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How-To: Shapes and Images


Shapes and Images from Templates, Stencils and Shields

In airbrush technique stenciling is referred to as frisketing, but not all stencils are friskets. Frisket is a unique term for a self-adhering (adhesive backed) material that is transparent and is used to cut stencils directly on the surface of artwork. The term frisket is also used for the same type of material in watercolor technique, but is pretty much unique to airbrushing. In airbrush, there are also additional tools that are often used to develop shapes and images: templates, shields and stencils.

A template is usually a series of stencils that are utilized to develop specific images such as skulls on motorcycle tanks, tropical scenery on T-shirts and multiple identical images for patterns. Shields, on the other hand, usually refer to random shapes like French curves that are used to develop unique images such as portraiture or abstract scenes. And stencils are usually pre-cut alphabets or numbers that are available in complete series for use in sign painting, illustration, etc.

All of these tools are usually transparent for ease of registration, but they are not self-adhering. However, they can easily be made to adhere by applying repositionable spray adhesive to the back side. These items are either purchased pre-made or handmade by artists.

Following are tips to consider when selecting and using these tools:

Ensure that overspray does not drift from one opening to another. If working with a template with many openings, make sure that those not being used are covered or else undesired “ghost” images will result. Also cover the perimeter so overspray doesn’t pick up the outside edge of the template.

Consider the thickness of the template. If too thick, like some craft-oriented stencils, the edges will block the spray; if too thin, air pressure from the airbrush will cause the edges to flutter and paint will leak underneath. When making your own templates, a 5 mil thickness should be considered the maximum, while 2 mil may be too thin.

Be cautious of quick buildup of paint on the stencil material. If you’re moving the template/shield around the artwork while spraying, you don’t want to drag paint along too. Also, if too much paint builds up along the edges, capillary action will draw the paint up underneath and destroy the effect you are trying to achieve.

Plastic-based templates should be cleaned regularly with a rag or paper towel in order to maintain the transparency and the exactness of the shape. Paper templates are difficult to clean and don’t have the advantage of transparency.

When working with non-water-soluble paint such as automotive, enamel or lacquer, use only solvent-proof templates. If you spray lacquer, for example, on a template that is not solvent-proof, it will curl, warp or dissolve.

For tight, sharp edges, templates can be coated with adhesive for adherence to the work surface. Do not over-coat the template with glues and make sure that when you remove the template no adhesive residue remains on the artwork.

Airbrush artists have unlimited possibilities in the development of their artwork when using templates, shields and stencils in conjunction with frisketing techniques and freehand airbrushing. See your retailer and visit www.artoolproducts.com.

Reprinted with permission of ARTtalk.com


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Iwata Medea is the wholesale distributor of Iwata, Medea and Artool products in North and South America, and the UK, and does not sell directly to customers at this time. To purchase Iwata Medea or Artool products, please check our dealer pages for a reseller near you. Or call our customer service team at 503-253-7308 ext. 2000, and we’ll help you find a local reseller.