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First and foremost, this post will be walking you through the process of creating a stencil using the Silhouette Studio Software. While there are other machines you can use to cut your stencils, I personally own a Silhouette Cameo 2 and will be guiding you through the steps of making a silkscreen stencil using the Silhouette software.
Before we start
Let's go over the differences between making a silk screen stencil vs normal stencil with your die-cut machine.
Silk Screen Stencil
Made of thin plastic (mylar stencil sheets)
Made using silk screen fabric and clear vinyl
Need 'bridges' to keep inner pieces connected
No 'bridges' needed
Smaller intricate designs are harder to make
Small intricate designs possible
Have to pick off all of the 'negative' pieces stuck to your cut mat, can be annoying.
Need to weed the 'negative ' space off your stencil (the more pieces the more tedious)
No need to mirror your logo/image stencil
Need to mirror all designs that are not bilateral ambigrams
Here is the list of supplies needed to complete a stencil from start to finish:
Weeding tool (optional)
step one: tracing your image/logo
Tracing your image is only necessary if your logo/image is a JPEG file. If your design is a PNG or SVG feel free to skip to Step Two. For those that have only a JPEG, let's get the design you want as your stencil open. There are several ways to do this:
import your image/design (I'll be teaching you this way).
create your own within the software
use a silhouette design you purchase from the silhouette store
For this tutorial I will be uploading my own logo. With Silhouette Studio open, click File>Open and select your file. When you import it, feel free to resize it as needed so that you can see it fully within your screen. For now, don't worry about the correct and final size you need, we will fix that later.
To trace, select the 'butterfly' trace icon on your right-side menu, and select your trace area. When your area is selected it should show the traced image in yellow (see image below). If your image has several colors in it, you might need to toggle the threshold until the whole image is yellow. When you have it all yellow select Trace at the bottom of your trace menu. Once its done, go ahead and delete your imported image and left behind should be the red outline of your image.
step two: assembling your stencil 'digitally'
In this step you will 'assemble your stencil'. Start by creating a 5.5" square. To do this select the rectangle drawing tool> holding down shift, click and drag to expand a square shape> adjust size if needed in the top bar to the correct size. This square will be the outside edge of our stencil. This is the most common size for cookie stencils, and I have found it best to keep my silk screen stencils the same size as my others so I can store them identically.
Now is the time you can resize your stencil design to the size you want by using the 'W' & 'H' boxes along your top menu bar. I have resized my logo to 3 inches so it fits nicely within a 3.5" circle cookie (See image below). Next, mirror your design by right-clicking and selecting flip horizontally. (Mirroring is essential when making silk screen stencils unless it's a bilateral anagram). Once it's mirrored, select both your square and traced image and hover over the alignment tool in your top menu to align both center and middle.
STEP Three: cutting your stencil with the silhouette
Now it's time to get ready to cut. I first like to make sure my image is located on the top right of the mat. Check out images below to see where I like to place my stencils. I only cut one stencil at a time usually, so I like to cut my clear vinyl into 6" squares for placing on my mat. If you'd like to cut 4 stencils at a time, you can simply place a 12"x12" sheet of clear vinyl on your mat.
When your vinyl is placed correctly on your mat, load your cut mat into your machine and connect to your computer to get ready for cutting. I am currently not hooked up to my machine, which is why it says unavailable at the bottom of my image. There, you can look at the cut settings I use to cut the vinyl. This is what works for me, but feel free to try your own default settings, or settings that have worked for you in the past. Click SEND to cut.
Step Four: assembling your stencil 'physically'
Once your cut is made, cut mat is unloaded, and you've removed your stencil off the mat, it's time to weed. Before we do this though, let's cut 6" square piece of silk screen fabric. I guesstimate and do not actually measure, as long as it's a piece bigger than my 5.5"square vinyl. Once you have your fabric cut, set it aside as we continue by weeding our vinyl.
You will remove everything that would be negative space, i.e. the parts you want gone to allow airbrush or icing to flow through. If you have never weeded vinyl before, here is a great video you can watch. Once you've weeded your design, place a piece of transfer tape over your design. I like to only cover the actual design in transfer tape (see images below), but feel free to cover the whole 5.5" square as well if you wish. Transfer tape is used to pick up all your unbridged pieces of vinyl and to carefully transfer your vinyl over to its final location, in this case the silkscreen.
It should look something like this.
The left image is weeded, and the right has transfer tape over the design. (Did I just create digital images of the process? Yes, I did lol). Although you can use any color vinyl to create a silkscreen stencil, clear works best in my opinion because it will allow you to see through to the cookie and makes it easier to place it down in the correct spot when it's time to use your stencil. For this tutorial I have made the vinyl a sage green in the digital images so you can see it better.
Next, place your vinyl upside down on the table and carefully removing the vinyl backing at a 45-degree angle, starting from a corner. Be careful and go slowly if your design is intricate, you want to make sure your transfer tape lifts all your tiny little pieces and they don't get left behind. In my logo, I would make sure to rub extra good overtop the O's and whisk to ensure the tiny little pieces of vinyl inside those areas transfer. Here is a good video that shows you this process, except they don't turn face down (which I recommend).
Once the sticky side of your vinyl is exposed, press your vinyl stencil over your silk screen stencil (imagine your silkscreen is a piece of paper, and you are placing a 'sticker' on this paper). Rub that vinyl gently on to the silkscreen and then begin removing your transfer tape. Make sure those tiny pieces also transfer to your silk screen. Permanent vinyl is pretty sticky and should stick to your silkscreen pretty easily, even those tiny, tiny pieces. Not pictured below, you can trim the excess silkscreen, leaving you with a perfect 5.5" stencil.
caring for your stencil
To clean, make sure to use only cold to lukewarm water, as anything warmer/hotter will warp or shrink your stencil. Do not scrub your stencil with anything, but if needed lightly rub using your fingers to get rid of those tedious dirty spots.
Air drying is optimal but sometimes you might find yourself needing to wash between cookies when decorating. When this happens, I like to use a microfiber towel to dry my stencils. I 'sandwich' my stencil between two towels and press the stencil between the towels to ensure that it not only dries but stays flat. If needed, I wave the stencil back and forth to quickly air dry the remaining wet spots.
It is important that your stencil is completely dry before placing on a cookie or any remaining water can damage your dried royal icing.
For storing, store similarly to your other stencils, making sure the stencil lays flat.
Having the ability to make your own silkscreen stencils is perfect for those custom orders requesting company logos, for last minute ideas, and provides you the convenience of not having to wait for shipping. Now it's time to get out there and make your own silkscreen stencil! If any of these steps have left you with questions let me know, I will be happy to help.
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