|1.||a device for applying a design, characters, etc, to a surface, consisting of a thin sheet of plastic, metal, cardboard, etc in which the design or characters have been cut so that ink or paint can be applied through the incisions onto the surface|
|2.||a decoration, design, or characters produced in this way|
|—vb , -cils, -cilling, -cilled, -cils, -ciling, -ciled|
|3.||to mark (a surface) with a stencil|
|4.||to produce (characters or a design) with a stencil|
|[C14 stanselen to decorate with bright colours, from Old French estenceler, from estencele a spark, from Latin scintilla]|
in the visual arts, a technique for reproducing designs by passing ink or paint over holes cut in cardboard or metal onto the surface to be decorated. Stencils were known in China as early as the 8th century, and Eskimo in Baffin Island were making prints from stencils cut in sealskins before their contact with Western civilization. In the 20th century stencils are used for such diverse purposes as making mimeographs and fine paintings. The Pop-art paintings of the 20th-century American artist Roy Lichtenstein, for example, simulated the dots characteristic of the halftone process of comic-book illustrations by painting over evenly distributed perforations in a thin sheet of metal
Learn more about stencilling with a free trial on Britannica.com.