Materials Monday: Letter Stencils


Words are almost as big of a part of my visual journaling process as the art making and the collage. As a journal, I want my book to reflect and document my daily life — my ups, my downs, and my in betweens, and words go a long way in helping with that. Naturally, I write out many of my reflections longhand, and of course, I draw words, text, and quotes to give emphasis. But having letter stencils on hand, is a quick and easy way to add letters and words, and they can be used with a wide variety of materials — everything from pen and pencil to acrylic and watercolor paints. I always have a few styles and sizes on hand so that I can tailor the letters and words to fit multiple purposes and situations.

I don’t have a favorite brand or kind of letter stencil, and over the years I’ve picked them up at arts and crafts stores, as well as office supplies stores. But I usually limit myself to the simpler, more generic lettering styles — Roman, Gothic, and Helvetica. I don’t like the to use the fancy or funky fonts — it’s just not my thing. I do try to have several sizes of the same font on hand — normally a small, medium, and large, and I do have a couple of extra large sets for when only a big word will do.

Letter stencils, also called lettering guides, come in a variety of materials as well, and I must say that I prefer the thinner, flexible plastic stencils since they take up less space. I can throw a few of them in the pocket of my large journal and take them anywhere. However, they do get beat up a bit, and they can get bent and even torn — especially the delicate insides of letters. The stiff, thick plastic stencils are much more durable, but not as portable so I relegate them to the studio. I have used the stencils cut from heavy paper, but they tear easily and don’t hold up to wet media.

I steer clear of stencils with already cut words and phrases because they are somewhat limiting.  You probably aren’t going to use them a whole lot and stencil the word and phrase over and over and over again. I like being able to create any word, any phrase — much more versatile. I also like to use letters and numbers as graphic devices, and I often stencil “ABCD” or “12345” onto pages and artworks. I also, like to stencil a letter like “X” over and over to create patterns. This allows me to play around with letters on a purely visual level.

If you don’t have any letter stencils, go get yourself some, and have fun playing with words, letters, and numbers.