Some tools and materials I've found have made life easier. I did try the scalpel/card/acetate combo traditionally used, but found it very tiring, and tricky. So am passing on to you my 'easy' ways

Mylar I found this at a very reasonable price big sheets 600mm x 300mm...Per £4.90 10 sheets. It is thin but strong and melts like butter with the hot pen enabling easy cutting. You can cut a stencil in minutes This can be bought online and Hot Pen here (scroll down to stencilling)
Hot Pen for Stencil Cutting This has a fine tip ideal for delicate lines and gets to the right temp to melt the Mylar without ridges (which you get when melting acetate) ( Have used the Walnut Hollow stencil attatchment but found it too thick and too hot and it just melted acetate too quick, so no control. Just in case you ask).The Mylar and Hot Pen can be purchased online from this site  (departments scroll to stencilling ) in the US here a similar one and similar to Mylar
Repositional Adhesive
Digital Image print out in black and white, or drawing (see more on this below)
Sheet Glass as in old piece glass from a picture frame
Masking tape
Various papers, actually for my experiments I've been recycling cardboard from pizza / cappuccino/ cereal packaging--as I have  a good supply. You can use tissue, watercolour paper Journal books etc., you can also try on fabric like calico
Art spray paints in black and other colours of your choice. You only need a couple to start. I did try using the airbrush with pressured air can but was a pain getting the paint the right consistency. I found  the cheapest spray cans here  (UK) and they only charge 30p per can postage. nice colour chart. Found similar here for US
Newspaper to protect. A mask is good and open window or spray outside. (There are health issues involved and its up to you to make arrangements)

What to do
Cut your Mylar to fit stencil image. Place the image under your glass and tape to table/worktop. Tape the Mylar over image.
When the hot pen is hot (don't touch the tip any time) just put the tip on the mylar and follow the image in a smooth drawing motion and see the lines melt.
Islands and Bridges. You have to keep the stencil together. If you cut a circle, it will fall out. If you leave a small gap, it wont. So leave small gaps ie bridges to all the white bits. Say you have black around the eyes, but you want the white bits left. Leave a gap in the black. This will connect it to rest of the face. This will come naturally after some tries and mistakes. You can paint in these areas later. Dab with finger, or brush
Leave as much white areas joined to the edges of the stencil as possible to make the stencil strong.
Gently pull out the pieces that will be the black parts, leaving white areas in tact. If a bit is cut out by mistake it is possible to tape it back. I use a scalpel to get into very small holes or cut those bits that don't come away easy ie you might not have burned through . Turn the hot pen off if your done cutting
Take the stencil over some newsprint and spray with repostional adhesive on the wrong side. Leave to dry a minute.
Spray the stencil You can do a test first on white paper. It will stick temporarily so you get a good contact
Shake your can as per  instructions. Place stencil on the paper cut to size is good, and lightly spray from 50cms /1 1/2 feet. you can do several fine coats if you want. If too near  the paint will be thick and wet. Like I still keep doing, (oh will I never learn) Be creative with colour. Black on white is good to start. Also try coloured paper/ card with contrasting/harmonious colour sprays
Carefully pick the mylar stencil away from paper (or wait a while if you can) Leave to dry
I hang my wet mylar  stencil from a bulldog clip hanging from a pushpin/tack on something ie table or my easel. Whatever you can fix up. It needs a few minutes to dry then you can put the adhesive side up somewhere so it dosent get hairs paper sticking to it. I store my cut stencils in a plastic file folder, where you can also put a test so you can see what and where they are.
You can take your stencil art  further when you are ready, with 2 or 3 layerd stencils, masked backgrounds, collaged backgrounds. Patterend stencils for embellishment and decoration. See below

Designing your stencil

I covered most of this in
previous tutorial  for digital stencils but have found a few more different ways. I do use Photoshop (but only vers 7 ) If you don't have it--it is expensive. You may be able to get a second hand one off ebay. Also Photoshop Elements (I think but I don't have this) does everything you need and often comes free with scanners. Photoshop is an amazing programme and allows you to be digitally creative ad infinitum.
There are different ways to produce a stencil image
Open your image. You can work in 72 dpi and start with a smallish size ie 3x5 ins So you may want to resize your picture Go to Image>Image Size. Click on Width arrow change to percent and reduce by 50% or whatever size you want it to.
1.Go to Image> Adjust levels or brightness contrast to get good blacks and bright highlights. Go to Mode and select Greyscale. 1.Go to Filters > Artistic > Cutout. No of Levels-2 Edge Simplicity 0. Of course play with the sliders until you like the image
2. Open your image adjust levels or brightness contrast to get good blacks and bright highlights. Go to Image> Adjustments > Threshold. Play with the slider. You can use a Gaussian blur to make the shapes smoother. Go to Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur radius 1 pixel thereabouts.
3 Another Filter to try is the Stamp. Go to Filters> Sketch> Stamp. Have the foreground black and the background white. Play with sliders.

Making your stencil Work
Look at your black and white image for white islands. White contained by black. Get a 6 or 10 size brush (change master diameter slider to best size) Use white and just pop the islands/gaps in so all the whites join up, if necessary. See illustration to left

Print designs ou
t.You don't need a high resolution 72 is fine as you will just print out to us as your guide. I will put several images /or fill an A4 sheet with images, to print out. Tip: Flatten the finished sheet of images and make the opacity 60% for instance. This will save on printing ink.
You can cut up the images ready for the Mylar or keep them in the sheet as is so you don't lose them.
Patterns You can easily make patterns for decorative backgrounds and embellishments to enhance your work. A google search (Images) for stencil patterns, will give you some to copy. Sequin waste is always a useful dotty one
Collage Later you might want to try glueing down an assortment of papers. Patterend, type, dictionary,ephemera, all the usual stuff. Make sure it is dry, then give the collage a light, transparent spray of say a cream or pale colour, to bring all the elements together. Dry again (otherwise the collage may peel away) and spray your stencil over the top. You might do this on a journal page.You can also try stencilling over flyers, junk mail, whatever you have to hand.
Stickers make your own stickers. Spray a small stencil design onto sticky back labels. Have fun
Two layer stencil This way is easy to create a 2 layerd stencil as in top image and one left. Do the steps as above in Designing your stencil. When in Cutout Filter set slider to No.of Levels use 3, Edge simplicity 1. You will see a black and a grey for a more 3d effect. Put 4 registration marks 1 in each corner. Print out as normal. Cut 2 pieces of Mylar the same size to fit and together burn the registration marks as on your image. Then cut out the 2 sheets one following the grey shapes and one for the black shapes, not forgetting your bridges if needed. Spray the grey in what colour you want and the same for  the black in a darker colour lining up the registration holes.
Masks for backgrounds. If you want a separate background colour ie red, so the front image stays another colour ie white, you can make a quick simple mask. Get your design printout and a piece of paper same size on top. Put both against the window and draw--slightly inside the lines (for slight overlap) all around area to be sprayed background colour. Registration dots are useful. Cut out this shape with sharp knife. Give a spray with repositional adhesive, dry. Spray this background colour first. Dry, then spray the stencil over it matching registration holes.
Stencil on fabric. Below is a sample of fabric stencil using paint spray. You could use them in textiles for purses/bookcovers etc. And of course T shirt. Use something like Dylon or check here
You tube vid
Self Portrait Stencil Challenge take a contrasty digital photo of yourself, and turn it into a handmade stencil
I think I've covered everything  Gillian Allen 0108

sprayed on tissue
2 layered/colour stencil on squared exercise book paper
1 Using the stamp filter
original photo
After Greyscale mode and levels/brightnes,contrast
After Stamp Filter applied
Bridges applied (shown in red ), background whited out
bridges/gaps (in red) put in round eyes to join up. Image cleaned up
Pete D
sprayed onto flyer
Lisa L
Useful links There are so many, but here are a few
my favourite video, very quick , but you could pause it. Done the traditional way with paper and a knife
Hutch Brighton based street artist   Mary Ann Moss dispatches from LA is a keen stenciller in her journal. as is Patty Van Dorin. stencil flickr Group  Lots of examples for inspiration. Shepard Fairey fabulous huge stencilled collages.Banksy. T Shirt stencil cracks me up, although hot pen is better than a wood burner). Stencil street Art
2 layer/colour stencil design
Design for 2 colour stencil
1. Carmen Miranda Stencil, 2. Glenda stencil, 3. Glenda G *, 4. My gun is bigger than yours, 5. Trio, 6. Um dos STENCILS das paredes do Espaço Galleria, 7. GRAFFITI_NEWTOWN_1207_54, 8. princess street, 9. red blender, 10. Audrey, 11. Untitled, 12. three faces, 13. So What, 14. deceive?, 15. Carnal !!!, 16. Kitchen cupboard stencil
Below a selection of stencil art with Flickr Mosaic
Self portrait stencil
webpage counters
journal page
Fabric with sprayed stencils
Use different colour combinations
add pattern stencil backgrounds
stencils on waste protective papers
stencils on waste protective papers
animal pattern stencil round edges
Spraying on calico
stencils on waste protective papers, dont throw them away
make fun stickers
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