While working on your models you may want to paint a graphic on one of your vehicles but can't find a decal large enough or perhaps you can't find the right decal for the job. In this case a stencil might be just the thing you need and it's easier to make one than you might think. There are a couple of methods you can take and I'll discuss the two I used here and you can decide which (if either) would work best for you. Each of these methods were used on my Space Wolves Rhinos, but you could use these techniques for any custom graphic, large or small, you want to paint on a model.
I often use masking tape in my models for camo patterns, stripes and such so my first thought was to use masking tape and cut out an image from a wide strip of masking tape. This idea was a lot easier in my head than in practice.
So to start, find an image you want to copy onto your model. This could be something you find online and print out or something you find in a book or magazine, like your favorite codex! I recommend finding an image online because you can easily drop it into a photo editing program and scale it to an appropriate size. If you're artistically inclined you could always draw it onto the tape yourself and skip the next step.
I found an image in the Space Wolves Codex which I wanted to use. To transfer this onto the tape I created a makeshift lightbox using a piece of plexiglass and my desklamp. You will need something clear to adhere the tape to such as another piece of plexiglass. Stick a strip of tape on the plexiglass, your image behind the plexi, and another piece of plexi behind the image. Your light source will be at the bottom; I used a desk lamp but you could, and probably should, use a window (I slightly warped my plexiglass). Now you should be able to see the image through the tape. Trace the image on the tape and then cut it out using a hobby knife. You should have something that looks like this:
|*do not use wax paper as a clear medium to hold your tape like I did, it's a pain in the ass to get off!|
You now have a negative and positive of your image, chances are you will want to use the negative as your stencil but you could just as easily use the positive. It just depends on how you want to paint your image. Apply the stencil you want to use onto your model and be sure to mask of any portions you don't want to get hit with overspray.
|Here I've added the negative stencil to the top hatch doors of my Space Wolves Rhino|
Make sure to press down firmly around the edges of your stencil. Loose edges will allow paint to creep under which will require clean up later.
After the stencil has been applied and masked to prevent overspray it's time to apply your paint. You could use a paint brush, but I'd recommend against it. Spray paint or an airbrush are the best methods. Below is an example of the finished project after the stencil was removed. So clean!
The masking tape technique works well but you'll only get one use out of it, maybe two if you're lucky and it's fairly labor intensive. For something a little more durable I turned to stencil film. This product can be purchased at most craft stores like Michael's or Hobby Lobby. Look in the craft paints section. All the brands I've come across are blue but that is inconsequential. All you need is a thin, rigid, translucent material.
Once you have the stencil film place it over the graphic you want to trace. Because the stencil film is already translucent there is no need to use a lightbox. Tape it down so that it doesn't move around, and cut out the shape using a hobby knife. Be careful not to stick to the lines and not damage your positive or negative!
|Above you can see the various sizes I printed the wolf icon in.|
|These two were the right size for the areas on the model so they will be used for this stencil.|
After you've cut out your stencils you will again have a positive and a negative. As with the masking tape you can use either one depending upon the effect you wish to achieve.
To get the stencil to adhere to the model I used Easy-Tack™ from Krylon. It is a spray on adhesive which, once sprayed, is ready to use in 60 seconds. Just spray the Easy-Tack to the back of the stencil, let it dry, and stick it to the model. MAKE SURE TO LET IT SET UP FIRST. If you apply your stencil to the model too soon the Easy-Tack will bond to your model. By giving it a full minute to set up first the Easy-Tack will have time to bond to the stencil and your stencil will lift off your model clean. You might wonder why I bother using the Easy-Tack if I'm just going to mask off the edges. The Easy-Tack can serve two purposes: 1st it seals the edges of the stencil preventing the paint from bleeding, 2nd it allows a negative stencil to stay in place absent any masking tape.
|Here I've added one of my Space Wolves stencils to the rear door of a Rhino and masked the edges.|
|Above is the Rhino rear door from the previous picture and a side door using the smaller stencil.|
Here is an example of a much larger stencil.
The background was laid down first, then I used the negative to produce the white areas. I removed the stencil then sprayed white again from a distance to achieve the stars which gave me this look: