Learn how to make a stencil with Cricut including a reusable stencil. I’m testing 5 different materials to see which stencil works best!
This post on how to make stencils with a Cricut machine is a long time coming! I knew it would be long so I have been putting it off for about a year, lol!
But when Cricut sent me a sample of the new Cricut stencil vinyl I knew it was finally time to bust it out. I have a ton of information on making stencils below, so bear with me!
We will go over making reusable stencils, one time stencils, and what I found to be the best stencil material.
Cricut did send me the material to test, but this is not a sponsored post.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links from Shareasale, Cricut, Awin, CreativeFabrica, and Amazon.com. I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my links (purple text). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
When I made snowflake stencils for my windows in the past, I used a graphix sheet but I wanted to test more and to see which one is the most cost effective.
I wanted to find the best stencil material so I tested a bunch of different materials. A lot of times the type of base material you want to stencil on will determine which stencil material will work best.
So we are going to be looking at the following materials for making stencils:
- Reusable stencils – acetate sheet/graphix, clear plastic poster board, laminating sheet, and mylar sheets
- One Time stencil – vinyl stencil (removable and permanent vinyl), contact paper, Cricut stencil material,
Some of the stencils are going to be more suited for certain base materials than others. Stencils work best on a smooth surface.
Cricut Reusable Stencils
The reusable stencils work well on wood, glass such as windows and mirrors, fabric, some food, canvas, and walls (non textured).
Since the plastic stencils are not “stuck” onto the surface of the material to be stenciled, the chance for bleeds is higher. You can help keep the stencil in place with blue painter’s tape, Krylon Easy-Tack (at Wal-Mart or craft stores), or Stencil Ease spray adhesive.
One of the main problems of reusable stencils is the limitation in stencil designs. We’ll go over it before, but you need to be careful on what images or font you can use for stencils because of the negative and enclosed areas that will remain on your cutting mat and not be connected to your stencil!
The one time stencil will stick much better to the underlying material since the material has an adhesive all over it (except for cardstock). But once you’ve used it, you can’t use it again.
For fabrics such as shirts, I like to make a stencil to use with screen printing (tutorial here).
Another option I like to use on fabric such as burlap is freezer paper. I will not be going over how to use that in this post, but if you are interested I have a full post on how to use freezer paper here.
If you are working on curved surfaces like etching a wine glass, then you’ll need a flexible stencil material that will only be used once.
You can actually make your own stencils with the Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore Air family, and the Cricut Maker!
The only limitation on a Cricut Joy stencil design will be the size you can make them. I was able to cut all the same material on both the compact Joy and the bigger machines!!
You can trim an acetate sheet, poster board, mylar, or laminating sheet to fit on a Cricut Joy cutting mat and use the foil acetate setting for a removable stencil. I used the foil acetate with More pressure setting for the poster board and mylar sheet and they cut perfectly!
Cricut Joy also has its own Cricut Smart stencil roll to use as a one-time stencil or you can use any vinyl if that’s all you have in making custom stencils.
There are a few tips for designing stencils. Again depending if you want a one time use or reusable stencil.
For a one-time use stencil, you can pretty much cut anything out since you will be using transfer tape to place it on your base. The transfer tape will pick up all the extra little enclosed areas and positive and negative space.
Basic images or silhouette images are the best SVG files to make stencils with. Really small intricate cuts increase the risk of bleeding or not cutting well.
With a stencil, you will be weeding out the image or letters to use the negative space. Then you’ll be filling in the space with paint, fabric paint, acrylic paint, chalk paint, or any other kind of paint you like!
Within design space, I like to add a square or rectangle around the image and then slice the image out. Then you are left with a nice straight border to line things up with.
You can make a very basic stencil. I started a new project and found this lotus flower in Cricut Access.
I inserted a square and sized it so it fits completely over the flower with extra room on the edges. Move the rectangle to the back under the Arrange drop down if it’s in front. Then select both images and click on Slice.
You are left with the stencil that you will use and two images. Just delete off the two images.
I also created a bit more of a pattern that would look cool on walls or tile floors by combining four of the same flower. Make sure to watch how I created this in the YouTube video below!
Now, let’s talk a little bit about images that won’t work well for a reusable stencil.
In order for a reusable stencil to work, all of the parts need to be attached to something else in some way.
I found this cute turtle that is still pretty basic and used the same method before. Inserted a square and then sliced.
When the turtle is sliced out you are left with a bunch of pieces inside the main body.
If you cut them as a reusable stencil, all of those pieces will stay on your mat when you lift it up because they are not connected to anything. If you only want the body outline, you will be fine.
However, if you are using a one-time stencil out of stencil vinyl or film and using transfer tape, then you won’t have any problems!
There are a few ways to make letter stencils. If you are going to be making a reusable stencil, then the easiest way to design one is with a stencil font.
Stencil fonts have open counters and no enclosed areas so you won’t be missing the insides of letters or the dots on “i, e, o, a”s, etc.
There are quite a few Cricut stencil fonts if you have Cricut Access including: (simply search “stencil” in the font search bar)
- Alyssa Stencil Script
- Blippo Com Stencil
- Cargo Stencil
- Caslon Stencil
- Girly Stencil
If you don’t have Cricut Access, there are some free stencil fonts you can find and download to use within Cricut Design Space for personal use. Learn how to download other fonts here.
Here are a few cute script fonts I found to use with stencils (just google “stencil fonts”):
- Direkt Handwritten Script – you can also find a commercial use license here
- Beprity – swirly and fun without any enclosed areas!
Using Regular Font for Stencils
For this example, I’m using the word Text. Insert a text box and type whatever word you want.
If I cut a reusable stencil out with this word, the middle part of the e will be missing.
Add a square and unlock it so you can make it a skinny line.
Then place it over a section of the “e” so that it goes into the middle.
Select both the text and rectangle and click on Slice.
Delete off extra and now you are left with a word with a small slice in the letter e.
To make it a stencil, insert another square and size it so it covers the entire word with room on all sides. Move the square layer to the back to see better.
With both layers selected, hit the Slice button.
Delete off the extra words and your reusable word stencil is ready to cut! You’ll notice that the middle of the letter e will cut out with the rest of the surround.
First, we are going to talk about making reusable stencils with a Cricut. You can use any Cricut machine to cut reusable stencils.
When making reusable stencils you don’t want too much of an intricate design. Super small detail is hard to cut out of plastic material.
I am going to be trying out a few different materials to see if one is superior to the others. Here are the stencil materials and Cricut settings that I used with my Cricut Maker 3 (can also use with Cricut Explore Family):
- Cricut Foil Acetate – foil acetate setting
- Plastic Clear Poster Board – metallic posterboard setting
- Mylar Sheet – acetate setting with MORE pressure
- Laminating Sheet – foil acetate setting
I cut all the same materials with my Cricut Joy on the following settings (material cut and placed on green cutting mat):
- Cricut Foil Acetate – foil acetate setting
- Clear Plastic Poster Board – foil acetate setting with MORE pressure
- Mylar Sheet – foil acetate with MORE pressure
- Laminating Sheet – foil acetate setting
You can change the default pressure to MORE on the setting screen after you’ve selected the material.
- Design stencil in Cricut Design Space using a background square and the slice function (as explained above in post).
- Size stencil and cut out of stencil sheet on foil acetate setting on Cricut Joy or any other Cricut cutting machine. If using clear poster board or Mylar sheets, set pressure to MORE.
- Place stencil material on a cutting mat and load mat. Press Go to cut out material. The machine might cut the image out twice or three times if it's a thicker material.
- Remove the stencil from the mat. You might have to stick your finger on the edge of the cut to remove it. Peel off any extra pieces.
- To ensure the crispest edges, use a spray adhesive to bond the stencil to the material. Spray a light layer over the back of the stencil and allow it to dry for a minute or so. (Make sure to use the sprays in a well ventilated area!)
- Place it on the piece of wood or wall with the sticky side down. Press down well with a brayer or your fingers to ensure all areas are bonded well.
- Paint in the area. I like to use chalk paint!
- Then lift up the stencil! Reposition to use again or wash it with water and mild soap to reuse again another time!
Make sure to watch my full YouTube video embedded in the post to watch all the steps in action including how I designed stencils in Cricut Design Space.
Again, I tested foil acetate, mylar, double laminating sheet, and plastic poster board and two different spray adhesives.
Here are the results! You can watch the YouTube video below to see them more up close. All of the materials actually worked pretty well, but I did have a favorite!
Surprisingly, I liked the plastic poster board the best! It was a thicker material and easy to work with. It also left super crisp lines when paired with the spray adhesive. It is also the most cost effective since a 24×36 sheet cost $1.99 and that can be cut into 6 12×12 sheets!
The spray adhesives were both pretty good, but if I had to pick one I’d go with the Stencil Ease Spray Adhesive.
Ok, now that you know how to make a reusable stencil with a Cricut, l let’s move on to discussing making a one time use stencil.
You can use a few different materials to make a one time use stencil, but the steps will be the same.
I will be using Cricut Joy Smart Stencil for this example, but you can also use vinyl or contact paper. I’ll go over how to cut and apply the stencil first and then the results from the four different materials I tested.
Once you have your Cricut design, cut it out using the proper setting within the drop down menu. I am selecting Smart Stencil.
Place the vinyl stencil on a Cricut cutting mat. Make sure it’s smooth. I like to use a brayer.
Or if using Smart Stencil, load the material directly into your machine.
Load the mat and follow onscreen prompts to cut the material.
If using smart material, trim off the part where the stencil image is.
Now since we are using the vinyl as a stencil, we will be weeding out or removing the inside parts and leaving the surround.
If you have a basic design, you can probably lift the stencil off the backing sheet and place it directly on the item you will be stenciling. Just be careful it doesn’t fold on itself!
For more detailed stencils, use transfer paper to apply it. Scrape down well and then remove the transfer sheet.
Then place the stencil on the material.
A really nice thing about the Cricut stencil vinyl is you can tell where it’s pressed down well and it also has grid lines on it to help align. You’ll see the texture of the material under when it’s scraped down well compared to the blue clear part.
When it’s all pressed down, remove the transfer tape.
I wanted to see how a stencil would fair on this textured canvas and it did what I expected. There was a bit of bleed since the surface wasn’t smooth.
So, again, in order to ensure the best transfer result, use a smooth a surface as possible!
Tip: If your using wood or material and it’s not totally smooth, you can paint on some mod podge to help prevent leaks before the paint.
To test out the different stencil materials, I cut out the same stencil on removable vinyl, permanent vinyl, stencil vinyl, and contact paper (from Dollar Tree) and added them to an unfinished piece of wood.
I painted inside the stencils with a stencil brush.
I like to wait until the paint is dry to the touch before removing the stencil. If it’s too wet you run the risk of it getting on other part of the wood (or on to your fingers and then on to the wood!).
Carefully remove the small pieces with a utility knife or weeding tool.
I was impressed! All of the materials worked quite well.
I would have to say that the Cricut stencil vinyl gave maybe a bit more crisp lines, but it was hard to tell.
Then I wanted to see how the stencils would work on a t shirt.
I first put a piece of cardstock and wood inside the shirt to prevent bleed through to the other side. Then I placed the Cricut Smart stencil vinyl and poster board reusable stencil on a blank cotton shirt.
I was surprised how well the stencil vinyl stuck to the shirt!
I painted the images in with chalk paint (because that’s what I had out!).
And they both worked pretty well! So these stencil materials will work pretty well if you don’t have screen printing materials.
When it comes to the one time stencil, it was hard to choose the best material since they all worked pretty well.
However, the stencil vinyl was easier to work with when it came to transferring with the transfer paper and I liked the fact it had grid lines to help with easy alignment. It was also easier to remove from the wood and I could tell it adhered the best.
I think I will stick to the Cricut stencil vinyl for most of my stenciling needs, but if I was in a pinch and out of it I would have no problems using regular vinyl or even contact paper!
With the holiday season coming up, think of all the possibilities of using stencils with dollar store blanks to make fun Dollar Tree Christmas crafts!
I go through all of the steps in my in depth video tutorial if it’s easier for you to see things in action than in words!
Thanks for staying with me! I know that was a lot of information on different Cricut stencils!
If you want more Cricut projects, make sure to browse through our Cricut ideas guide! And if you are looking for a machine that can cut things like wood to make stencils with, check out our Xtool machine projects!
If you’d like to save this tutorial on stencil making for later, simply hover over the image below and PIN It now!
Thanks for stopping by and have a creative day!