Create a cut-paper stencil that represents something you believe in, where you have been, or is a symbol of how you will reach a personal goal. You will create four layers: a block out stencil, a detail stencil, a word that describes your symbol, and a background made with newspaper to create a neutral grey. Incorporate elements of the found text or repeat your word stencil for graphic impact.

Student artwork, Mission High School, San Francisco, CA.


In this video, artist Mike Shine and his family demonstrate how to create a stencil, including important tips for making a "bridge" that joins the lines in a letter.


  • 3 sheets 8.5 x 11" card stock
  • 1 sheet of paper
  • Black permanent marker
  • X-Acto blade
  • Cutting map
  • Tape
  • Glue (2 parts glue mixed with 1 part water)
  • Paintbrush
  • Newspaper
  • Acrylic paint (black and white)
  • Cosmetic wedge sponges


  • Find an image online or draw and scan an image. Print out two copies on the card stock, along with one copy of the word you want to focus on. Make the font size large enough that it takes up at least half the page.
  • Using a permanent marker, fill in the details on the printed image that you will cut away to be filled in black in the finished painting. This will be your stencil detail. Remember to leave bridges

  • Using your X-Acto knife (with cutting mat securely underneath the image), carefully cut and extract all marker lines. Start with small shapes and move on to bigger ones. This will be your detail stencil.
  • Prepare your block-out stencil, which will create the background layer of your image.

  • Next, cut out the letters from the word you printed on the card stock. Remember to create "bridges," especially with the letters O, D, P, E, Q and G.
  • Prepare the background by applying glue to a sheet of paper, laying newspaper on top, and then applying another layer of glue. Cover the entire page with newspaper.

  • Tape the block-out stencil to the newspaper background. Apply white paint to the block-out stencil, using the cosmetic wedge to gradually apply the paint. Start in the center and work towards the edges.
  • Cover the area until it is bright white, then carefully pick up the stencil, making sure it doesn't stick to the newspaper and white paint.
  • Tape the detail stencil in place. Use a second cosmetic wedge to apply the black paint. Dab the excess paint from the sponge before using it to fill in your detail stencil. Gradually apply paint all over the details.
  • Remove the detail stencil and tape the word stencil in place. Carefully push the paint through the stencil.

  • Share your photo online and tag #ArtSchoolElements. Observe someone else's piece, either online or in person. How do you think their word and image are connected? What do you think it suggests about what they feel is important, or about their life goals?

Value helps create emphasis and impact in an artwork. Next, explore how value can turn flat shapes into three-dimensional objects with dimension in Chapter 4: Form.