How to Make a Semiphotorealistic Three-Shade Print

comments (8) June 14th, 2013     

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leethal Lee Meredith, contributor
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Its a wacky, semiphotorealistic portrait of Christopher Walken!
Any object with well-defined lines like this camera will make a great stencil!
This three-shade process is so magical because once you put the three stencils together, your image will appear!
Its a wacky, semiphotorealistic portrait of Christopher Walken!

It's a wacky, semiphotorealistic portrait of Christopher Walken!

Photo: Lee Meredith
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I am no stranger to the struggle of crafting gifts for guys, having grown up with three brothers, plus my dad and now my fiance, and it has not really gotten any easier with age and experience. I've been gifting handmade for the holidays since I could hold a pair of scissors, and I've come up with some pretty silly guy gifts over the years (a painted rock paperweight comes to mind), so when I started to get into printmaking, I was excited to make some gifts that I thought the guys in my life might really appreciate.

Freezer-paper stenciling was the method of printing that got me hooked-so simple, low cost, and with so much possibility! This unisex gift concept is completely customizable to any recipient's interests, since you can choose just about any image to turn into a stencil and then print it onto just about any fabric object! Basic stenciling how-to's can easily be found around the crafty Web, so I wanted to share with you this crazy three-shade technique I came up with, for something different. I'll make notes throughout for what you'd do differently if you want to do just a normal one-color print.

You'll need:

  • Some kind of photo-editing computer program (and a printer)
  • Freezer paper (which has wax on one side only, found in most grocery stores)
  • Pencil
  • X-Acto knife (with a fresh blade for easiest carving)
  • Something colored to print on (shirt, bag, scrap of fabric, etc.)
  • Iron
  • Black and white screen-printing ink (or another kind of fabric paint)
  • Paintbrush or foam brush

Note about fabric color: This technique prints the image in black, white, and gray, so it must be printed on a fabric that is not black or white. If you want to do a normal one-color print, you can do black print on white fabric, or white print on black fabric. If you really want to print on a black or white fabric with the three-color method, you could do the print in color-for example, on black fabric, use blue, light blue, and white.

First, find your image. The easiest kinds of images to stencil are ones with well-defined lines, which are usually objects-musical instruments, cameras, video game gear, robots, etc. I am doing a face for this tutorial to demonstrate a more difficult image, in case that's what you want to do, but if you're new to this, I'd recommend not choosing a face!

For a print for my guy, I chose a photo of Christopher Walken, one of his favorite icons, so I found a photo online with a good, straight-on shape, with some shadow but not too much. Mine happened to be black and white already, but you can choose a color image, then just make it black and white in your photo-editing program.

  I made sure to find an image in which his hair wasn't going to be too complicated to carve into a stencil.

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posted in: fabric, paint, gifts for men, stencil, print, guy gift, boyfriend, husband, printmaking

Comments (8)

tommoody33 writes: This is incredibly generous of you to share this information and your talent. you using Freezer-paper stenciling was the method of printing is great.
Posted: 4:43 am on June 26th
Keren_D writes: Hi Lee,

This is a great tutorial. I've seen a lot of craft/sewing tutorials and this one is fascinating, well-explained, and well-photographed. Excellent!

BTW, do you have a blog?

Keren (
Posted: 1:23 am on December 17th
Jetmuis writes: wooow what a great tute you have made!!!!
awesome too your designs , well done.
love this!!!! thank you too for the sharing, your very gifted and rocking;-D!!!!!!
Posted: 4:54 am on December 12th
christineblint writes: Far away and far out idea and execution. My congrats to you and your creativity--you are a professional.
Posted: 1:33 pm on December 13th
OTorres writes: Lee, this is just so cool, thanks
Posted: 10:46 am on December 13th
crafty1900 writes: this is great! very thorough.
Posted: 7:16 pm on December 10th
ohbrooke writes: Okay, THIS is BRILLIANT. I'm going to do it, and I'll be sure to send pictures. My husband would LOVE this!
Posted: 3:27 pm on December 10th
TipiLady writes: Is it possible to get giddy over crafting? I can hardly keep the smile off my face. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou! This is going to save a bundle on Christmas presents and a whole lot of other occassions. This is incredibly generous of you to share this information and your talent. I can't wait to try it.
Posted: 1:00 pm on December 10th
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