Sometimes you want a unique background for a cookie design. How do you create that layered look? You can achieve it using a stencil! A stencil is a thin sheet of a substance with a pattern or letters cut out of it. A stencils is used to produce the cut design on the surface below by applying pigment through the holes. In the cookie world, stencils are made with food grade plastic or silk screen materials. Each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages. Plastic stencils are great for airbrushing and simple designs that do not require bridges. Silk screen stencils are better for scraping royal icing and complex designs as they do not require bridging. We’ll show you how we use both to create a layered look with stencils on a cookie.
Supplies Needed for a Layered Look with Stencils
- Sugar cookie recipe
- Royal icing recipe
- Rectangle cookie cutter
- Plastic stencil
- Stencil holder
- Silk screen stencil
- Stencil scraper
- Airbrush colors
There are many resources out there for you to purchase stencils. Killer Zebras and 2 T’s Stencils have some amazing designs for plastic stencils. Our favorite place to go for silk screen stencils is Evil Cake Genius. However, we use a Cricut to cut our own stencils because it is versatile and customizable. You can create silk screen logos, sayings, and pictures. There are a ton of images available for free or a nominal fee from Cricut. Also, you can purchase SVG files from many designers on Esty.
One challenge in designing stencils is determining what part of the stencil you want removed and what part to keep. Think of it this way, if you remove something, that removed piece will show on your finished product. Another challenge is getting the right cutting settings for your machine and material. Also, a sharp blade is a must! If you cut a stencil and the pieces do not easily weed out as it’s called, it is time to replace the blade. For consistency, we always start all our stencil designs with a 5 1/2″ square as they will fit in a stencil holder made for cookie designs.
Stencils made on food grade plastic are relatively straight forward. Design the stencil, cut, remove the design (weed) and wash before use. Plastic stencils are great for airbrushing as the stencil is used multiple times before it needs to be cleaned. As mentioned earlier, we prefer to use plastic stencils for simple designs. For instance, a background with stripes or a shape that gets repeated many times like the deciduous trees in our example. If any part of your design is enclosed in other shapes like the middle of the O below, it’s called an island. Consequently, if this design were cut as is you are left with one big O without a center. To fix this, you have to make bridges so these parts are not cut out entirely.
Silk Screen Stencils
Silk screen stencils are better suited for scraping royal icing and when you want to add some dimension. With a silk screen you do not have to worry about making bridges in your design because there is a layer of silk there to hold the islands in place. They are ideal to use with more intricate patterns, and custom logos and lettering. The process of making a silk screen stencil is a little more complex. First, start by cutting your design in vinyl. We prefer to use a Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) for our silk screen stencils that is frosty clear so that you can see the cookie below the design. After that, iron the HTV onto a piece of 160 mesh silk. Follow these steps to create your own silk screen stencil:
Creating a Layered Look with Stencils
Watch this video to see how to create a layered look with stencils: