How To Transfer Artwork: Paper Stencil/Mask (Episode 2, Part 1)

So my next project is to paint this
eagle’s head on to this piece of bristol board. I’ve already taken the photo
reference and sized it to the same size as the board in a photo editing software.
And I’ve changed the values and the contrast levels to a point where I think
it’s more appealing. So the next step in the process is to actually transfer the
image onto the panel that we’ll be painting. To do that I’m going to use a
tried-and-true method of using a paper cut mask. Wicked Art Airbrush Studio How To Transfer an Image with a Paper Stencil Part 1 Using a paper mask or a paper
stencil is nothing new. This has been around for a long time, but if you’re not
familiar with the process here’s how I approach it. For this specific painting
I’m going to use two printouts of the photographic image. You can use as few as one, or as many as you like, it just depends on how much detail you want to
put in to the mask to begin with. So you might notice that this one is darker
than this one because this is the original photograph that I chose to use
as a reference. This one I have altered the contrast levels in order to lighten
it up, brighten it up, make it more appealing in my eyes. So for this one, the
darker image, I’ll cut it out first. And I’m going to use it specifically for the
outline of the bird’s head so that I can render the background later on. So with
an X-ACTO knife number one… number 11 blade, all I’m going to do is cut out the
outline of this bird. And for the beak I’m not trying to use jagged edges. A
smooth cut is all I’m looking for. Some people like to kind of wiggle the knife
back and forth so that you don’t get a really smooth sharp line. I know that I’m
going to be using erasers and other tools to add and subtract paint during the
painting process. So a sharp line is not going to affect the end result. And again, I’m just cutting the outline
of this bird out. Now on the backside of this where you can see the feathers taper off,
I’m not doing just a continuous straight line. I am using the knife to cut out some of this feathered texture. And this
doesn’t have to be perfect. This is just a guideline. I’m not using this as a mask
where I lay it down and spray through it and voila we’re done.
This is just to give me a road map during the painting process. And again, under this beak there’s some
very faint feathers, or hairs coming down off of it. I’ll try to get some of these
in, but it’s not absolutely imperative to get them in there. And the reason why I used the darker printout for the outline of the bird is because the beak area is a little bit
better defined than it is in the lighter version. When you go to remove it if you
missed a few spots you might have to go back in and clean some of these cuts up. You can spend as much time on this as
you prefer. Like I said, I use this just as a roadmap, a basic guide to put me
where I wanna be during the painting process. So, I don’t
put a lot of detail in there, but that’ll give me a way to mask off the head of
the bird when I’m painting it and be able to lightly mist in some of the
background. So for the other printout, now I’ll go in and hit some more details. And
basically the way I do this is I try to get all of the very dark areas like the
pupil, the outer portion of the eye, a little bit of the brow, some of the beak,
the nose, some of these dark areas in the feathers and that will give me the
roadmap that I need. That’ll give me the guide during the airbrush process so
that I know where details need to go. And the rest of it, we’ll just kind of keep an
eye on the reference as we’re painting and we’ll go from there.
So I’ll begin by cutting out the center of the pupil. And I find if you turn the paper when you’re
cutting a round object it makes it a little bit easier to get a smoother cut.
But again, at this stage I’m not too concerned about having this super smooth.
I’ll try to keep this highlight in here, but I’m not 100% certain that will work
out. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. This is pretty small. And again, there’s some texture at the
end of these little feathers right above the eye that we’ll put in later. I’m not
worried about trying to cut little jagged lines in there. I just cut a
straight line across here because this is just the roadmap. This is gonna get
our painting started. It’s not meant to put minute details into it. You can do that
if that’s the way you want to do it. It takes more time to go in and cut out all
these little bitty fine details, but if you’re willing to spend that time, by all
means to do so. And keep in mind with the center, we want
to keep the pupil and this outer end black. And that’s what I’m removing is
the very dark areas, but I can’t cut all the way around the eye or I’ll lose the
center of it. So we’ll have to leave a little void and come back in with the
airbrush and just add that later. Oops.
See what I mean, that… little bit of that highlight just got knocked out, but that’s okay. And again, I’m just looking for the very
darkest areas and removing those areas. I missed a slight portion of the eye. There we go. And I’ll add a few little
random dark spots in the feathers just to give myself a reference while I’m
painting. And you can see that’s just a sliver. Again, you can put as much of this detail
in here as you want or need. It’s completely up to you as the artist. If
you’re a little bit newer to airbrushing it may be easier to put a lot of detail
into it. If you’ve got more experience then you may not need as much detail. For this area right here, just below and
to the left of the eye, I’m just kind of making little random cuts… which may or
may not open up enough when there’s air going through the paper mask
to actually put paint on to the surface, but we’ll try it and see. And for the beak… The lower portion of it… because I want to leave a separation… where the beak is closed, I’m going to try
and cut just a sliver around where we cut just a minute ago… which may not be necessary in the end,
but it seems like a good idea at the moment. A lot of this fades off into lighter
shades of gray. So, I don’t wanna get too carried away. And for that, because it fades off into
lighter shades of gray in this area, I don’t want to just completely cut all
this out because when I go to airbrush in there it’ll leave me a very hard edge.
Even if I spray lightly in this area. So what I’m going to try to do, is just fold
this up. If I can get everything cut. By leaving this folded up it’ll give me
a softer edge when I spray a little bit of paint in there. And again, for this area of the
feathers I’m cutting pretty… kind of just random lines to give myself some more
jagged… a more jagged portion of this stencil… because this is all feather and
hair. We’ll just built a little bit of texture with
the stencil from the beginning. I’m not going for photo realism with
this painting. It will be realistic in the end if everything works out all
right. I’m not worried about trying to paint it exactly like what I see in the
photographic reference. So I’m not trying to be extremely exact with these cuts or
anything. This is just the roadmap. Sometimes when making these straightline numerous cuts like that,
it’s hard to find where they intersect and where they don’t when you’re trying
to remove the paper. Sometimes I’ll just grab it and try to tear like that, which will give you a little bit…of a… not a straightedge as well, versus trying
to just cut it all with the X-ACTO blade. Again, this is just for the roadmap, the very
beginning of the painting process. And again, basically all I’m trying to do is get a
sense for where the very darkest darks are… maybe some of the mid-tones. That one’s
more of a mid-tone there, but it’ll give me an idea of where that feather actually
begins. Same with these… I’ll do the same thing that I did with
the beak above with these particular feathers. let’s just roll that up so I don’t get a
super hard edge at the top when I paint that. Roll that one back. You can see I’m just getting the very
darkest areas in between some of these feathers. That’ll just give me a better
idea when I start the painting process how to render the direction of the
feathers and give me a better idea of where they’re at. Again, you can put as much detail in these as you want. If you want
to do one stencil with all the very dark areas and then a separate stencil with
more of the mid-tones, you can do that. And you’ll see even when I begin to
spray paint through this stencil onto the substrate to begin with, I’m gonna do
a very, very light pass. So even though these are the darkest of the darks that
I’m mapping out, they will not start out extremely dark in the actual painting.
Again, this is just my roadmap. And I think that’s probably good enough
to get us started. I might just knock a few little holes right here where the fur
begins to creep in around the beak. And I’m just picking at the paper now just
to tear little holes in it. I’m not actually cutting lines like we have been. That’ll give me just an indication of where
all those little feathers and fur begin. I think that’s probably good. So from
here we’ll go back to the easel and we’ll get started. I realize that was
not exactly riveting to watch. That took a little bit longer than I had
anticipated. So if you’ve made it this far, thank you for watching. I really
appreciate it. And that should give you a pretty good idea of the approach I use
when cutting a paper mask, or a paper stencil for the purpose of transferring
an image onto the surface that I’m painting. It’s a great alternative,
especially if your drawing skills are not quite at the level that you’d like
them to be. It’s not an excuse not to improve your drawing skills. I’m a strong
advocate of improving your drawing skills. Improving your drawing skills
will improve your art across the board and that includes your airbrush
paintings. Because this took a little bit longer than I anticipated, I decided to
split this video into two parts. So next Saturday we’ll look at actually using
the airbrush to transfer the image onto the bristol board through the paper
stencil. So once again, thank you guys for watching. I appreciate it.
Remember to like, subscribe and share if you got something out of this and I’ll
see you guys next week.


  • Jacobite

    Brilliant cheers man.

  • Nick Wheeler

    Another informative video. Thanks for taking the time to share with us, and I look forward to the next one.

  • Richard Gray

    Thanks Trevor for your time in showing this look forward to next video

  • Rod Eastell

    Great video … instills that need for preparation, preparation and more preparation  to get great end results  … 10% spraying … 90% getting ready to spray

  • Guy Verney

    Hi Trev.
    Looking forward to your next tutorial. I have just been asked about some hot rod style ghost flames on a harley. It's already black and i would like to do a drop shadow which i think would look nice. But what colour should i use. Will do a couple of test panels but not sure which way to go. What would you do? I have a bit of a free hand so i can play a bit with colours and style. I get the impression she would like a pearl of some sort. Any guide would be great.
    PS. I love the oops moment, if thats the only one it's a result.
    Many Thanks as usual. Have Fun. Guy


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