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Printing Directly to Drafting Film
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Ideal Stencil Film Thickness
Mylar Stencil Film Supplies:
Sheets and Roll
Stencil film roll

Stencil Film Types

Choosing a stencil film does not need to be that hard and there really is a healthy variety of film types that will most likely do the job of placing paint within a cut shape. I have on many occasions run out of my favorite stencil film and simply substituted, paper, cardboard or folder covers to get me through my stenciling work. Having said that, it is appropriate to state that some types of film work better than others for specific painting purposes.

Unless you are making a stencil that will only be used once then It makes sense to have a stencil material that is flexible, durable, waterproof and generally able to take some punishment without falling apart. The last thing you want, is to be cutting a new stencil to replace a broken one, when you are in the process of painting your mural. There are are a number readily available options for stencil films that are worth considering for your wall painting, canvas and fabric painting projects. Each has there own benefits and/or drawbacks, depending on your intended use.

I have listed the most common films and their respective benefits and uses. Most of these films can be readily source and purchased online or from local art and craft stores

Polyester Film (Mylar)

Polyester film or PET (polyethylene terephthalate) was developed in the mid-1950s, and manufactured by a variety of
companies and is branded under trade names such Mylar, Melinex and Hostaphan.

This superior film is tough, flexible, has good dimensional stability and excellent transparency. It is tear resistant, totally water proof and solvent proof. Cuts easily with a sharp knife. Nothing comes close to the durability of Polyester film.

Mylar film comes in clear, a translucent milky white and black. Although you can find many other materials that would make acceptable stencil material, few have all of the advantages of this type of film for airbrushing and fine stenciling applications

Benefits
Easy to cut
Available in many thicknesses and sizes
Solvent proof
Water proof
Durable and hard wearing
Flexible

Uses
Wall stencils
Scrapbook stencils
Fabric painting
Airbrush tattoo stencils
Airbrushing

Common Thickness
From   .002"   2 mil   (50 micron)  to   .010"  10 mil   (250 micron)

Drafting Film

Matt drafting film is my personal favorite film for stenciling for a number of very good reasons. Drafting film is made from polyester. It is tough, flexible and has been electro statically treated on both sides so it has a matt surface.The matt surface allows the film to accept pen and ink and also has very good transparency.

Polyester drafting film is tear resistant, totally water proof and solvent proof. You can draw on it with pencil, pen and felt tip markers. It cuts easily with a sharp knife and can be printed with inkjet and some laser printers. Nothing comes close to the durability of drafting film.

The thickness of drafting film ranges from 75 micron (3 mil) up to 100 micron (4 mil) and can be purchased from some art suppliers in a variety of sizes from A4 and upwards, or on the roll.

Single matt film has a matt surface on one side only. The other side is glossy and will not readily accept pencil or ink. Double matt film, as the name suggests, has a matt surface on both sides. There is no significant difference in the price between the single matt and the double matt, so I would recommend that you buy the double matt wherever possible.

Although you can find many other materials that would make acceptable stencil material, few have all of the advantages of drafting film.

Benefits
Easy to cut
Solvent proof
Water proof
Durable and hard wearing
Flexible
Can be printed with an Inkjet
Takes pencil, pen and other drawing media

Uses
Wall stencils
Scrapbook stencils
Fabric painting
Airbrush tattoo stencils
Airbrushing

Common Film Thickness
From.003" 3 mil (75 micron) to . ..004" 4 mil (100 micron)

Acetate

Acetate is made of a polymer that is derived from wood-pulp and or cotton fibers can be purchased in both rolls and sheets, in a variety of sizes. There is clear acetate and a mat variety that accepts pencil, pen and ink. The mat surface allows you to trace your design directly to the stencil.

Printing ordinary clear acetate in an inkjet is not easy. The ink tends to sit in the surface and smears easily. You can however purchase transparency film (acetate that has been specially treated) that is made to go through ink-jet printers. Acetate cuts well and is reasonably durable and inexpensive and comes in a few different thick nesses.

On the downside, acetate can cause a few headaches. It does degrade to an unusable state after constant exposure to moister, acids and heat.

For stenciling purposes a thickness of 5 mil works well. Acetate can be cut by simply scoring the surface with a sharp blade. Do don't need to cut clean through. It will snap easily by bending at the score marks.

This can occasionally be a disadvantage if you intend to cut really small or intricate detail. The extra pressure that is required to cut through the plastic can often cause splits or tears and ruin an otherwise good stencil.

Benefits
Easy to cut
Glass like Clarity
water resistant
Good dimensional stability
Flexible
Can be printed with an Inkjet
Available in Clear and Matte

Uses
Wall stencils
Scrapbook stencils
Fabric painting
Airbrush tattoo stencils
Airbrushing

Common FilmThicknesses
From.003" 3 mil (75 micron) to . ..020" 2 mil (500 micron)

Friskit

Frisket is a thin self-adhering low tack film with an adhesive backing that leaves no residue and will not lift or damage the surface of the paper. The backing sheet is translucent so that the film can be accurately positioned before adhering to the surface. This type of film was designed for the booming airbrush market in the 70's. It can be used on a number of surfaces including, art papers , illustration board, photographs, ,primed canvas, glass, metal, plastics, and some ceramic surf aces. Frisket is available in rolls up to 24 in. wide and in sheets down to A4.

Benefits
Very thin
Takes very fine detail
Easy to cut
Reposition able
Reusable
Translucent backing
Moisture proof

Uses
Airbrushing
Retouching
stencils
rubber stamping
watercolors
masking

Common FilmThicknesses
From.001" 1mil (25 micron) to . ..002" 2 mil (50 micron)

Polypropylene

Polypropylene is thermoplastic polymer that has a wide variety of applications and found in many household products. This type of plastic is is tough and quite resistant to many chemical solvents, bases and acids.

It is rigid, stable and very suitable for uses such as car park stencils large industrial lettering etc. Polypropylene comes in sheets up to 25" (650mm) X 54" (1360mm)

Benefits
Durable and hard wearing
Flexible
Resistant to many chemical solvents

Uses
Car park stencils
Industrial equipment stenciling stencils

Common FilmThicknesses
0.015" (0.38mm)   to   0.074" (1.9mm)

Freezer Paper

Freezer paper is mainly used for stenciling images onto fabric. In most cases these stencils are single use, although I have heard that they can be used up to four or five times

Freezer paper has been around for a long time and is readily available from many supermarkets and online. One side of the paper, the waxed side, is shiny, the other side is dull and can be drawn on with pencil pen or felt tip marker. You can transfer your image directly onto the freezer paper by putting it through an ordinary inkjet printer (wax side down).

When printing onto fabrics, you typically adhere the freezer paper pattern to the fabric with a hot iron. Freezer paper stencils are not all that suitable for wall stenciling because the wax side will not stick to the wall. You simply cannot spray reposition able adhesive to the wax side of this type of material. Secondly, if you want to be able to reuse your stencils dozens or even hundreds of times, freezer paper is not the best choice for a stencil material.

On the other hand if you want to do some small print runs on t-shirts or other fabrics and you have a limited budget freezer paper may be just the thing.

Card Stock

Stenciling material is were you find it and in an emergency a piece of ordinary card stock may be just the ticket.

I have occasionally resorted to cutting a design from card. But, if you are going to spend time cutting a good stencil, you want to know that it will last more than a couple of impressions.

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