Stencil Hygiene

by Bradley M. Look


So you went out and bought yourself a beautiful set of stencils from Artool, or maybe you took it upon yourself and burned some creative stencils for that project. You've used them and now its time to clean them up. I have to admit I've seen plenty of airbrush artists out there who don't do this often enough. The productivity and life of your stencils can be vastly improved with regular cleaning.


Just as you should always leave your airbrush clean, so should you with the rest of your equipment. This is particularly paramount when working as a makeup artist who's using an airbrush on his talent. A stencil also comes in contact with an actor's skin and should be cleaned frequently so as to keep your professional image intact.


Now before you start with "I haven't got the time," let me take you through the simple steps of Stencil Hygiene 101 so you can see how simple it truly can be. First, I will list the basic equipment you'll need to have on hand before starting:



1. A solvent-proof tray (such as an enamel butcher's tray found in most art stores)
2. Paper toweling
3. Powder puffs
4. Isopropyl alcohol 99%
5. Spray bottle
6. A synthetic brush (with soft bristles)

1. To begin the whole cleaning process, first detach two sheets of paper toweling from the roll and fold so that it will fit inside the butcher's tray.
2. Carefully, pour the isopropyl alcohol on top of the paper toweling so that it is entirely saturated with the solvent. If you are unsure that the solvent will affect the material that your stencil is made of, check a small section before immersing it.
3. Lay the stencil (dirty side) face down onto the toweling. Let it sit there for several minutes so that the solvent can loosen all product on its surface. Of course if both sides of your stencil have dried product on it, then you'll need to flip it over to soak.
4a. Now flip over the stencil onto the paper toweling. Saturate a powder puff with solvent and lightly pat it to remove product. If you have some stubborn spots, use the spray bottle containing isopropyl alcohol. Mist those areas. 
4b. Then take a soft synthetic brush and use a patting motion to loosen dry material.
5. Once you're satisfied with the cleaning, rinse the stencil off with tap water in the sink. Lay the stencil down onto some clean paper toweling and pat dry.
6. Store the now clean stencil away for the next time you'll need it. I like to store my stencils in an Itoya portfolio (available in art and office supply stores). This keeps my stencils flat and allows me to keep them organized for easy use when I'm working.


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