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"Liquid Icons": Repetition and Variation Stencils

Lesson Plan and Artwork by Kathryn Cahill, Art Consultant, Ohio and Michigan
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Lesson Plan
Grades 8-12
Sax Lesson Plans, Art


Stencils are used in art for fast and accurate reproductions of images and letters. This lesson explores the process of cutting custom layered stencils. An original icon is generated, printed repeatedly, and then creatively changed to make each image unique. A book or series displays the learned concept of repetition and variation of the icon.


  • Students will study stencil art in differentcultures, places, and time periods.
  • Students will design an original icon thatcan be cut into a multi-layered stencil.
  • Students will make a repeated series of prints from their stencils, and then modify each print in an original way.
  • Students will display the multiple printsas a set or bind them into a book.

Supplies Needed

Liquitex® Professional Spray Paint - Transparent Mixing White, 400ml 1436678
Liquitex® Professional Spray Paint - Transparent Black, 400ml 1436677
Liquitex® Professional Spray Paint - Cad. Orange Hue, 400ml 1436645
Liquitex® Professional Spray Paint - Cad. Red Medium Hue, 400ml 1436650
Liquitex® Professional Spray Paint - Cad. Yellow Light Hue, 400ml 1436651
Liquitex® Professional Spray Paint - Cerulean Blue Hue, 400ml 1436655
Liquitex® Professional Spray Paint - Vivid Lime Green, 400ml 1436683
Liquitex® Professional Spray Paint - Quinacridone Magenta 6, 400ml 1436670
Liquitex® Basics Tube Assortments, 12-Color Set 1429149
Liquitex® Basics Value Brush Set, 4 Brushes 410847
Liquitex® Professional Acrylic Ink Metallic Set, 6 Bottles 1398009
Crescent® Rendr™ Paper Roll, 40" x 5yds. 1434446
Crescent® Rendr™, Sketchpad, 9" x 12", 24 Sheets 1434445
Crescent® Colored Mat Board - Raven Black, Crescent No. 989, 20" x 32", Pack of 10 405183
Dura-lar® Stencil Sheets, 12" x 18", Pack of 10 453188
Stencil Cutting Pen, Sold Individually 232164
Peel ‘N’ Stick Charming Eyes, Pack of 384 407657
Craft Button Assortment, 1 lb. 247228
Multicolor Sequins Assortment, 11 oz. 404878
Glue Dots® Rolls - Mini, Roll of 300 091231
Elmer's® Rubber Cement, 4 oz. with Brush 055935


Content Standard #1: Understanding and applying media, techniques and processes.
Content Standard #3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols and ideas.
Content Standard #4: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.


Step 1

Sketch a simple line drawing of the chosen icon. Boldly outline the drawing with a marker. Shading can be used but it requires cutting an additional stencil.

Step 2

Place the drawing on a surface that is not sensitive to heat. Tape the Dura-Lar onto the front of the drawing. Be sure to use a size of Dura-lar that is much larger than the original design to avoid overspray. Cut consistent sizes of Dura-lar and try to register them with the original image for accuracy. Using the heated stencil cutting tool, follow the lines of the drawing, using a steady hand and even speed. Alternatively, an Xacto® knife may be used for cutting the Dura-lar, but it may cut into the original drawing.

Step 3

Cut out one stencil for the main body of the icon (the main color) and another for the outline or detail. Carefully remove the extra material from the stencil to prepare for printing.

Step 4

Prepare the RendR paper by cutting it to a manageable size before printing. Both sides of RendR can be used without bleed-through, which makes it an excellent material for bookbinding projects.

Step 5

Print the icons onto the RendR paper using a variety of colors. Liquitex Spray paint is a water-based formula, which is easily washed between prints. I used a bucket of soapy water and a towel to clean my stencil after a few prints and also when changing colors. The paint dries within a few minutes and the second stencil can be applied. For a subtle detail or outline, try the Liquitex mixing white and mixing black spray paint.

Step 6

When the prints have dried, modify each printed icon by hand using Liquitex paint and brushes. The Liquitex color palette is consistent between the spray paint and the acrylics, providing a seamless switch of mediums.

Step 7

Display or bind the series of modified prints. A book can be made to show the learned concept of repetition and variation. Hold a class critique of the finished work to discuss how each icon was modified and changed. Adaptive or alternative assignment: Use large letter or shape stencils and spray multiple prints for the students. The student receives several prints and creatively alters them. The letters or shapes are bound into a collaborative classroom book.

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