Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Stencils, Spray paint, and the Challenges of Large Sticky Surfaces

So far I have only transformed one of my designs into a spray paint stencil.  But it actually isn't too difficult.

First you have to choose a design and decide how large you want the stencil to be.  Since I only had access to a regular printer I designed my stencil to be divided into printer paper size sections (8."5x11").  This way I could enlarge the image, print it on multiple pages, and then tape all the pages together for the final stencil.  For this stencil I divided the image into six panels, then I taped them together along the seems.  I then covered the entire stencil with clear contact paper to make the stencil stronger so that it wouldn't rip when it was painted.  The total size of this stencil came out to be 17"x33".

When making the stencil, you need to consider how many different colors you want to use.  For each color you will need to cut a different stencil layer, except for the background which can be sprayed on as a solid coat over the entire canvas.  For this particular stencil, I cut two stencil layers, one for the white and one for the black.  To cut out the stencils I used an exacto knife to get clean edges and remove complex shapes.  For the white stencil, I cut out the basic outline of the entire girl.  So it was just a silhouette without any of the internal detail.  For the black stencil, I cut out all the black areas but left the white areas uncut.  One thing that you must take into account when creating the initial stencil is that you cannot have any white areas that are completely surrounded by black areas, otherwise the entire area will be cut out and be painted black when you spray the stencil.

Print of black layer only
Another thing you should be aware of when buying spray paint is that you must be over 18.  While I am old enough to legally buy spray paint, every time I get more I end up getting carded.  I tried both Krylon and Rustolium paint, and so far I like the Rustolium spray paint a lot better.  The Krylon paint is extremely watery and has a much greater tendency to run everywhere.  This might be due to my poor spray painting technique, but I have had better luck with the Rustolium.  These are both fairly cheap spray paint brands, but they are nice because they can be found at a local hardware store or Walmart.  I am new to spray painting, so I have not yet looked into better quality paints.

To create the final piece I first sprayed the entire canvas with red paint.  I tried to do this evenly, not holding the spray paint too close to the canvas, but it was tricky since I was spray painting outside and the wind would catch the paint if I was too far away from the canvas (this was a problem because my housemate warned me that if I accidentally got paint on his house I would be in trouble :P).

Also, be sure to lay down paper or plastic under the canvas because grass and little bits of debris can become stuck to the wet spray paint.  Once you paint the canvas bring it inside immediately so that it can dry.  Although the paint dried fairly quickly on the brown paper, it dries much slower on the canvas.  For my first print I attempted to spray the three stencils leaving only ten minutes drying time.  This did not work out very well and I ended up pulling up some of the previously sprayed areas when I tried to remove the stencil.  For my second attempt I let the paint dry for about a day in between layers and I didn't have problem with the stencils sticking or damaging the previously painted layers.

Since the canvas is 24"x36" the stencil did not cover the entire canvas.  The problem with this is that the overspray would get on any uncovered area.  Spray paint goes EVERYWHERE!!!  To fix this be sure to cover all area of canvas that you do not when colored. 

One thing that I like about the spray painted version of my designs is that they never come out exactly the same.  For example, the stencils don't line up exactly the same or I over spray too much black or white in different areas creating a unique look even though I'm using the same stencil.  Although I do like the clean lines and boarders generated in photoshop, there is something nice about the imperfections as well.

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