Banners are the mainstay of any political group and if you don’t have the cash or the time to order a professionally printed one then your best option is to make one yourselves. Personally we prefer them like this anyway. To encourage others to give them a go, we figured we’d give away more state secrets and show you how to make them step by step..

You will need the following:

  • A computer with a printer and lots of paper
  • A flat (not fitted!) white double bed sheet
  • Scissors
  • An art scalpel
  • A stapler and many staples
  • Spray paint, preferably in two different colours
  • Double sided tape (preferred) or blu-tack
  • Bin bags, old newspapers and masking tape
  • A tape measure

When it comes to buying this stuff. If you’re in Dublin then we would recommend Evans Art Supply store off Mary Street for spray paint, the Montana Gold range are best for jobs like this. As regards getting a cheap bed sheet then head to Guineys on Talbot Street; many fine leftist banners have begun their lives in this shop. Buy two sheets just in case the first attempt goes horribly wrong. Pick up the other stuff from pound shops or anywhere on the cheap.

Step 1: Prep your concept art

Use a simple design program to make a layout for your banner. We’ll be making ‘positive’ stencils for this banner so use white coloured fonts and give them coloured edges to replicate the paint we’ll be using. This will give you a good mock-up on what your final banner will look like which you can discuss with your comrades before getting started.

An example of this:

Unite youth striking back


Step 2: Print out your letters

Open Microsoft Word and input the text you’ll be using and then make each letter large enough to fill an A4 page per letter (or an A3 page if you can print in this size). Print off all of these and you’ll be ready to go.

For example:

Unite youth striking back

Step 3: Check the design works

Before you start cutting out the letters, place the printed sheets together to check the sizing and layout is going to work. Use a tape measure to compare the dimensions with those of your bed sheet. If its not going to fit then shuffle things around or drop words that are making it too long e.g. ‘Dublin’ was dropped from ours. Cutbacks.

Unite youth stencil

Step 4:  Cutting out

First off, this is going to take a while so prepare some decent tunes and supplies.

Unite tea     unite tunes

Now you can begin the process of cutting out all the letters as carefully as possible. For the centre of letters like ‘D’ for instance, use a scalpel to remove their inner sections.

Unite youth stencil

Step 5: Prep your sheet and stencils

For the next step, unpack your sheet and fold it until you have the size of banner you want to work with. The easiest way to deal with the loose folded edges of the sheet is to staple them. Then lay out your sheet on the ground and use double sided tape to stick each of the letters down on the banner. Use a tape measure, or something ruler-like, to make sure you place them in a straight line. Leave a reasonable distance between lines if you’re using different coloured spray paint later on.

Unite youth banner

Step 6: Spraying

First off, prepare a suitable area for spraying your banner. You need to keep the banner sheet clean from any dirt or stains and also manage not to get paint everywhere, you’ll figure out something.

Unite youth banner

After this, carefully carry your sheet with the stencils attached and place it on your workspace. If you’re working outside then secure it to the ground with rocks or weights, you don’t want to be spraying a sail.

Unite youth banner

You need to protect each line of the banner from being accidentally sprayed when the other line is being worked on so use some sheeting (e.g. a roll of bin bags) across the middle of the banner. Use masking tape to make a seal along this sheeting and use newspapers on the less important areas further back. After this you can begin spraying. Shake your paint can for a couple of minutes and then hold the can parallel with the stencils and spray directly onto it from a 20-25cm distance. Its important not to over-spray (the paint will run) so keep the can moving over the stencils in horizontal (left-right) movements and generally don’t use too much. Keep going over the stencils until you’ve reached the coverage you want.

Unite youth banner

Leave the sprayed side of the banner to dry for a few minutes until its dry to touch and then peel off the letters and move the sheeting over it to protect it. Reapply your masking tape and then spray the stencils on the lower half of the banner. After that then just let it dry, peel off the letters and you’re done!

Unite youth banner

Step 7: Make an abortive banner self-portrait

Timed photographs are useless.

Unite youth team

Hope that was useful, we’ll be making more activist guides as we make more campaign materials!


One thought on “DIY Activist Cookbook: How to Stencil Campaign Banners

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