How to Make a Stencil w/ a Cricut: for Absolute Beginners!

I made a St. Patrick’s Day reverse canvas sign for my tiered tray today. I used a stretched canvas from Dollar Tree, and it turned out perfectly. Today I’m going to share the SVG that I created for it and I’m going to show you how to make a DIY stencil with your Cricut. I’m making this a super easy tutorial so even if you’ve just plugged your machine in, you can still do this!

Cricut Stencil featured image graphic

Supplies for a Cricut stencil:

  • Cricut- I used my Cricut Explore Air.
  • vinyl
  • standard grip cutting mat
  • weeding & scraping tool (credit card)
  • SVG- You can download my free download St. Patrick’s Day SVG below.

Supplies for the Dollar Tree Reverse Canvas Sign:

  • 4×6 Dollar Tree stretched canvas
  • acrylic paint- I used green, black, and gold.
  • sandpaper (optional)
  • light weight spackle (optional)
  • staple gun or hot glue
  • scissors or rotary cutter

Prepare the Canvas

Canvases are okay for decor, but they look better framed. Good thing for us- Dollar Tree’s stretched canvases have frames underneath! Turn the canvas upside down and remove the staples. I used a clay tool, but a small flat-head screwdriver works well. Once they’re pried up, they can be pulled out by hand pretty easily. If not, pull them out with pliers. When all of them are removed, take the canvas off the wood.

This step is optional, but it looks better. Take some lightweight spackle and cover the pieces of metal that hold the wood together in the corners. You can also cover any knicks and holes that are visible. I had a bit of a gap in some of the inner and outer corners as well as some knicks, so I filled those in. Allow it to dry for about an hour.

Sand the spackle and the wood frame to remove unevenness.

Once the wood is ready, you can paint or stain it to fit your needs. I painted mine black with only one light coat of black acrylic paint so that the wood grain still peaks through.

Painting a 4x6 wood frame with black acrylic paint.

Download Free St. Patrick’s Day SVG

If you’d like to make the same sign I did, you can download this SVG. I created it in color so that you can print it out if you’d rather. You can resize it to suit your needs in the print settings.

Upload Image to Design Space

Open Cricut Design Space and a new project. Click “Upload” at the bottom of the left-hand toolbar.

Cricut Design Space screenshot with "upload" highlighted. Step 1 in creating a Cricut stencil.

Click “Upload Image.”

Cricut Design Space screenshot with "upload image" highlighted.

Now click “Browse.”

Cricut Design Space screenshot with "browse" highlighted.

Your download box will open. Choose the SVG file that you want to use, then click open.

Cricut Design Space screenshot with "St. Patrick's Day SVG" highlighted.

The image that I created has a transparent background. If for some strange reason there isn’t a transparent background, just click on the open space to remove it. In the boxes on the right type in the name of the image and below that type in the tags you’d like to use for it. That allows you to find it when you search for it later. You might type “shamrock,” “St. Patrick’s Day,” “lucky,” etc. Finally, click “Upload.”

Cricut Design Space screenshot with "tags" box & "upload" highlighted. Step 5 in creating a Cricut stencil.

Resize & Prepare Image

Now it’s time to make the image the size that you need. Since I was using my stencil for a 6×4 reverse canvas sign, I needed it to be 3.25″ tall. You will size yours to fit your sign, shirt, mug, etc. In the top toolbar you will see a width and a height box. Enter your proportions in those boxes.

Cricut Design Space screenshot with "size" & "W" & "H" boxes highlighted. Step 6 in creating a Cricut stencil.

Since we’re making a stencil, we need the image to be one uniform color. Click on “Color Sync” at the top of the right-side toolbar, just under the green “Make It” button. Drag all of the letters and the shamrock into the black toolbar with “not” and “just blessed”

The image uploads as individual letters and shapes, so you need to fix that before cutting. Click “weld” in the bottom right toolbar.

Step 10 for making a Cricut stencil: "weld" highlighted in Cricut Design Space.

Cut the Cricut Stencil

Now it’s time to cut the stencil. Click the green “Make It” button in the top right corner.

Step 11 for making a Cricut stencil: "Make It" highlighted in Cricut Design Space.

You will now be on the cut screen. Turn your machine on by pressing the circle button at the top of the right side. Next press the “open” button on the left side of the machine.

Turn the wheel on the Cricut to “Vinyl.”

Turning the wheel on the Cricut Explore Air to "vinyl" since that is what we're using for the Cricut stencil.

Back on the computer, click “Continue.” You mat will be black if you moved all of your letters to the black box on the color sync step. I changed mine to green so this screen is easier for you to see.

Screenshot of the cut screen on Cricut Design space with "Continue" highlighted.

Place your vinyl (it doesn’t matter what color) onto a standard grip mat. I’m using a set from Amazon, but if you’re using a Cricut brand yours will be green. Mine is clear, so I’m sorry that it may be a little hard to see. Line the vinyl up in the middle and press it down so it’s secure.

Placing vinyl on a standard grip mat.

Slide the mat under the two tabs on the left and right side of the machine and press the flashing arrow button while applying a little pressure to the end of the mat.

Press the flashing “C” button to start the cut.

Pressing the flashing "C" on the machine.

Once the cut finishes, the arrow button will begin to flash again. Press it to eject the mat.

Pressing the flashing arrow button on the machine to eject the mat with the stencil cut.
I snapped the picture just before the arrow started to flash. I jumped the gun on the shutter button lol, but I didn’t hit the arrow until it flashed.

Remove the mat from the machine and the vinyl from the mat.

You can barely see the cut stencil here.

Prepare the Cricut Stencil

Cut the design from the rest of the sheet of vinyl. Give yourself a few inches on each side of the image if you’re new to stenciling.

Cutting the stencil from the rest of the sheet of vinyl.

With the design cut out, it’s time to weed the image. For a stencil, you need to reverse weed. That means you remove the main part of the design and keep the surrounding vinyl. Weed out and discard the shamrock and the words. Leave the inner parts of the letters like the “e,” “l”, “k,” etc.

Apply The Cricut Stencil to the Canvas

Now that the stencil is ready to use, you can apply it to the canvas. Cut a piece of contact or transfer paper to fit the stencil. I use contact paper from Dollar Tree, and I’ve been using the same $1 roll for years! Remove the backing and apply it to the vinyl with a scraper or credit card. Pay special attention to the free-floating pieces like the inner “o.” Go over those a little more than the rest since they tend to try to stay on the backing and not transfer to the tape.

Remove the backing from the vinyl stencil.

Place the stencil on the center of the canvas. I laid the frame on top once I thought I had the stencil properly placed to ensure that no lines from where the canvas was folded on the frame would show once it was stapled back on.

Use your scraping tool or credit card and go over the stencil with it. Pay extra attention to the floating pieces as well as the edges of the letters and shamrock. That will help keep the paint from bleeding under. More on that in the next step.

Carefully remove the contact/transfer paper. You can use your credit card to keep the stencil down while pulling the paper off.

I went over the edges of the stencil once more before moving to the next step.

Transferring the stencil to the canvas by scraping over it with a credit card.

Paint the Cricut Stencil

Phew. I know your wrist might be a little sore from all of that rubbing! We’re finished with all that now. This step is optional, but it definitely worth it. Use a tiny paint brush and brush matte Mod Podge onto the edges of the letters and the shamrock where the vinyl and canvas meet. That will help seal it to the canvas to keep the paint from bleeding. It should be a thin layer that will take less than 5 minutes to dry.

Using a paint brush to add Mod Podge to the edges of the letters on the stencil and canvas.

You can barely see the Mod Podge in this picture. You can’t tell it’s there at all once the stencil is painted.

It’s time to paint! You can choose to paint everything one color or use multiple, whatever you prefer. I used green and metallic gold. I like to dab the paint on along the edges, but when I had more open space, like the shamrock, I did brush strokes. I’m not sure if dabbing made a difference, but I barely had any bleeding, just a few dots.

Leave it to dry for about an hour or two. You can blow dry it if you’re in a hurry. I was lol. Once it’s dry, carefully remove the main part of the stencil.

Removing the vinyl stencil from the canvas after painting.

Now remove the vinyl from inside the letters. I used a pick tool I got from Dollar Tree.

Using a metal pick to remove the vinyl from inside the letters after painting.

Here it is before I put the frame back on.

Reattch the Frame

All that’s left to do is place the canvas back on the wood frame.

Center the frame over the painting. Once you like where it is, turn the frame upside down. Use a staple gun and staple the middle of one side to the wood. Stretch the canvas tight straight across and place another staple. Pulling taunt again, staple each end. I ran out of staples about 5 staples in, but it’s holding nice and tight. If you don’t have a staple gun, you can use hot glue.

Stapling the Cricut stenciled canvas back onto the wood frame.

Now it’s time to cut the excess canvas off. You can do this step before stapling it, but I’m paranoid I’ll make it too short! That would be a disaster after all my hard work! I use a rotary cutter. Just roll the blade along the edge of the wood. You can cut along the outside, right up against the wood, with scissors too.

Your Cricut stencil sign is ready to display!

Isn’t that easy?! Now you know how to upload an SVG, cut and use a vinyl stencil, as well as how to make a reverse canvas sign! Here are a few pictures of my sign. I plan to use it on my St. Patrick’s Day tiered tray. Get the tutorial for the shamrock wreath in the background here!

I love the saying on this sign. It brings to mind the Proverbs 31 wife. Proverbs 31:28 ESV says, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” That’s what I feel like. Nothing in my life was lucky. It was all God, pouring his blessings from heaven onto me and my family! Check back later today because I will be adding a devotional to this post. I just ran out of time while writing this post. I have to head to the doctor. YUCK!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

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Another free SVG for a St. Patrick’s Day tea towel coming for this soon!

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