You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to create custom stencils with Cricut stencil vinyl. With the help of your trusty Cricut cutting machine, you’ll be making DIY stencils in no time!
I’ll show you the easy way to make stencils with Cricut stencil vinyl in this tutorial step-by-step tutorial. Plus, I’ll give you all of my tips and tricks so your project will turn out great – even if you’ve never stenciled before!
Making Stencils with a Cricut
There are many ways to make stencils with Cricut – even more ways to use them! Stencils can give a professional-level finish to all sorts of DIY home decor projects, like painted pillows, handmade wooden signs, and custom t-shirts.
In this post, I’ll show you everything you need to know about making DIY stencils with a Cricut. I’ve written this tutorial with beginners in mind, so we’ll cover the whole stencil process in depth from start to finish. Then, I’ll demonstrate how to use the stencil to paint a custom wooden tray. After that, I’ll answer your frequently asked questions about making stencils with Cricut.
What is A Stencil?
A stencil is a thin sheet of material – usually plastic, vinyl, or paper – with a design cut out of it. To use a stencil, lay the stencil sheet on a surface and apply paint overtop. The paint will only pass through the cut-out areas of the stencil, transferring the design to the surface.
Stencils are very versatile. Here are just a few of the different types of projects you can make with stencils:
- painted wood signs
- stenciled “wallpaper” and borders
- painted floor and wall tiles
- cookies and cake decorating
- silk screen printing
- glass etching
Stencil designs can be simple or complex. While you may be able to cut simple stencils by hand, a Cricut machine is a perfect tool for cutting intricate stencil designs quickly.
Here are the materials and tools you’ll need for this project
- A blank surface, such as a wooden tray, a t-shirt, or a wall.
- Stencil Vinyl. I like using Cricut Stencil Vinyl, but I’ll go through some other options.
- Transfer tape, optional.
- Paint or stain. For this project, I’ll be using chalk paint.
- Stencil brush or sponge brush.
- Cricut machine. I’ll be using a Cricut Maker, but the Explore series and Cricut Joy will also work.
- Weeding tools, scraper tool, and a brayer.
Keep reading for a helpful step-by-step tutorial on making Cricut stencils with stencil vinyl. And don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for printable directions!
Best Stencil Materials for Cricut
Your Cricut machine can cut stencils from all sorts of materials, including Cricut Stencil Vinyl, regular removable vinyl, mylar stencil film sheets, and more.
With all of those choices, you may be wondering: What is the best stencil material for Cricut? Here are some of the most popular materials, along with their pros and cons.
Cricut Stencil Vinyl
I love using this stencil vinyl because it’s thicker and more durable than regular vinyl. The adhesive backing holds the stencil in place while you paint and prevents color bleed.
Cricut Stencil Vinyl is repositionable and reusable, too. As long as your stencil design isn’t too intricate, you should be able to reposition the stencil many times before it tears or loses its stickiness.
Regular Removable Vinyl
You can use regular removable vinyl – such as Cricut Premium Vinyl or Oracal 631 – to make stencils. It’s a great way to use scraps or colors that you don’t want anymore.
Since regular vinyl isn’t designed to be used as a stencil, it might tear when you peel it away from your project – so don’t plan on reusing it.
Stencil film sheets are washable and reusable. You can use stencil film sheets over and over again, so they’re perfect for making multiples.
Stencil film is made from durable, flexible mylar – just like the pre-made stencil sheets you can buy in a craft store. They don’t usually come with adhesive backing, but you can spray them with stencil adhesive to keep them in place.
You can even find food-safe stencil film sheets to make food or cookie stencils with Cricut.
I love using freezer paper to stencil on fabric. The freezer paper sticks to the fabric, so you don’t have to worry about paint bleed. Then, it easily peels off when you’re finished painting. Learn more about freezer paper stencils here: How to Make Freezer Paper Stencils.
Cardstock and Paper
You can even use cardstock to make stencils. These paper stencils aren’t very durable, so you can’t reposition or reuse them. Still, they’re great for one-off projects.
We’ll be using Cricut Stencil Vinyl in this particular tutorial. But feel free to play around with whichever material suits your project and your preferences.
Which Cricut Machine is Best for Stencils?
You’ll be glad to know that all Cricut models can cut stencils!
The Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore series machines can cut all types of stencil materials, including stencil vinyl, mylar sheets, and freezer paper. With a standard size mat, you can stencils up to 11.5″ wide and 11.5″ long. Or, use the larger size mat to make stencils up to 11.5″ wide and 23.5″ long.
The Cricut Joy can cut stencil vinyl, removable vinyl, and freezer paper with ease. The Joy can cut simple designs out of the stencil film sheets too, but you may need to make multiple passes. With a standard size mat, you can cut stencils up to 4.5″ wide and 6.5″ tall.
How to Cut Stencils with Cricut
There are four main steps to making stencils with your Cricut.
- Design the stencil in Cricut Design Space
- Cut the stencil
- Apply the stencil
- Paint the stencil
Let me show you how to do each step.
Step 1: Design the Stencil in Cricut Design Space
The first thing to do is select the image you’d like to stencil. You can choose a design from the Cricut Access Libary, upload a stencil SVG file, or make your own stencil in Cricut Design Space.
Search Cricut Access
You can search the huge library of images in Cricut Access for stencil project ideas. To find good stencil images, use the search terms “stencil” or “pattern.”
For this project, I’ll be using a free image called “Lattice Pattern Overlay” from the “Edge to Edge” image set. I duplicated the image several times and welded them together to create a larger design.
Upload your own image
You can also upload your own stencil image to Cricut Design Space. One great place to find cool SVG files is Etsy. Or, check out the free stencil images on freestencilgallery.com.
Design a Stencil in Cricut Design Space
Another option is to design your own stencil image in Cricut Design Space. You can make a stencil of a monogram, some letters, a short quote, an illustration, or any combination of those elements.
Remember to keep all parts of your stencil image connected if you want to reposition and reuse your stencil. All design elements must be touching if you want to cut the stencil vinyl as one solid piece.
Step 2: Cut the Stencil Vinyl
Once you’ve finalized the stencil design, you can prepare to cut the vinyl.
First, place the stencil vinyl onto a LightGrip or StandardGrip Cricut cutting mat. I like to roll the stencil vinyl with a brayer tool to make sure it is flat, smooth, and well-adhered to the mat.
Then, press the button to load the mat into the machine.
Next, go back to Cricut Design Space, and send the file to your Cricut machine. Here’s how to do that:
- Click the green “Make it” in the top-right corner.
- On the next Prepare screen, check that your design looks correct. If so, click Continue.
- On the next Make screen, click Browse All Materials and select Stencil Vinyl. Note: If you have a Cricut Explore Air 1 or 2, turn the Smart Dial to Custom so that you can use the Browse All Materials menu.
After that, you are ready to cut the design. Double-check that the Fine-Point blade is loaded into your Cricut machine, and click the flashing Go button to cut the design.
When the Cricut has finished cutting, unload the mat. Now it’s time to transfer the design.
Optional Step: Weed the Design
At this point, you may or may not need to weed the design or use transfer tape. Here’s how to tell if you need to weed the stencil vinyl:
Needs Weeding and Transfer Tape:
If your design is very intricate or contains floating elements, you will need to weed the design and use transfer tape to transfer the stencil from the liner to your project surface.
- Weed the design. Remove the negative pieces from the stencil using a weeding tool or tweezer.
- Remove the transfer tape liner. Place the transfer tape, adhesive side down, onto the stencil design. Burnish the transfer tape onto the stencil vinyl.
- Slowly peel away the stencil vinyl liner at a 45-degree angle.
- Then, carefully place the transfer tape with the stencil vinyl onto your surface.
Doesn’t Need Weeding or Transfer Tape:
If your design is relatively simple and made of connecting elements, you may be able to pull the Stencil Vinyl from its backing without weeding it first. After you peel the stencil from the backing, you will be able to place it onto your project without using transfer tape.
Step 3: Apply the Stencil
Ready to apply the stencil vinyl to your project surface? Here we go:
- First, make sure your project surface is clean and dry. Then, carefully place the stencil vinyl onto the surface. Take your time to position it exactly as you would like the final image to appear.
- Use a Cricut scraper tool or an old gift card to burnish the stencil vinyl onto the surface. Start burnishing in the center, then move out toward the edges of the image. Burnishing the edges will create a good seal and prevent your paint from bleeding under the edges. Since the stencil vinyl is transparent, you’ll be able to see where it’s making good contact, where there might be bubbles, or where you need to burnish more.
If you are using transfer tape, you’ll follow the same burnishing instructions. After burnishing, gently peel away the transfer tape at a 45-degree angle, leaving the stencil vinyl on the project surface.
Step 4: Paint the Stencil
Now that you have the stencil vinyl applied, it’s time to paint your design!
Use a stencil brush or a sponge brush to dab a light coat of paint on top of the stencil vinyl. The paint will pass through the cut-out areas of the stencil, transferring the design onto your project surface.
For more coverage, you can apply additional thin coats of paint as necessary. Keep in mind that it’s better to apply three thin coats than one thick coat to prevent paint bleed.
Then, once the paint is dry, gently remove the stencil vinyl. At this point, you can reposition the stencil vinyl to a new area and reuse it.
If for some reason, the stencil stretches or tears as you remove it, you can use your Cricut to cut another stencil.
Here are a few more stenciling tips:
- Use as a special stipple brush or sponge brush to apply the paint.
- With stenciling, a little paint goes a long way. Offload any excess paint by tapping the brush on a paper towel.
- Tap the brush over the stencil in an up-and-down motion. Don’t brush the paint side-to-side, as that can cause the color to bleed under the edges of the stencil.
- Wait for the paint to dry before removing the stencil to prevent drips or smears.
When you are finished stenciling, you can seal your piece with a clear coat. For a wooden tray like this one, I like to use a coat of water-based polyurethane.
Frequently Asked Questions
Stencils can be tricky, especially if you are new to the technique. Here are a few troubleshooting tips to help you get a good result.
Do You Have to Weed Stencil Vinyl?
You don’t necessarily have to weed stencil vinyl – it depends on the intricacy of your design.
Since Cricut Stencil Vinyl is thicker and stronger than regular vinyl, you can often remove it from its backing without the design stretching or tearing. So, if your stencil design is relatively simple, you should be able to peel up the stencil without weeding the small bits.
On the other hand, you may need to weed the stencil vinyl if your design has a lot of curves, is very open, or has a lot of delicate parts.
Do You Have to Use Transfer Tape with Stencil Vinyl?
Again, it depends! In many cases, you can peel the stencil vinyl off of its backing and apply it to your project without the use of transfer tape.
However, if your design is intricate – or has any non-connected, floating elements – you can use transfer tape to assist you.
If you are having trouble getting the transfer tape to release the stencil vinyl, here are some tips:
- Gently peel the transfer tape away from the stencil vinyl at a 45-degree angle.
- If the vinyl keeps sticking to the transfer tape, use a scraper tool to burnish the vinyl onto the project surface.
Is Cricut Stencil Vinyl Reusable?
Yes, you can reposition Cricut Stencil Vinyl and reuse it in another area. After you apply paint to the first area, let it dry to the touch. Then, carefully peel off the stencil vinyl. The adhesive should be sticky enough that you can lay the stencil back down in a new area and use it again.
Now eventually, the adhesive will wear out, or the stencil will rip. But, you can easily use the Cricut to cut another stencil.
Can you use Stencil Vinyl on Fabric?
Yes, you can use Cricut Stencil Vinyl on a variety of materials, including wood, fabric, canvas, plastic, paper, and more.
Can you use Stencil Vinyl for Glass Etching?
Yes, you can. But, since Cricut Stencil vinyl is thicker than regular vinyl, it may be more challenging to apply to curved surfaces. So, just keep that in mind when designing your stencil.
Explore More Cricut Projects
If you love crafting with your Cricut, you may be interested in these articles.
- How to Make Shirts with Cricut Iron-On Vinyl
- How to Make Reverse Canvas Wall Art with Cricut
- How to Clean a Cricut Mat and Make it Sticky Again
- How to Make Stickers with Cricut “Print then Cut”
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- Design the stencil image. Upload your own SVG file to Cricut Design Space, use an image from the Cricut Access library, or design an image using the tools withing Cricut Design Space.
- Place the Cricut Stencil Vinyl onto a Cricut cutting mat. Load the mat into the Cricut machine.
- Click "Make it" to send the file to the Cricut machine. Select Stencil Vinyl from the Materials menu, load the Fine-Point Blade, and press the flashing Go button to start the cut. Once finished, unload the machine.
- Carefully peel the stencil vinyl from its backing and apply it to the project. Use a scraper tool to burnish the stencil vinyl onto the surface, sealing the edges. (If necessary, weed the design first and then use transfer tape to apply the stencil vinyl to the project.)
- Use a stencil brush or a sponge brush to dab a light coat of paint over the stencil. Apply additional thin coats of paint for more coverage as needed.
- Let the paint dry to the touch, then gently remove the stencil vinyl. At this point, you can reposition the stencil vinyl to a new area and reuse it.
For more tips and tricks, see the FAQ section above.
Sarah Stearns is an artist, maker, and blogger at sarahmaker.com
Her work has been featured in Scientific American, Good Housekeeping, Vox, Apartment Therapy, and more.
Sarah lives and works in North Carolina with her husband and young kids.