Instructables: How to Create a Stencil on Photoshop

Photoshop is a great program to edit and manipulate images. By adjusting the “Threshold” and using the “Cutout” filter, you can quickly turn a photograph into a stencil. You can then print the stencil onto cardboard and use it however you like.

In this tutorial, I will be taking you through a detailed yet simple guide on how you can transform a simple JPEG photograph into a stencil by using basic filters and simple brushes.

  1. Firstly, open the image you want to turn into a stencil. Open Photoshop and load the image you want to create a stencil out of.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 9.16.22 AM
  1. Open the Threshold Tool. Click on “Image” in your toolbar -> “Adjustment” -> “Threshold”, to open this tool. The Threshold filter converts images into high-contrast, black-and-white images. Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 9.16.55 AM
  2. From this point, you can drag the Threshold slider below the histogram to adjust the level of detail. All the pixels lighter than the threshold are converted to white and all the pixels darker are converted to black. This determines your light and dark areas. Then click OK.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 9.17.42 AM
  3. Clear up any background details you don’t want or crop your image. After apply the Threshold, there is a good chance that you image will have some background image that you will want to get rid of, especially if you are wanting to cut your stencil out and spray-paint it onto a surface. Select the paintbrush and use either white or black to cover little specks that muddies the image. You can use the crop tool alternatively, especially if you want to get rid of section that distorts the rest of the stencil.
    Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 9.18.29 AM
    As you can see in the image above, there is a lot of detail on the left. This is what you want to get rid of as it will be impossible to cut out manually.
    Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 9.18.53 AM
    In this image, i’ve just cropped a portion of the left off as I don’t need it for my stencil.
    Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 9.18.53 AM
    As for the paintbrush. I’m going to use it to take away the thin strands of hair.

    Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 9.25.12 AM
    In this image you can see, how I’ve erased some details. This is going to make my life a lot easier when I start cutting out.
  4. Link any white spaces together. When you print and cut out the stencil, you will be able cutting away the black spaces to paint through. This means that if there are isolated details in white, they will need to be connected to the rest of the white space so that you can cut it out easily and efficiently.
  5. Open the “Cutout” filter. Once you’ve created all your links, click “Filter” in the toolbar ->“Artistic” ->“Cutout”. This will create straighter and smoother lines to yet again, make it easier to cut out.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 9.25.39 AM
  6. Adjust the Cutout Filters settings. The different sliders will allow you to adjust the amount of flattening. The “Edge Simplicity” slider will make your edges straighter which will make you image look more stylized and stencil-like. This tool will reduce the detail, but make the image easier to cut out. Select Ok.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 9.27.08 AM
  7. Now you can save, your work to a JPG and print your image.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 9.28.00 AM
  8. So there you have it. Now all you need to do is cut out sections of black space and paint on top of the white portion.
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