More than ever before, creative people are finding tools to help them make custom stencils for messages, phrases, or simple one word statements to express their thoughts and their personality. At stores like Joann's and Michael's aisles of merchandise are devoted to just this craft. The words are applied to projects using a brush, a sponge applicator, or airbrush. The finished art can be applied to coffee mugs, tee shirts, baby bibs, walls, wood plaques, greeting cards, and a variety of other projects. The finished messages can also be used extensively in scrapbooking and other paper crafts. Gifts personalized with someone’s name, their special event, or a quote that is meaningful to them, can have a huge impact. Besides being a special treat for the recipient it’s also a way for the giver to share their creativity.
A web search will immediately reveal many sites offering word stencils in various sizes and styles. You can even find sites that will make them to your specifications. These one-of-a-kind products are generally pricey because they are not mass-produced so the cost may not be practical if the item is intended for only one project or a single event. One time use may be the best argument for coming up with your own creations. But you might take on the project simply because you have a favorite font and you know it will be ideal for the message you want to create.
Your Own Creations
With or without a specific font in mind simple preliminary messages for your print out can easily be created in word processing programs like Microsoft Word, where you will have the option of changing the font size, line spacing, or applying bold and italic effects.
Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and programs like them offer far more options for creativity. The spacing between each letter can be adjusted so they can be overlapped or spaced further apart than normal. You can work with individual letters or whole words and apply effects like stretching, arching, adding perspective, curving, twisting, distorting and manipulating the selected letters in many more ways than time may allow you to explore.
It might seem that once your message is created and printed out, the rest is a pretty straightforward job. But in fact, it requires thorough planning before the cutting begins. And it all has to do with the font style.
Look at the example below bearing in mind that white represents the stencil and the blue represents a sheet under it.
If you were to cut out the word Arial, which is one of the most popular fonts used for Internet websites, you would end up with this result.
The interiors of letters are cut away with the letter outlines making an incomplete image.
Fonts that help you avoid this problem are often times ornate or unusual in some way with letters that are open, allowing the interiors to remain connected to the overall page. You may find fonts like "Curlz" below would involve more cutting time than you would like to devote. But here are four examples of fonts that eliminate the problem.
You’ll also find many fonts that incorporate both open and closed letters. Bickley Script is a good example.
Note that the letters “a”, “o” “p”, and “d” are open but the ascending loop of the “d” is closed. This open/closed combination clearly demonstrates the planning necessary when cutting fonts. Whether you're working with a script font or not, creating usable pages involves finding a way to prevent the interior of letters from dropping out in the cutting process. You can search and find fonts that adapt well to the art you are creating and maybe fit your particular project. But if you want to try working with fonts you have available, here are some solutions.
A simple way to cut fonts when using a craft knife, card stock and adhesive spray is to first spray the back of the printed page with adhesive. Flip the page over and cut out the lettering without lifting it from the work area. Use a pen to number the interiors of the letters. Doing this will help you identify the top and bottom and front and back of the die cut pieces once they are removed. Now transfer the page and the die cut pieces to the project. Replace the die cut pieces to their original position.
If you use freezer paper rather than card stock, you can still use this method. Instead of spraying adhesive, you will be ironing the shapes into place.
Another solution for interiors that drop out is to manually create a bridge to connect the letter’s interior to the rest of the page. This is done most often when you are working with plastic or mylar. You can create fonts with bridges in a computer program like Photoshop using a white pen or brush. A bridge can also be made manually with a marker after the message is printed out. This may require a lot of patience if the lettering is very small. For crafters using a digital cutting machine, the bridges can be created within your machine software. Keep in mind that wide bridges may distort the letters, making them difficult to read. The size of the bridge should be narrow enough to maintain the integrity of each letter. The bridge should also follow the font’s natural slant, which is generally to the right in script fonts.
Sometimes a small image can be used in place of a plain bridge. This works best when the message contains one or two words with few letters and when the image complements the topic.
If you would like a larger font collection than you currently own, you can download free fonts for Mac or PC at several websites like fonts101 and font-styles. Some of the specialty font categories include:
See The Kinds Of Projects You Can Create With Stencils