Film Articles & Info
What is the Best Thickness for Stencil Film
The thickness of most of the films that you will find on the market that
are suitable for general stenciling purposes, are going to sit somewhere
between the 3 to 5 mil (75 to 127 micron ) mark. These films are generally
going to be composed from some variety of polyester (Mylar) or acetate.
Both of these materials have a certain amount of toughness and resilience
to water and solvents and both can be cut with a sharp knife without too
Painting a 20 ft high tree mural can just as successfully be accomplished
with 3 mil thick material as it could with 10 mil thick material. Of course
the thicker material would indeed be more robust and perhaps easier to
handle for this scale of project. Most of us most likely wont be painting
20 ft high trees too often so the choice of thickness becomes a little
From my experience in stenciling, stencil thicknesses of between 3 to
5 mil will do for just about all ar any of the projects we are likely
to encounter with the exception of plaster stenciling where thickness
counts if you want that raised look.
A stencil material that is durable, easy to cut and holds good detail
and is over 4 mil is difficult to find on the retail market. The most
commonly available films that are suitable for repeat stenciling are usually
around the 3 to 4 mil range. They include acetate film and a variety of
polyester (Mylar) films including Drafting film .
The real issue in most cases is not so much thickness as durability.
some folks believe that thicker means longer lasting. Not so....keep in
mind that we are using these stencils as a simple mask to paint through.
If you fold a crease in a stencil, irrespective of how thick or thin
it is, you will ruin it. If you let paint dry on it for weeks, it will
be difficult to remove. Thicker films could in this case be less prone
to damage incurred by rough cleaning practices than thinner films.
If you walk on it or drive your car over it repeatedly, then it wont
last very long. Thin film like 3 mil drafting film will last for many
years and hundreds of impressions, if you look after it, treat it with
respect and clean it carefully after using it.
Below is a list of film thickness that will be mostly suitable for a
variety of painting projects. Its only a rough guide but will serve to
give you a ballpark figure for consideration.
Stencil Thickness for :
3 mil to 5 mil
T-shirts and other garments, curtains, wall hangings.
painting: 3 mil to 5 mil
The only advantage of going thicker is a little extra manageability.
Here you require something a bit thicker: at least 10mil and preferably
thicker 0.015" (0.38mm) to 0.074" (1.9mm)
Art: 3 mil to 5 mil
Just as in fabric painting 3 mil to 4 mil is sufficient.
Frisket is a very thin, self adhesive film suitable for cutting the stencil
directly onto the artwork.
001" 1mil (25 micron) to . ..002" 2 mil (50 micron)
Difficult to cut large pieces, but very durable. Use polypropylene up to
1. .002" 2 mil 50 Micron
2. .003" 3 mil 75 Micron
3. .004" 4 mil 100 Micron
4. .005" 5 mil 127 Micron
5. .007" 7 mil 175 Micron
6. .010" 10 mil 250 Micron
1 millimeter = 1000 microns
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