Removing Extra Bridges from a Stencil

You paint a stencil with bridges in it, and everything is cool until you get to the darkest layer, and WOW—those bridges really stand out. They stand out because the surface under the bridge is white, and when you paint black next to white, the contrast is really distracting.

Take this example of an image of some toy army men, for example. You see the stencilized version is somewhat abstract, but it’s pretty cool looking.

But then when you actually cut the stencil, and paint it, the bridges are too prominent and too distracting.

army men stencil painted with pronounced bridges

There were actually more than a few things wrong with this attempt, but the prominence of the bridges is one of the most distracting features. So, because the darkest layer is so prominent it often makes sense to give it a little extra attention to reduce the number of bridges in that layer as much as possible.

Here are the basics:

Select all the bridges that you’re going to cut for any given island before you cut them, and ask yourself three questions:

  • How big is the island? If it’s really big, or if it has an irregular shape, you probably want it to be attached by the three shortest bridges you can find.
  • Is the island simple? If it’s just a long thin shape, it might be okay to attach at either end with a single short bridge. If the island is small, two bridges are probably enough.
  • Is the island really small? Then a single short bridge might be enough to keep it attached; and although it might flop when laid in place, as long as the stencil isn’t bent it could still work. Another option for really small islands? Just cut the whole thing off, island and bridge and all.

Many large islands are bridged with four, five or even six bridges on Bay Stencil. That way you have the option of which bridges you want to remove, to balance stability with appearance.

Here’s how it turned out for me, after removing some bridges and adopting a slightly different paint strategy.

Remember: take every ’sea’ in turn, and figure out which bridges you’ll remove before you cut the first bridge.

There may be some bridges that you can’t remove that are still conspicuous when you paint the stencil. There are a bunch of different ways to ‘hide’ conspicuous bridges after you paint.

Good luck!

Get the stencil for the toy army men.