Magazine Magic from Stencil Girl

(This tutorial was previously published in Stencil Girl: Mixed Media Techniques for Making and Using Stencils by Mary Beth Shaw, copyright 2013; reprinted here courtesy of

The vast majority of my art is labor-intensive. Paintings that I work over and over, alternatively struggling, rejoicing, repeating often for days and even months before all the layers are finished. I have often joked that a project isn’t done until I have bled on it, as if I had to suffer for it to be right. This is not one of those projects.

This project uses stencils as rubbing plates underneath magazine pages. And it is indeed magical how quickly you can create a seemingly complex background. I selected my pages from decorating magazines and have found that some pages make better rubbings than others. Play around until you find out what works best for you.

These backgrounds are so fun and easy you’ll find yourself tearing pages out of magazines and saving them for later use. In one work session, you can make a  bunch of rubbings at a time to build a supply of collage elements.

Magazine Magic Final_400

What You Need

  • magazines
  • stencils
  • sandpaper
  • acrylic paint
  • palette knife
  • canvas board, matboard or any flat substrate
  • gel medium or collage medium (such as Pam Carriker’s Mixed Media Adhesive)
  • paintbrush
  • craft knife
  • Thermofax screen (optional)
  • screen-printing squeegee

Step 1

1. Select some pages from a magazine. Lay a page on top of a stencil and sand the magazine paper lightly, using sandpaper. The outline of the stencil image will show through. Experiment with fine-grit and rougher sandpapers to see which effect you like best. Sand enough pages to create a series of horizontal strips that will go across the board.

Step 2

2. Mix up a background color that will coordinate with your magazine pages and paint the board. This is just in case your torn strips don’t line up sufficiently.

Step 3

3. Using gel medium or collage medium, adhere your sanded strips to the board.

Step 4

4. Allow the collage to dry, then turn the board over and trim the excess paper from the edges with a craft knife.

Step 5

5. Set your Thermofax screen over your collaged board. I chose a screen designed by Margaret Applin, but you can easily substitute a stencil. If you are using a screen, spread a thick line of fluid acrylic at the top of the screen. (I used Micaceous Iron Oxide) on the top edge as shown.

Step 6

6. Pull the paint down over the screen using a screen-printing squeegee or other spreader.

Step 7

7. Remove the Thermofax screen.

Here’s a Tip

A Thermofax is like a small silkscreen except it’s not silk; it is polyester. I consider them cousins to stencils. They are similar in that they allow the artist to create a repeated image over and over. They differ, though, because the Thermofax screen, by its nature, allows more detail than a stencil, so fine lines are better replicated. There are several places where you can buy ready-made screens and also where you can have your own images put onto screens. I have listed those in the Resources ( Use them alone or in combination with stencils.

(This tutorial was previously published in Stencil Girl: Mixed Media Techniques for Making and Using Stencils by Mary Beth Shaw, copyright 2013. Republished here courtesy of

U4102_CM_StencilGirl.inddFor more information about or to purchase a copy of Stencil Girl: Mixed Media Techniques for Making and Using Stencils, click here.

You might also enjoy:

Mary Beth Shaw’s Artist Profile

Claybord Book tutorial from Mary Beth’s first book, Flavor for Mixed Media.



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