Stencilling placards requires patience and practice but its a good way of making campaign materials that will separate you from the crowd at demonstrations. Making stencils is usually left to the more arty types so we figured we’d shake it up a bit and give you a step-by-step guide so you can try making them without graduating from IADT. You will need the following:

  • A computer with a printer
  • Multitudes of sturdy card
  • Plenty of newspapers
  • Scalpels, scissors and a stapler
  • Spray paint, preferably in two different colours
  • Sellotape or masking tape
  • Blank A3 sheets (buy cheap scrap books from Easons)
  • A2 sized pieces of cardboard
  • Plasters (its inevitable really)
  • Blu-tack
  • A breadboard

Most of the above you’ll already own or can be lifted for free from green bins or by asking in supermarkets. Sadly some things will have to be bought but these will last for ages. For spray paint and art scalpels, the best/cheapest place to buy these in Dublin is Evans art supply store off Mary Street. Just buy blu-tack, paper and the like from the pound shop or anywhere cheap.

Step 1: Prep your placard backing

Basically you need to get an A2 sized piece of cardboard and attach two A3 sheets of paper (the cheapest option) in landscape rotation to the front of this with a stapler. Make as many of these as you will require.

Unite youth Placard

Step 2: Design your placard

Unite youth stencil
‘Know your product’ font

Use a simple program to make a draft layout of your placard and check it looks well. You will need to use a font that is suitable for stencils as it will need to be cut out without falling apart. A font that generally looks well for this task is Know your product. Unite youth placard

After this, print out each line of text in a larger font size as you will have to fill up an A2 placard. Roughly cut these out into rectangular blocks and lay them out on the front of your placard to check the sizing and layout works before you proceed.

Step 3: Cutting out stencils

Take each line/word/symbol you want to turn into a stencil and sellotaple these (at the sides) to a card backing. Card needs to be used as the paint will cause paper to curl and become useless after one use. Try and find card which is durable enough to last for several uses but is also thin enough so it can be cut through easily. Once this is done, grab your breadboard (or something equally tough to lean on) and carefully cut out the letters of each stencil with your scalpel. This will take a while so multiple comrades, tins & tunes are recommended.

Unite youth stencil

Step 4: Assembly

Put small bits of blu-tack on to the back of each stencil and fix them onto your placard one at a time until the layout is complete. Unite youth placard

Step 5: Spraying your placard

Lay out plenty of newspaper in your back garden or in a large indoor space and put your placard on top. Make sure it won’t blow away by weighting it down with something. Each spray paint is different so read your instructions but generally if you shake the can for a minute and test it on some spare paper then its fine to use. Take your spare A3 paper and use these sheets to protect the other stencils from being hit with the wrong colour paint while you’re colouring in another section. If you want to be really neat then you can use masking tape along the edges to seal each section from stray paint. Unite youth

Hold the spray paint can parallel with the stencil and spray directly onto it from about 20-25cm distance. Its important not to overspray (the paint will run) so keep the can moving over the placard in horizontal movements and generally don’t use too much. Once this is done, give it a couple of minutes to dry and then move your spare paper over this area to protect it while you do the next area in a different colour.

unite youth

Essentially continue doing this until you’re done.

Unite youth

Finally, peel off your stencils and leave the placard somewhere to dry.

Step 6: Repeat as much as you want

While stencils take a long time to make initially, once they’re done you can spray as many placards as you like. Just re-affix them on each new placard and work away. Its quick enough once you get the hang of it. Unite youth placards

Coming soon: Making banners!


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