Definition of stencil in English:



  • 1A thin sheet of cardboard, 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.

    • ‘Carefully remove the stencil and wipe off the excess wet paint with a rag.’
    • ‘In subsequent works, he created permutating, off-centered grids with spray paint applied through stencils.’
    • ‘Lay a tablecloth on a flat surface and place the stencils, securing them with a bit of tape.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Simply place the stencil in the desired location on the wall and hold it in place with masking tape.’
    • ‘Paint the walls blue, and then paint grass growing above the baseboard, and use stencils and white paint for clouds.’
    • ‘When painting with a stencil cut out use a short bristled brush and with a dabbing motion apply your paint.’
    • ‘It just takes a little glass paint and a stencil or template.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Use your own imagination or buy a ready-made stencil.’
    • ‘If stains are placed afterward, stencils should be left in place until after the staining process is complete.’
    • ‘Matt had made the design, a friend hit on the idea of using stencils and spray paint, and the crew started tagging.’
    • ‘Position the border and design stencils shiny-side-down on the fabric.’
    • ‘Allow to dry, then remove the stencil to reveal the picture.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I would recommend looking at what ready-made stencils there are before deciding whether or not to use them.’
    • ‘I cut out a paper stencil and sprayed through it onto the chairs.’
    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’
      • ‘Recently, this has found me making stencils, which, like lithographs, are quick, effective, and actually available for masses of people to see.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The walls were dark blue with painted star stencils all over the walls.’
      • ‘Some of them are shelters like this major one with drawings and stencils.’
      • ‘Other campaigners spray painted carefully designed stencils on pavements.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Tactics these groups use include spray-painting stencils on pavements, altering billboards and displaying posters and stickers in public places.’
      • ‘He encouraged others to join in, with stickers, spray-paint stencils, and wheat-pasted posters.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The plates were placed on a roof with stencils covering the positive areas of the portrait.’
      • ‘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 resulting paintings based on the stencil were popular and sold well to tourists.’


  • 1 Decorate (a surface) with a stencil.

    ‘the walls had been stenciled with designs’
    ‘the art of stenciling’
    • ‘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 stencil system includes a working area, at which the circuit boards are stenciled.’
    • ‘Continue building the design, adding stenciling with complementary paint colors.’
    • ‘Today, stenciling has become much more sophisticated, often involving intricate designs and any number of colors.’
    • ‘A white UN helicopter, stenciled with the blue symbol, buzzed to and fro.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But when he opened the door stenciled EMPLOYEES ONLY, no one was there.’
    • ‘‘Drink this,’ she said, handing me a dainty teacup stenciled with primroses filled with the substance she had just made.’
    • ‘Using the graph paper, design your stenciled floor.’
    • ‘The open-plan room, which has about 15 tables, is very fresh looking with light walls, stencilled with vines, dragonflies and balustrades.’
    • ‘Each panel is stenciled with a large date and a small text that provides an artist's name and the title of a work.’
    • ‘Don't limit yourself to stenciling on a wall.’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘Wash and dry the chosen fabrics to remove the sizing, and make sure any hard surfaces to be stenciled are clean and dry.’
    • ‘It was a beautiful room, with its chequerboard tiled floor and delicately stencilled creamy walls.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Unusual features in this room are the vaulted, Georgian beamed and stencilled ceiling and a rather ornate tiled fireplace.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If you don't have an embroidery machine, consider spelling out ‘Laundry’ with iron-on letters or stenciling.’
    1. 1.1Produce (a design) with a stencil.
      ‘stencil a border around the door’
      ‘the stenciled letters’
      • ‘Shapes are stencilled onto coloured papers to make cut-outs, and onto photos, for cropping them into interesting shapes.’
      • ‘A very few quilts actually contain stenciled or embroidered designs along with the pieced or appliqué work.’
      • ‘He had spent the day stenciling tiny Christmas trees along the border of the sign.’
      • ‘The idea spread, and by now anonymous participants have stenciled the phrase in over 20 cities, he says.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But the chimney receives a fresh coat of beige paint each year with the name stenciled out in giant black letters.’
      • ‘You can even add a stenciled cut-out design around the edge of the box.’
      • ‘This guy spent three weeks with a pencil, stenciling a piece on the mural wall.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Labour has assiduously made capital from that little nugget ever since, even stencilling the phrase on its campaign cars to remind people.’
      • ‘Cover the albums with pretty fabric or lace and stencil the recipient's initials on the front to personalize it.’
      • ‘His words, in old-fashioned Ottoman Turkish, are stencilled on the wall.’
      • ‘The dots in the background were stencilled in with each one being done by hand.’
      • ‘I've never been arrested for stenciling political messages on footpaths.’
      • ‘The pair also stenciled a set of unsigned prose ‘poems’ on various walls throughout the exhibition.’
      • ‘The words State 51 had been stencilled on the gate.’
      • ‘Last week, he stencilled nine images onto the Palestinian side of the West Bank barrier in Israel.’
      • ‘She might be guilty of trying to make you stencil sunflowers onto your kitchen walls, but that is not a crime.’
      • ‘They stenciled the images onto various public places, like the telephone box pictured above.’


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