shape, so it can be used to fold small segments over each other.

Here’s an example:

this stencil is well over 6 feet long and folds up to half a poster board size (22″x14″)
since it’s big and not extremely high-detail on close inspection, you can’t even see differences between poster board and packing tape on the final product:

still interested? let’s begin:

i’ll start with a little mini-tutorial about how to enlarge an image in MS paint. before i show all the pics, let me just say that not everyone will enjoy this way of enlarging stuff, because the bigger you make it the bigger the pixels will get. UNLESS YOU HAVE A VERY HIGH RESOLUTION IMAGE, YOUR PRINT-OUT WILL BE VERY PIXELATED. that’s how it is. if you don’t like it, use rasterbator or ace poster or a projector, which is probably the best option. but here goes.

first, open your image in paint. then go to file, page setup.

once you open page setup, this is the window that should pop up. the part that’s circled in red is the part we need.

now you can use either of these, they both work. i prefer to use the pages by pages function because i can then calculate about how large i want it to be. putting in percents makes it a bit random. the internet told me that this dinosaur is about 12 feet long in real life, so we’ll make it 13 pages wide.

REMINDER: WHEN YOU PRINT, YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE MARGINS. DECREASE THEM AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE SO YOU HAVE TO TRIM FEWER PAGES

once you’ve set the size, go to file, print and print it off. 9×13 is 117 pages… fortunately most of them were white so i got to reuse them.

here are the printed pages before trimming. use a ruler along the edge and a sharp blade. or a paper cutter if you find it faster. sometimes this takes a long time, so watch a good movie while you’re doing it.

once the pages are trimmed, you can start taping them together.

here are the pages all taped together, laid out on my floor.

now comes the tricky part: getting material to cut this out of. in this example i use posterboard, but i’ve found mylar and thick acetate also work well for more detailed stencils.

first, decide how small you want your stencil to fold up. the smaller you want it, the more prep you’ll have to do and the more pieces you’ll have to cut. for this stencil, i’ve chosen to have it fold to 1/4 posterboard size. that’s 11″ x 14″

when cutting your posterboard, it doesn’t have to be completely 100% straight, but the fewer errors you make now, the easier it’ll be for you later on down the road.

here are 2 quarter pieces of posterboard. they are already taped together with clear packing tape but since you can’t see it. i’ll get to the taping part later.

once you have all these pieces cut, you can lay them out on your printed image to get a rough feeling of how many you’ll need. remember to leave a bit of space between them, about half an inch or so, for the tape and so that it can fold.

as you can see, all my pieces are in a grid shape. THIS IS KEY TO GETTING YOUR STENCIL TO FOLD UP NICELY. this means that you can fold it horizontally and vertically, and that the pieces of poster board will sit on top of one another and the only parts that fold are the tape in between them.

now that you know how many pieces you’ll need and in what shape, you can begin to tape the material together. leave a good, even gap between each piece, and tape one side, turn it over, and tape the other side so it’s not sticky. here are some pieces taped together with duct tape and scotch tape, which you should NOT use.

the tape you should be using for the best results is clear packing tape, and not the kind that’s advertised as ‘you can rip it in your hand – no cutting necessary’. that stuff is shit and too thick. the thinner it is, the less it will keep its folded shape. thus when you unfold your stencil, the tape will sit flatter on the wall and you won’t lose any detail between the sheets of poster board.

keep adding more and more till it’s in the shape that you can put your printed image onto.

taping it together is the really time-consuming, tricky part. try to get the tape as flat as possible, with no wrinkles. if you line it up properly and do it carefully, the whole stencil should lie flat. once you’ve got the whole thing taped together, you can tape your printed image to it.

now you just have to cut it out and spray it. it folds up to a fat 11×14, so should fit nicely in a messenger bag.

so there you go. folding stencils. keep in mind, you don’t need to make the pieces that small or leave that much space between them.