How to Stencil Digital Camouflage

Written by marge burkell
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How to Stencil Digital Camouflage
Shades of grey make good winter digital camouflage. (aiming man image by Alexander Zhiltsov from

Digital camouflage is widely used in the playing of such games as paintball so that the players blend in with their surroundings and are invisible to others in the game. Multiple layers of closely coloured paints applied over a base coat make realistic camouflage, and the use of plastic stencils makes the project simple and fast. Acrylic paints work well on hard surfaces, while fabric paints are available for clothing and cloth accessories such as hats. The stencils may be used an unlimited number of times for future projects.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Stencil plastic
  • Fine line permanent marker
  • Utility or craft knife
  • Scrap of thick picture-frame glass
  • Masking tape
  • Stencil brushes
  • Paper towels
  • 3 shades of camouflage paint
  • Base paint
  • Re-positionable stencil adhesive
  • Water-based matt finish polyurethane
  • Iron

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  1. 1

    Design or locate a picture of digital camouflage, or use a do-it-yourself digital camouflage generator found on the Internet to generate patterns that work for the stencilling project. Divide the camouflaged areas into light, medium and dark and transfer selected images onto stencil plastic with fine-tipped permanent marker. Make at least a couple of varieties for each colour to get random patterns when stencilling.

  2. 2

    Mask all four edges of scrap glass (at least 8 inches square) thoroughly with tape to protect from injuries. Cut stencils using a sharp-tipped utility or craft knife. Working with the stencil plastic against the glass, cut out all areas of the image you want to transfer with paint.

    How to Stencil Digital Camouflage
    Sharp tipped craft knives easily cut plastic stencils. (careful! image by Josef F Stuefer from
  3. 3

    Select a light-coloured base paint, if applicable to the project, and apply an even coat over the entire surface. Be sure to protect all surfaces you do not want painted with painters tape prior to painting. Spray paint may be used for the base coat if the surface is conducive to its use. Spray light, even coats rather than one heavy one. Let dry completely before stencilling.

    Select three shades of paint closely related to one another, i.e., very light grey, medium grey and charcoal for winter camouflage, or shades of green, khaki and tan for summer colours. Select acrylic paint for hard surfaces and fabric paints for clothing and fabric accessories.

  4. 4

    Working from lightest to darkest hue,, apply stencilled camouflage. Lightly spray back of plastic stencil with re-positionable stencil adhesive and apply stencil to surface to be painted.

    Dip end of stencil brush in paint and wipe bristles across paper towel until the brush is free of excess paint. Apply paint in layers by tapping up and down on the surface with the flat end of the brush until the desired coverage is achieved. Two thin coats is better than one thick coat, it will wear better and dry quickly and more evenly. When working on fabric, it will leave the cloth more pliable. Let paint dry completely between coats. A hand-held hair dryer will help speed up the process. Repeat moving stencils and repeat to achieve random patterns.

    After completely stencilling the lightest colour, repeat steps with the medium and then the dark hues. Finally, using small selected areas of various stencils, add blending in areas with various colours using same techniques above.

  5. 5

    Finish the surface of stencilled camouflage by setting and protecting the paint.

    Spray acrylic paints used on hard surfaces with two to three light coats of water-based matt finish polyurethane and let dry completely before using.

    If stencilling fabric paint on cloth, heat set with iron set on the hottest setting the item can withstand for 12 to 15 minutes to set colours. Avoid washing fabric items for a couple of weeks, if possible, to further insure permanency.

    How to Stencil Digital Camouflage
    Iron fabric stencils at highest possible temperature. (iron image by Robert Grzywaczewski from

Tips and warnings

  • Hang guns by wire hooks fashioned from coat hangers to facilitate spraying base coat over entire surface.
  • Work with shirts or trousers pulled over sheets of cardboard to prevent paint from bleeding through to opposite layer.
  • Wear a face mask for safety when working with aerosol paints.

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