tdub303 PRO 5:26pm, 14 June 2008
UPDATED: There is an all new updated tutorial on light stencils. I suggest viewing he new tutorial.

Many people have asked me how I do my stencils so I decided to write a quick explanation. I would like to credit Cykuck for inspiring me to use stencils and thank him for his tutorial which is available HERE. Using his method I attained these results.
choppers!! name is...

For my method you will need an exacto knife, some tape, some thin cardboard (like from a cereal box) and most importantly opaque cellophane.

Step 1. If you have a printer cut the cardboard so it will fit through your printer. The cardboard I used was 22.5 cm X 32.5 cm and was from a cereal box.

Step 2. Print your design onto the cardboard with your printer. If you do not have a printer you can draw freehand or if you have artwork or a logo that you want to trace use carbon paper to trace the design onto the cardboard. I made my letters hollow to save ink!! You should now have something like this.

step 1

Step 3. Cut out the design with the exacto knife. Take your time here as a nice clean design is important. This step will ultimately decide what your stencil will look like. If you have a letter like 'O' be sure to save the middle circle as you will need that later. You should now have something like this.

step 2

Step 4. Tape some opaque(foggy) cellophane to the back of the stencil. Transparent cellophane does not work as there is nothing for the light to hit and the light just goes through like a window. You must use foggy cellophane. If all you can find is clear colors than scuff it up with something so there is something for the light to hit much like dirty windshield. Tape the middle parts of the letters(o,d,b, etc..) to the cellophane backing. You should now have something like this.

step 3

Step 5. Hold it up to a light to check that all the edges are nice and clean.

finished stencil

Taking the pics:
I illuminate the stencils with by firing a flash from another camera behind it. Any old camera will work. The main point here is use a flash rather than a flashlight. This will give it a super clean look with zero blurring of the edge. I typically hold the flash about 40-50 cm behind the stencil. Also, the part of the stencil directly in between the flash and the lens will 'twinkle' to add a little bling. In the pic below I blinged out the arrow by aligning it between the flash and the lens. If you want a smooth uniform look use a diffuser. In the pic below you can see the edges of the stencil but this is easily avoided. The first way is to adjust the Av value or another way is to cut the bottom of a box out and tape the stencil to it. The just fire the flash into the box to illuminate the stencil. It was 2am when I wrote this so towards the end I was just too lazy to attach mine to my box.....

rock the stencils!!

Now go take some pictures and post them back in here!!!!
AndWhyNot 10 years ago
Great tutorial ESP the *opaque* cellophane tip. will probably have saved me ages of head scratching LOL. Gonna give this a go real soon
Spagmasterswift 10 years ago
This is aces! Thanks man, will give it a go soon too...
Steve.M~ 10 years ago
Simple but really effective, great tutorial...thanks tdub.
Jayjay402 10 years ago
Thank-you! Will definitely try this out some time soon! :D
Mishel Churkin Posted 10 years ago. Edited by Mishel Churkin (member) 10 years ago
hi, as i promis (to tdub303) i upload my tut "stensil"

first of all sorry for my english :_\
in russia In each shop is chinees noodles (Disgusting)

The software-boxing is done of a box:
On the back party we cut out an aperture under the form of flash
The external party we paint in black color. It is necessary that light from flash would not pass from lateral faces of a box
Then we print the image. I print 2 pieces. I impose against each other so the image would be imposed, it is necessary that light would not pass through a black background
Then the printed picture it is put on a cover from a box

We take flash and it is inserted into an aperture
all is done

i hope what this tut help somebody...
and second time Sorry for my english ))
tdub303 PRO 10 years ago
Thanks for obliging, Churkinms! I know everybody will appreciate your efforts and contributions.
Mishel Churkin 10 years ago
we s tdud303 find error at my post all my images all people who used Explorer can`t see images, 100% works at Firefox
if u want see all images normaly let me know, i reload images :)
WarzauWynn 10 years ago
Dude, awesome tutorial! Really freakin cool. I didn't quite understand that the front of the stencil didn't need to be black, and that the flash came from *behind* the stencil. This is much more understandable after reading through your whole tutorial. Awesome shizz :)
Finally it makes sense! Great tutorial!
Mishel Churkin 10 years ago
good morning, i fix it all :) enjoy
tdub303 PRO 10 years ago
awesome, thanks again! I gotta get me a 580 EX too!
quasikunst...asa 10 years ago
i started my stencillight projekt in jan. 2oo8 =)

hookietp 10 years ago
dude!! i am so gonna try this asap!
halloosin8 10 years ago
Thanks for this tdub, I'm definitely going to give it a go.
V a s s Posted 10 years ago. Edited by V a s s (member) 10 years ago
My very first attempt after reading this tutorial.
thanks folks !
steve06srt8 10 years ago
Here is my version of the light box:

the Punisher

LightBox Version 1

just a box with drop in stencil
folds flat for storage
It's pretty rough looking..but it's my first attempt
thanks guys for posting your work!
Paul Excoff 10 years ago
haha my lightbox that i just built today is a piece of crap and is completely unstorable
tdub303 PRO 10 years ago
@ steve06srt8 - thanks for showing us. i am using almost the exact same set up. The difference is my flash is at the back of the box behind the stencil where i noticed yours is at the side. Why did you choose the side rather than the back?
steve06srt8 10 years ago
Hi tdub,
There just happened to be a handle hole there...
I was planning on putting it at the back...i may still do so
I just built this today. Still pretty rough
d.walz Posted 10 years ago. Edited by d.walz (member) 10 years ago
i find it can be fun to skip the whole opaque cellophane step. it makes the fills a little more interesting

maybe its just me ?
truemarmalade 10 years ago
IMG 5868

Here's a picture of my rig. You can go to and see the full set of all the process I took to create

diamonds final.jpg
truemarmalade 10 years ago

Here's a link to part 1 of my light stencil tutorial. It goes through my processes to set up the stencil and rig.
majomo-photography 10 years ago
started building mine. been on hold over the weekend thanks to partys but hope to get it ready.

wondering if anyone can suggest a decent thing for gels?
majomo-photography 10 years ago
ok . finished the box. need a decent stencil but so far. i am impressed
majomo-photography Posted 10 years ago. Edited by majomo-photography (member) 10 years ago
stencil test

rubbish weather so the spare room had to do.
B-H-Rush 10 years ago

First time stencil, dont really know how I do it, but i think the outcome came out ok vell.
majomo-photography 10 years ago
well, tried it outside. it works well i think... not sure but i think it should be ok

tdub303 PRO 10 years ago
looking good mr. montgomery!
{ tcb } 10 years ago
oh! it all seems so simple now. i knew something was wrong when flashlights shined through my stencils, paper covering! this one i used a glowstick, but some of these flash insert methods look really good. thanks.
50cal by { tcb }
capella_7009 10 years ago
1st attempt at stencil-ing! :D
My techniques & tools are still a major work-in-progress (had to just make due with what I already had), so it came out looking a bit rough... but was lots of fun to experiment with!
Looking forward to playing with this technique some more in the future...
Thanks for posting all the great tutorials, everyone... they're really cool!

Paul Excoff 10 years ago
I printed the color image (on matte photo paper) on a black background on one side, then a white silhouette of the image on the other side (with a black background)
El Luz Perpetua! 10 years ago

My first attempts after reading this tutorial. Thank you all, I now have something to get proper obsessive over!
I Made the stencil from a shoe box, packing foam sheets and a film camera with toilet roll over the flash to disperse the light.
Not perfect but a good start.
Going to need a bigger box...
{ tcb } 10 years ago

made this one recently. ∆
{ tcb } 9 years ago
there are 26

the witching hour

yes, i am mostly crazy, somewhat productive, obsessive compulsive bi-polar bear. ∆
port23user 9 years ago
Great tutorial! I'm excited to try it once I get the chance..
going to sound rediculous- but where online can i buy opaque cellophane?
i want to try this out so bad
tdub303 PRO 9 years ago
thin paper will work...
{ tcb } 9 years ago
made this for a class project, potential light stencil leave behind promotion piece. ∆

CFYE collapsable light stencil package

instruction booklet spread

collapsable light stencil
Hobocop 9 years ago
SL370822 by Hobocop

Hi everybody! My attempt on building a reusable, foldable light stencil with "stencil changing option" ;-)
Got the basics from tdub303´s tutorial and used the basic design of THEM_chernobyl_BUDS project. A big thanks to you guys!
It´s made of Foam, you can fold it and the stencil it self can be exchanged very fast.
The test pictures are done flashing a LED behind it so its not that good but i´ll try it with a flash tonight

michaelzyy 9 years ago
sorry guys! how to pos the pics here! i am a new! thx
-Will- 9 years ago
Light Box-Day 42 by -Will-

into this
Attack-Day 43 by -Will-

At the moment the flash recharge time is aboout 30secs so i had to use a torch to make the shapes
-Will- 9 years ago
to michaelzyy
you go onto the picture you want
click on share this in the top right
go down to grab the link
copy and paste the link in square brackets [ ]. it will be like the small images above
Poole-shooter Cindi 9 years ago
michaelzyy There is another way to post photos.
Go to the photo you want to post.
At top of photo click on "All Sizes"
click on "medium"
In the text box under "Copy and paste this HTML into your webpage:" click once, the text will turn blue.
Now, right click on the blue text and select "copy"
Go to the topic where you want to post your photo and scroll down to where it says "Reply to this topic?" and right click in the box and select "paste"
Then click "post now"

Hope this helps.
jannepaint Posted 9 years ago. Edited by jannepaint (moderator) 9 years ago
Oh damn, why haven't I been reading this tutorial before?!
That is SO much easier way of making light stencils than what I've been using! Oh well, live & learn! :P
I have made my light stencils by carving them into a cardboard shoe boxes and lighted them with my mobile phone from the side of the box, not straight from behind..
The good thing about lightning the stencils with a longer lasting light is that you can move the stencils, which gives them quite cool effect! :)
Here's my version:
Heavy Burden
The bad thing is, just like tdub said, the stencils look always a bit blurry:
Lost Kitties
{ tcb } 9 years ago
^dude, you are on another level with those stencils Jannepaint!!
{ tcb } 9 years ago

jannepaint 9 years ago
Thanks tcb! :)
That's a cool moving stencil, looks like a Shuriken.. hmm, fits well with this, I suppose:
Light Warrior
majomo-photography 9 years ago
so my first ever stencil that worked well was about 7 months ago

I am wondering, especially at you, TDUB... how are you making yours so solid and bright. ive moved to a new city where there is going to be some great stuff and i have got a new bunch of folks who are keen on helping.
Laura DelPrato Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Laura DelPrato (member) 9 years ago
Actually I fixed this one up a bit and thought I would add one more =)

room4avu 9 years ago
Great tip! Thanks I'm anxious to try this !
Son of Vin 9 years ago
What a great idea. I will have to try this out.
54 Ford Customline 9 years ago
very interesting tutorial..thank you!
PhotoDaddio 9 years ago
this is my most recent stencil work

The Rebirth of UltraViolence
JacquiJSB 9 years ago
Great tutorial. Would like to give this technique a try someday.
α&Ω 9 years ago
Thanks for this tutorial, i was wondering how you guys make so awesome photos!. Starting with light painting :) and i'm loving it.
melekalikimaka 8 years ago
my attempt

Space Invaders Colours
ashishkamat2 8 years ago
wow gr..sir,i m not able to view tutorial it says pvt...
MBSILAO 8 years ago
My very first light stencil :3
nice work :)
BPPhotog aka-zαug Posted 8 years ago. Edited by BPPhotog aka-zαug (member) 8 years ago
This is great!!
Perhaps the evolutionary successor of the shaped bokeh lens covers.
CheerZ! and thanks to all for the inspiration.
(WhooHoo! something new to build 8 )
D.! 8 years ago
Thanks for this tutorial!
Here is my first stencil work.

Bat controlled by D.!
epixelepsy 8 years ago
Hey guys, you do great! What kind of coloured film do you use to make the stencil light so nice?
For my stencils I use "sandwich-paper" and fix 5 layers on top of each other to get the right brightness - how do you handle the brightness?

Janice Sauce PRO Posted 8 years ago. Edited by Janice Sauce (member) 8 years ago
Hi everyone, I just started stenciling a few days ago, I really want to balance the stencils and strobes. Here is what I did yesterday! :

majomo-photography 8 years ago
looks great! how have you assembled your stencil? it looks very clean.
argg 8 years ago
Thanks for the great tut!

Here's my first attempt
Light Saver PRO 7 years ago
Just a thought as to the "opaque cellophane" - try using wax paper or parchment paper. Works just as well.
tdub303 PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by tdub303 (admin) 7 years ago
or you could check out my new tut on how i do them now. i wrote this one 3 years ago and have since modified the process greatly.

the new tutorial is here.
ant-o-rama PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by ant-o-rama (member) 7 years ago
thanks for the info, i didn't get this far down but not having any cello on hand figured i'd give wax paper a try, here's my first attempt, will check out the new tut now ;)
rather rare reindeer ren
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