What Are Registration Marks, And How Do You Use Them With Stencils?

When we talk about registration, we’re not talking about signing up for class. We’re talking about making sure that one stencil layer lines up on top of another stencil layer so that you don’t get muddy stencils.

When do I need to use registration marks?

There are many stencils that you don’t need to register at all. Like for an image where you know what every layer represents, what color to paint it, and you see where all the layers fit together.

Note that I kind of need to paint the black first in order to get all the other parts in the right place. (I probably couldn’t paint that blue-grey layer and the red layer first, because they don’t really touch.)

But what if the scene or object you were representing didn’t have clear boundaries that you could recognize? Think smoke or fire or random natural patterns that you would have trouble drawing because you don’t remember exactly how they look.

This is where registration comes in.

To register your stencils, on the first layer you paint, you make some marks toward the edges of your stencil that show exactly where the stencil is aligned. You know the marks are aligned (because we cut them that way, and the downloads have registration marks in them as well).

Once you’re done painting the stencil, you can cover or erase the registration marks. In this demo, I only had spray paint so I used the spray to register the stencil. In practice, pencil works better if you want to erase it afterward.

You also may want to use registration marks when they thing you’re painting does not integrate with the image at all, in particular when you use a secondary stencil to hid gaps caused by bridges.