Stencil - History and Types of Stencilling

Stencil Decoration

The stencil is a mold with whom is possible to create an image on some flat surfaces by allowing the color to reach that surface with the gaps in it. Stenciling is a way of creating pictures or text on surfaces using a stencil. The whole idea of a stencil is that it can be reused for countless times.

First findings of stencils (hand stencils) are found in Asia and Europe and are dating from over thirty-five thousand years ago. Images are created on the walls by blowing pigment over a hand against the wall. Ever since that time hand stenciling and classic stenciling are used on all different kinds of surfaces and materials to create images and texts. Stencils are also used for cloth coloring especially in Japan. This type of cloth coloring using stencils are called Katazome, and it was used during the Edo period in feudal Japan. Stencils are also used in Europe to color old master prints from 1450. Those master prints were in black and white technique, and it was usually woodcuts. One thing that was are also colored by stencils is playing card. Stencils were used for printing and mass publications and everything else that were not supposed to be hand written.

In France, during the 1920s, the stencils were used for illustrating books, and it was a very popular method. The technique was specialized by André Marty, Jean Saudé, and some other people. At that time, low wages in France contribute to the popularity of this method of illustrating. The coloring of books using stencils is also called “pochoir”. Pochoir technique requires a print with the outlines of the printing area and then the stencils are used to put a color on a surface. A collotype is used if there is a need for details. Pochoir method is usually connected with Art Nouveau and Art Deco design.

Stencil Spray

Usage and Types of Stencilling

There are many types of stencils such as:

  • Military stencils
  • Graffiti stencils
  • Utility stencils
  • Printing stencils

The usage of stencils is very wide: from military, government, utility companies to graffiti artist. They are used to label objects, locations or vehicles quickly and easily. Many armies throughout the world are using stencils to mark helmets, vehicles equipment, and many other things. The most famous military stencil is the one from second world war with the application of symbol of a playing card on the helmet to identify regimental units.

At the second part of the twentieth century, stencils made widely popular by the graffiti artists. They are using a stencil and spray paint to make graffiti easily and quickly. Those types of graffiti are usually with the political message, a lot of graffiti artists are using this drawing to express themselves. Some of them are Banksy from Great Britain, John Fekner and Pirate & Acid from the United States and Blek le Rat and Jef aerosol from France.

Stencils are also used in silk screening which is a type of textile printing. With this method, one color can be applied at a time which means that for multi-colored silks there must be a number of silk coloring with a dry time between every color.