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
Supplies for layered look with stencils
Airbrush and stencil tools

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.

Making Stencils

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.

Plastic Stencils

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:

  • Design stencil on Cricut Design Space
    Design stencil in Cricut Design Space
  • Place HTV on Cricut cutting mat shine side down
  • Creating stencil
    Cut image on vinyl setting with deep cut blade
  • Weed out parts of design you don’t want
  • Put silk down, place HTV shiny side up on top
  • Iron pressing firmly according to HTV settings
  • Peel plastic away
  • Trim silk to edges
  • Finished stencil ready for washing and use silk side up
Creating a Layered Look with Stencils
Inspiration Phot
  • Outline cookie
  • Flood
  • Dry Overnight
    Dry overnight
  • Using plastic stencil in a stencil holder, airbrush dark grey pine trees
  • Pine trees
  • Swap in the deciduous tree stencil, add a little white to the barrel and airbrush
  • Pine and one layer of deciduous trees
  • Move stencil over slightly, add a drop of pearl to barrel and airbrush
  • Pine and 2 layers of deciduous tree
  • Using silk screen stencil, scrape white royal icing over
  • 3 layers of airbrush and one royal icing

Watch this video to see how to create a layered look with stencils: