Definition of stencil in English:



  • 1A thin sheet of card, plastic, or metal with a pattern or letters cut out of it, used to produce the cut design on the surface below by the application of ink or paint through the holes.

    [as modifier] ‘stencil designs such as fruit’
    • ‘Lay a tablecloth on a flat surface and place the stencils, securing them with a bit of tape.’
    • ‘Matt had made the design, a friend hit on the idea of using stencils and spray paint, and the crew started tagging.’
    • ‘Simply place the stencil in the desired location on the wall and hold it in place with masking tape.’
    • ‘In subsequent works, he created permutating, off-centered grids with spray paint applied through stencils.’
    • ‘I would take the time to make a good set of letter stencils out of transparency film and then use acrylic paint with textile medium to paint the shirts.’
    • ‘Use your own imagination or buy a ready-made stencil.’
    • ‘Judging by the consistency of their designs, the quilts imitating fashionable appliquéd patterns may have been painted using professionally cut stencils, which were available after 1835.’
    • ‘I cut out a paper stencil and sprayed through it onto the chairs.’
    • ‘If stains are placed afterward, stencils should be left in place until after the staining process is complete.’
    • ‘Position the border and design stencils shiny-side-down on the fabric.’
    • ‘I would recommend looking at what ready-made stencils there are before deciding whether or not to use them.’
    • ‘When painting with a stencil cut out use a short bristled brush and with a dabbing motion apply your paint.’
    • ‘Carefully remove the stencil and wipe off the excess wet paint with a rag.’
    • ‘Many paint and craft stores sell pre-cut, reusable plastic stencils in a variety of patterns, such as leaves, ivy, flowers, etc.’
    • ‘Women purchased metal stencils with their names cut in, and used them for writing their names on household linens and clothing or other needlework and they also used them to sign their quilt blocks.’
    • ‘Allow to dry, then remove the stencil to reveal the picture.’
    • ‘Any idiot with spray paint and a stencil can put a name on a ship.’
    • ‘Pencil on your design or alternatively use a stencil to trace the outline of your design.’
    • ‘Paint the walls blue, and then paint grass growing above the baseboard, and use stencils and white paint for clouds.’
    • ‘It just takes a little glass paint and a stencil or template.’
    model, example, criterion, standard, basis, point of reference, gauge, norm, formula, guide, scale, guideline, yardstick, touchstone, benchmark, ideal, exemplar, paradigm, canon
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    1. 1.1A design produced by a stencil.
      ‘a floral stencil around the top of the room’
      • ‘The assumed permanence of a print is in this context also eroded - the stencils are often painted over by concerned city councils within days and sometimes hours.’
      • ‘The plates were placed on a roof with stencils covering the positive areas of the portrait.’
      • ‘The resulting paintings based on the stencil were popular and sold well to tourists.’
      • ‘The walls were dark blue with painted star stencils all over the walls.’
      • ‘He encouraged others to join in, with stickers, spray-paint stencils, and wheat-pasted posters.’
      • ‘Smack dab in the middle of the canvas, an enormous silhouetted hen sits contentedly on her nest, framed by a field of radiant orange-on-orange floral stencils over a hot-pink background.’
      • ‘I agree with your comments about the impact of television, but certainly there's still a place for the static graphic, whether it's a poster, or a stencil sprayed on a sidewalk.’
      • ‘Some of them are shelters like this major one with drawings and stencils.’
      • ‘Tactics these groups use include spray-painting stencils on pavements, altering billboards and displaying posters and stickers in public places.’
      • ‘Other campaigners spray painted carefully designed stencils on pavements.’
      • ‘Or use border tiles to define a panel or tiled splashback, and then echo the motif as a stencil along the bottom edge of your table linen or roller blinds.’
      • ‘Recently, this has found me making stencils, which, like lithographs, are quick, effective, and actually available for masses of people to see.’


  • 1 Decorate (a surface) with a stencil.

    ‘the walls had been stencilled with designs’
    ‘the art of stencilling’
    • ‘The banks of the river were 20 feet tall and vertical and stenciled with numbers - mile markers painted by Los Angeles County, which now manages the channel along with the Corps.’
    • ‘Unusual features in this room are the vaulted, Georgian beamed and stencilled ceiling and a rather ornate tiled fireplace.’
    • ‘Today, stenciling has become much more sophisticated, often involving intricate designs and any number of colors.’
    • ‘Using the graph paper, design your stenciled floor.’
    • ‘If you don't have an embroidery machine, consider spelling out ‘Laundry’ with iron-on letters or stenciling.’
    • ‘Set in the ceiling were small plaster panels with renditions of bookplates; the walls were stenciled with representations of bookbindings; and quotations about books embellished the broad wooden cornice.’
    • ‘Wash and dry the chosen fabrics to remove the sizing, and make sure any hard surfaces to be stenciled are clean and dry.’
    • ‘The open-plan room, which has about 15 tables, is very fresh looking with light walls, stencilled with vines, dragonflies and balustrades.’
    • ‘But when he opened the door stenciled EMPLOYEES ONLY, no one was there.’
    • ‘It was a beautiful room, with its chequerboard tiled floor and delicately stencilled creamy walls.’
    • ‘‘Drink this,’ she said, handing me a dainty teacup stenciled with primroses filled with the substance she had just made.’
    • ‘Continue building the design, adding stenciling with complementary paint colors.’
    • ‘At Winscombe Hall, currently a residential home for the elderly, a bedroom, once wonderfully stencilled with Burges's elaborate gothic designs, is now a uniform cream.’
    • ‘The Shelburne Museum in Vermont, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association in Deerfield, Massachusetts, and Old Sturbridge Village all have stenciled coverlets imitating the Whig Rose appliqué design.’
    • ‘Eventually the money went for a program to stencil the drains to tell everyone not to pour motor oil into the sewers, and some home-improvement loans.’
    • ‘The stencil system includes a working area, at which the circuit boards are stenciled.’
    • ‘Bluff Point, Spalding and Sunset Beach residents will have noticed roadside drains in their suburbs have been stencilled with the slogan ‘Water To The River’.’
    • ‘Don't limit yourself to stenciling on a wall.’
    • ‘A white UN helicopter, stenciled with the blue symbol, buzzed to and fro.’
    • ‘Each panel is stenciled with a large date and a small text that provides an artist's name and the title of a work.’
    1. 1.1Produce (a design) with a stencil.
      ‘stencil a border around the door’
      ‘the stencilled letters’
      • ‘The pair also stenciled a set of unsigned prose ‘poems’ on various walls throughout the exhibition.’
      • ‘They stenciled the images onto various public places, like the telephone box pictured above.’
      • ‘The idea spread, and by now anonymous participants have stenciled the phrase in over 20 cities, he says.’
      • ‘But the chimney receives a fresh coat of beige paint each year with the name stenciled out in giant black letters.’
      • ‘Last week, he stencilled nine images onto the Palestinian side of the West Bank barrier in Israel.’
      • ‘A very few quilts actually contain stenciled or embroidered designs along with the pieced or appliqué work.’
      • ‘Cover the albums with pretty fabric or lace and stencil the recipient's initials on the front to personalize it.’
      • ‘Labour has assiduously made capital from that little nugget ever since, even stencilling the phrase on its campaign cars to remind people.’
      • ‘He had spent the day stenciling tiny Christmas trees along the border of the sign.’
      • ‘This guy spent three weeks with a pencil, stenciling a piece on the mural wall.’
      • ‘Shapes are stencilled onto coloured papers to make cut-outs, and onto photos, for cropping them into interesting shapes.’
      • ‘The dots in the background were stencilled in with each one being done by hand.’
      • ‘They had printed in white stenciled letters their message on the inside of the leaf… which is silly because leaves fall with the outside upwards, so all the messages were obscured but one.’
      • ‘The name and registration number of the ship were stenciled near the nose, and a large, idealized picture of a flaming bird in dark reds and oranges wrapped around the forward fuselage.’
      • ‘The words State 51 had been stencilled on the gate.’
      • ‘I've never been arrested for stenciling political messages on footpaths.’
      • ‘She might be guilty of trying to make you stencil sunflowers onto your kitchen walls, but that is not a crime.’
      • ‘You can even add a stenciled cut-out design around the edge of the box.’
      • ‘His words, in old-fashioned Ottoman Turkish, are stencilled on the wall.’


Early 18th century: from earlier stansel ‘ornament with various colours’ (based on Latin scintilla spark).