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How to Make Sandblasting Stencils

Updated April 17, 2017

Sandblasters force a high-speed, fine spray of abrasive media across the surface of the object being blasted. Sandblasters are commonly used to alter or remove the surface metal, wood, glass or almost any other material. Sandblasters have been used extensively in industrial surface treatment applications for many years. Today's artists and designers are using them to create images and patterns in a wide range of media. While some work can be done freehand, most require a pattern or stencil.

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  1. Sketch the stencil on a white paper using a dark-lead pencil or a black pen. Scan the sketch as a black and white image and save it as a "jpg" file. The file should have a minimum of 96 pixels-per-inch at 100 per cent size.

  2. Create a new file in Adobe Illustrator and import the scanned image file. Using the Adobe pen tool, recreate the image as a vector graphics element. Use the Bezier tool to create the detail for the stencil.

  3. Save the Illustrator file as an "eps" file, compatible with the vinyl cutter to be used. This is critical since many vinyl cutters do a better job when working with earlier version "eps" files.

  4. Load the vinyl cutter with a sheet of sandblasting vinyl. Insure that the sheet loads squarely and is large enough for the stencil plus a 2-inch margin around it.

  5. Use the vinyl cutter software to scale the artwork to the proper size. Center the artwork on the vinyl. Cut the vinyl and inspect the cut piece of vinyl to insure that all sections were cut.

  6. Weed the vinyl by taking an X-acto knife and carefully removing the vinyl where you want it sandblasted. This is the equivalent of manually cutting a stencil. If required, use tweezers to remove vinyl islands.

  7. Trim the vinyl sheet so that there is at least a 2-inch margin around the stencil pattern. Lay the weeded sheet of vinyl on a table vinyl-side up. Apply application tape to the entire sheet and squeegee the sheet firmly to eliminate all air bubbles.

  8. Tip

    Make simple stencils by hand. You'll find several suppliers of vinyl that can be cut with an X-acto knife. This takes the place of using a vinyl cutter.The process is not very forgiving. If you make an error cutting, starting over is usually required.


    Be careful when you proof the stencil. An area of glass that has been blasted, stays blasted, and a misspelled name cannot be corrected.

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Things You'll Need

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Vinyl cutter
  • Sandblasting vinyl
  • X-acto knife
  • Tweezers
  • 4-inch squeegee
  • Application tape

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