Seasonal Stencils


Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Boxing Day, 26th December, 2007



Most years I scan a drawing and use the laser printer for our Christmas cards but this year I wanted something hand-made. I didn't have time to produce a lino-cut so I called at Dab Hand, Horbury's stencil & craft shop, for advice. They were able to supply me with a sheet of smooth, dense stencilling card. The colour and texture of it remind me of the smooth side of hardboard.




I went for shapes that are easy to cut; a freehand star, stylised pine trees and a mound of snow. I used a sharp craft cutter to follow my sketched outline.



I took some old acrylic paints from the drawer and experimented with colour combinations. To register the three elements of the design - star, snow mound and trees - I cut the stencils to line up with the top right corner of the greetings card. I used a strip of adhesive tape to hold the stencil in place across its top edge, hinging up it up to position the card for stencilling underneath. I left each colour to dry before printing the next. I was able to line up the top edge of snow mound with additional precision when I printed the trees on top of it because I could see the shape through the stencil.

I used a round hogshair brush to dab around the stencil. I wanted a textured rather than a smooth effect.



We went for a Christmassy red but I also liked the dramatic effect you could get by printing on some of the darker coloured cards - not an option I would have had in laser printing, unless I'd been prepared to use an awful lot of toner!

tree cardOver-printing

detailI printed in three colours - titanium white, primrose and cobalt blue - but I got a fourth colour because the blue appears brighter when it is overprinted on the white.

As I had over 100 cards to print, I soon used up my remnant tube of cobalt blue (right) and I then went on to ultramarine (left) which has more transparency than the cobalt so that it appears blackish on the red but bright blue on the tree trunks, which are printed over the snowy white.


I noticed that a residue of acrylic accumulated around the edges of the stencils. This didn't make much difference to the snow mound or the star but the tree trunks and jagged of the trees began to take on an 'out of focus' quality as I continued to print. The tree trunks, which were narrow slits in the stencil, almost closed up towards the end of the run of prints.

I think the out of focus quality gives a more painterly look to the later cards.