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How to create a Banksy stencil

Updated April 17, 2017

Though stencil graffiti began during the Second World War, stencilling as a technique dates back to the beginnings of human art. Along with contemporaries like Shepard Fairey and Random von Nothaus, British graffiti street artist Banksy has re-popularised the use of stencils for public art. Banksy often combines original drawings and text with re-appropriated works of photojournalism to make political and satirical statements.

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  1. Draw or photocopy your image and any text on to a 28 by 43 cm (11 by 17 inch) piece of paper.

  2. Draw a 48 by 58 cm (17 by 23 inch) rectangle on the art board with a ruler and permanent pen, then cut it out with your craft knife. Place this smaller piece of board on the plastic sheet and spray it with adhesive. Flip your drawing over and spray the back of it with adhesive, then wait 30 seconds for the glue to begin to dry.

  3. Place the drawing glue-side-down onto the art board and centre it so you have a 7.5 cm (3 inch) border on all sides. Press the two pieces together with the palms of your hands. Rub across the drawing with a hard squeegee to flatten it completely and encourage the glue to adhere strongly. Wait for the glue to dry.

  4. Cut through the outlines of the black parts of your drawing with the craft knife, pressing hard enough to cut the board below. Leave narrow ligaments to connect independent shapes and ensure the stability of the stencil as a whole.

  5. Find an empty pizza box and use it as a folder to carry your stencil. If you don't have a pizza box, take apart a file box, fold it in half and trim it to the right size with the craft knife.

  6. Find a place to apply your stencil and stick it to the surface with gaffer tape. Shake a can of matt black spray paint repeatedly for 10 seconds, then spritz the inside of your cardboard folder to start the flow of paint.

  7. Hold the spray can 20 cm (8 inches) away from the stencil and spray back-and-forth across the cut-out areas in sweeping motions. Try not to spray any paint outside the edges of the stencil. Use as little paint as possible to avoid causing drips. Remove the stencil from the wall and place it in the cardboard folder.

  8. Tip

    Consider applying your stencil to your own home or vehicle, or to a canvas, wood block or large sheet of archival paper.

    Copyright law protects works of parody, comment and criticism. If you decide to base your design on a copyrighted image, add an ironic twist, as in the stencil where Banksy replaced a terrorist's grenade with a bouquet of flowers.


    Remember that stencilling on public or private property without permission is a form of vandalism, regardless of how creative your intentions. To avoid breaking the law, make artistic statements with the stencil design itself rather than the locations where you spray it.

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Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Art board
  • Long ruler
  • Permanent market
  • Craft knife
  • Plastic sheet
  • Adhesive spray
  • Hard squeegee
  • Pizza box or cardboard box
  • Gaffer tape
  • Matt black spray paint

About the Author

Tim Hesse

Tim Hesse has been writing professionally since 2000. He has written and edited for a variety of print and online publications, including Salon.com Tech Tips, FOXSports and Automated Homefinder. Hesse enjoys covering music, film, the open-source movement, education and the arts. He studied cinema and television production at the University of Southern California.

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