Video by Beth MacKinney for Creating a Stencil Palette for Airbrushing

     During an event, it is important to be able to do your best work while moving as quickly as possible. When I'm airbrushing, the best use of my time is in creating designs rather than searching for stencils in a file or book, so I created a stencil palette to help me keep them accessible but safe from occasional wind gusts which might whisk them off my work surface. 

    Before you make a stencil palette, you need to know which designs you're actually going to be using on your menu.

    I would really suggest that you choose some designs, and not all of your designs. Personally, I have a lot of stencils, especially the Wiser stencils, because I really like those. I can't offer them all, or it's going to slow me down quite a bit at an event. So what I do, is I make menus that are comprised of the most popular designs.

    This is my menu. It's got some popular designs, like a tiger, some sports stuff, some Americana, words and logos, nautical themed things, snakes, motorcycles, flowers, horses, etc...So these are some really popular choices, so I've put those on my menu.

    Now I'm going to fill my stencil palette with the stencils that are going to work with these designs.

    It's made of two pieces of foam board, and I've covered them with clear contact paper to protect them from moisture, and I also use packing tape to go around the edges to also make sure it's as sealed as I can make it from moisture. I also added a seam in the center, again, I used packing tape, so I can fold it, because otherwise it's hard to transport it. For the pockets, I used photo protector pages, and I cut them in pieces.

    If you look closely at these, you'll notice that the pockets aren't the way they originally were. Because normally, both sides would come up to the top and it would protect whatever was in there. That was not going to work well for stencils. I had to have a way of getting at them easily because some of them are smaller. So I trimmed away the top, and I slid a picture inside , so if I was missing a stencil I would know what should be in there, and I put a piece of packing tape on the front as a tab so I could pull that pocket open and get in there and get my stencil out.

    Try to make sure that the larger stencils have a large pocket and the smaller ones have the tiny ones. I even placed some little pockets in the front, like the leaf stencil. So instead of using these 3X4 pockets, which were a little large for that, I made a smaller pocket on the front, and with the same plastic and some double sided tape.

    I also have some extra pockets placed on the front. So these pockets are doubled. There's the larger pocket that's vertical behind it, and then there's a 4X6 pocket on the front. So if I pull the one out, you can see there's another pocket behind it.

    Obviously my stencil palette isn't very heavy. So to keep it still and steady at an event, I have a heavy duty easel, which I'm going to mount it on so that it will hold on to the top and the bottom and keep it from moving. If necessary, I can use bungee cords to clamp that down even more.

    One final thing, on your stencil palette, is that you need to make sure that while it's in transit, if you load it at home, that you don't loose your stencils. In order to do that, I would suggest, if you have a folding stencil, that you clip it with a binder clip (I've used a piece of plastic here), which also helps you know which way the binder is up. If you flip it over the other way, your stencils may all fall out.

    If you'd like to create your own stencil palette, you'll need the followings supplies:

    • Black foam board
    • Heavy duty packing tape
    • Double-sided tape
    • Clear contact paper
    • 3x4 photo holders
    • 4x6 photo holders
    • Card stock or paper
    • Scissors
    * Metal straight-edge/ruler
    • Sharp bladed cutter, such as an X-acto knife
    Stencils (Wiser Stencils for airbrushing)

    Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in Elgin, Illinois, and her artwork has appeared in The Colored Palette and SkinMarkz magazines. She services the western and northwestern Chicago suburbs, Chicago’s north side, and the eastern and southeastern suburbs of Rockford. Stop by to enjoy more of Beth’s face painting tutorials.