Making Stencils on Your Silhouette

by KelliP on September 26, 2013

When I spotted Sonja Gortzak-Hughes using her Silhouette to create stencils and templates (stemplates!), I knew this was a technique you needed to know about! Sonja has graciously agreed to share her secrets for how to create stencils with the Silhouette. Here’s Sonja!

Making Stencils on the Silhouette or Silhouette Cameo

Creating a Stencil in Silhouette Studio
In this tutorial, we’re going to make a stencil design on our Silhouette or Cameo using the Silhouette Studio software, and then cut it from a clear acetate or transparency to use over and over again. Ready? Here we go!

Open Silhouette Studio. Set your ‘Page’ size to match your sheet. Mine is an A4, but for US it might be Letter or even 12X12. You can even set your own measurements (if you have a random piece of material)
Open Silhouette and set page size to match -

Find a stencil design in your library or the Silhouette online store:

You can pick a specific stencil design or you can make a design into a stencil; in that case pick something that would be suitable for a stencil.

For this tutorial I am using the Lori Whitlock Music Notes
Lori Whitlock's Music Notes -

Because this is only a set of shapes, we need to make a few small adjustments to make it suitable as a stencil (skip the next 4 steps if you have a ready to go stencil design):

1. Resize the whole file to suit the size you’d like to use later on. I like my music notes smaller then they are as default.
Resize file -

2. Ungroup the selected shapes and space them out to create some space in between. Using the pointer tool, click on your image and then click the “Ungroup Selected Shape” button at the bottom left.
Arrange shapes in to stencil -

3. When you have a composition you like, make sure you group them again. Using your pointer, pull a box around all the shapes and click the “Group Selected Shapes” button at the bottom left.
Re-group elements -

4. Now, using the rounded corners tool on the left of your workspace, draw a rectangle about the whole design. Leave ample space on either side of the design. (This is not necessary if you have downloaded a stencil. It will already have this space.)
Use rounded corner tool -

If you’d like, you can group them again so that you can move the whole stencil design in one go. Be sure to click on the pointer button in the left-hand menu first or else you’ll draw another box. :-)

Note: If you are creating a stencil with a large shape you might not need to do the “rounded corners” because you can just use your entire sheet of material as the stencil. I would probably still round the corners so they don’t get caught behind things when you use them later.

Cutting the Stencil
Before you send your design to the Silhouette, place your design a bit away from the edges of your page. In my experience, if you cut too close to the edge the cutting knife tends to get caught under the sheet and will not cut but just crumple up your material.

Now press the “Send to Silhouette” button and click on “Change Settings.”

The settings might take a bit of experimenting because, as I just found out, not all OHP (transparency) sheets are created equal and I couldn’t find the really thin ones I had used in this tutorial anymore. I have something thicker, so we’ll see if it works! Also, I am very much a beginner with the Silhouette, in no way a pro and I do not know what the official way is for deciding on a setting when there isn’t an option in the drop down menu. But here’s what I do:

1. Adjust your cutting tool. To gauge the cutting depth for your cutting tool, hold the blade tip next to your sheet and if it sticks out just beyond the sheet, you have the right depth for your material. Not too far though. I used a “6″ depth setting, thickness “33″ and a speed “2″. I am no specialist and I have no idea how the speed or thickness work exactly, but it seemed like I have pretty thick material and should take it slow. Input these settings into your Silhouette Software (press the “Change Settings” button).

You can even make a standard setting for this material:
Adjust settings for your blade - Adjust your blade -

2. Place your sheet onto the cutting mat, lining up to the upper left corner of the grid, and rub it down really well. Transparency material doesn’t stick to the mat as well as cardstock does and if it is too loose your blade will not cut properly.
Firmly place transperency on cutting mat -

3. Load cutting mat
4. Press “Cut” and listen to that sweet sweet Silhouette music :-)
5. Unload and check it out!
Check out your new stencil - www.layoutaday.comNote of caution: When I did a test cut using the standard test cut function, it went wrong. Because the standard test cut is so close to the edge, the blade got caught under the sheet. I turned the sheet so I had a clean unbent corner but the same thing happened. This is when I decided to just go ahead and cut my stencil in the middle and just try without a test cut.

After cutting you can remove your stencil and you may also want to keep the inside bits as masks. When I cut a tree stencil, I kept the trunk as well so that I could use it later to cover up the areas if I wanted:

Use positive and negative stencils -

Find the tree stencil here.

I decided to do my first stenciling on an envelope that I would then use to store my stencils. That way I can find them easily and keep them in good shape. I put my stencils in a folded sheet of paper first and then put them into the envelope. This way little pointy parts of the stencil (like the tree branches) don’t get stuck on the edge of the envelope.
Stencil samples -

And here’s a card I made with my music notes and numbers stencil:

Stenciled card -

A link to all the stencils on the pictures:
Yin Yang (keep the small circle to place inside the cut out when you color it in)


Now, back to Lain: Thank you, Sonja, for sharing this technique with us! Sonja Gortzak-Hughes is a scrapbooker and stay-at-home mom who blogs from her home in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. You can find her at:

For ideas on what to do with your stencils after you’ve created them, check out my class “Template Tantrum“. Available for only $7 for a limited time!

  • LainEhmann

    Thank you for this, Sonja! I LOVE IT!

  • Sonja Gortzak-Hughes

    You are very welcome Lain. Do you know that it was actually your blog post about using some leftovers Silhouette die cuts for your art journal that inspired me to try it with these Overhead Projector Sheets? So we have come full circle:-)

  • Sheri Elmont

    I’ve been meaning to try this to see if it works. Now I know. If only I could find my transparencies I’d be set. Thank-you!

  • Sonja Gortzak-Hughes

    I thought I’d let you know that I have now also tried this with the Crafter’s Workshop stencil sheets. It took me a few tries because they are much, much thicker than the transparencies. But on the last one I got it right: You need to choose the ‘double cut’ setting and then set the blade depth to ’7′. If you are looking for the Crafter’s Workshop stencil sheets it’s ’3 Stencil Sheets TCW340′ (basic 12 X12, add and ‘s’ to the code and you get 6X6 sheets which is what I used.
    Here’s a quick picture of a Ginkgo Stencil I made for my mom.

  • Carolina Buzio

    Just a quick note: I don’t know if you know, but you can actually change the place where the test cut is done! close to the button of the test cut you have some blue buttons (arrows): you just click those (pressing for a long time and not a lot of clicks) until the blade has moved to the place where you want it to be.

  • Sonja Gortzak-Hughes

    Oh that is good to know! Thanks for sharing!

  • rupa

    I have been on stencil obsession lately after getting my portrait 2 months ago (my first ever die cutting machine!). I have had some experiences that I would like to share in case it helps others:
    1.I buy “show offs” bran stencil material from Hobby Lobby for $1.20 (with coupon). There are three 6×18 sheets. I cut them down to 6×6 and I get 9 stencils out of it! Pennies per stencil.
    2. The larger size stencil material of the same brand didn’t work for some reason although they look exactly the same. Others have commented on it elsewhere on the internet.
    3. When I place my 6×6 stencil material, I have to place it at the top right corner always since that’s how my software shows it as soon as I set media size to 6×6.
    4. You can set your stencil design size to 5.5 so that it leaves a neat 1/2″ border all the way around.
    5. Place the stencil material such that the shiny side is on top (matte size down). Otherwise, as the cutting proceeds, the really thin film starts coming apart and can get caught under the blade or motor.
    6. I personally have had problems with just one size margin being bigger than the other 3 sides even though I have centered the design perfectly (using align tool). Silhouette hasn’t been able to help in 3 weeks even after sending design file, debug log file etc.
    7. Once you start making these, oh they are an obsession! Tons of free stencil designs all ready to go out there, check it out. Good luck, have fun.

  • rupa

    8. Sorry, forgot to say that I set my blade setting to around 7-8 and use double cut for intricate designs. Otherwise, single cut on 7 will do fine. I have now created custom blade setting for my stencil material and saved that as a setting for future use.

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  • Kylie’s mom

    Where can you buy clear plain acetate sheet? I checked michaels & the worker looked at me like she doesn’t know what I’m saying.

  • sharon sienaski

    Thank you so much.

  • Debbie Mullins

    If you don’t mind sharing, what setting do you use. I bought some of the “show offs” today. I bought the larger sheet since I will be doing alot of quotes but will cut them down smaller. thanks for all you comments. Excited about doing my first stencil.

  • Verena

    I bought my stencil acetate in the quilting section of Joanns Fabric. They are advertised to use for making your own quilting templates. All different types. I got sheets that were 12″x18″…Perfect for larger stencils or to cut down size. I believe was around$3 for 3 sheets. And You can also buy them individually.

  • Mary

    Hi, Thank you for this tutorial. Where do you find the change setting button? I’ve done the changes but don’t see that particular button. Thanks. Mary

  • Mary

    I also would like to know the settings. Thank you

  • Szczek Szczekowych

    good job, Sonja!
    As for me I was using poster software else cause my stencil was more bigger then u . I’ve printed stencil by my A4 printer.
    then after all steps it’s was lookong really magic!

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