How to Make a Stencil From a JPG

By Filonia LeChat

Create custom stencils that are really a cut above store-bought options.
i Images

Using stencils can help you advertise your small business on prop-up road signs, in-store decorations and even tags and flier advertising. With a little bit of tweaking in Microsoft Paint, a basic drawing tool found in the Accessories folder of your Windows operating system, you can change any JPG image -- such as your business logo -- into a custom stencil. The key is taking advantage of Paint’s tracing tools, guiding your way for the cutting process after you’ve gone from screen to paper.

Launch Microsoft Paint. Click the small “Paint” button in the top-left corner of the work area and select “Open.”

Navigate to the saved JPG you want to use for the stencil, such as your company logo, and double-click the file name. If the image opens too large or small to see in its entirety in the Paint workspace, go to the “View” tab, then click the “Zoom in” or “Zoom out” button until the image takes up the entire blue work area.

Return to the “Home” tab if you are not already there. Click the “Select” button’s drop-down arrow and choose “Rectangular selection.” Press and hold down the left mouse button, then drag the cursor across the image to draw a square or rectangle around only the portion of the JPG that will become the stencil, leaving out any background material or excess. Click the “Crop” button on the ribbon to crop the image.

Click the “Brushes” button on the ribbon and choose “Marker.” Click the “Size” button on the ribbon and select the top/thinnest line. Click the black square in the “Colors” portion of the ribbon, noting that the Color 1 box now appears black. If the box showed black by default, skip this part of the step.

Position the cursor over the main part of the JPG, the part you want to use as a stencil, such as the thickest part of your company logo. You might need to use the “Zoom in” button to access this area.

Press and hold down the left mouse button. Trace the outline of the shape. Release the left mouse button when that part of the shape is complete. Continue tracing until all parts of the stencil are outlined.

Click the small paint bucket icon on the “Tools” section of the ribbon.

Click the white square in the “Colors” section of the ribbon. Note that the white square then appears in the Color 1 button on the ribbon.

Hover the cursor over a section of color inside the traced lines. This will become what you cut out to form the stencil. Click the cursor to deposit white paint over the colored area. Continue clicking until all of the color in that spot -- up to the black traced lines -- is filled.

Repeat the white paint fill on all areas of the JPG outside the black marker lines, so that your JPG is composed entirely of black lines and white spaces.

Click the “Paint” button again and select “Save as.” Type a name for the stencil other than the original name, to avoid overwriting the original. Leave the “Save as type” as “JPG.” Click the “Save” button. The stencil is ready to print and use.


Because stencils’ main function is to serve as a cutout for tracing, it’s helpful if you choose less intricate JPGs to begin with. Although this is not necessary, having broadly defined areas to cut out requires less scissor work on your part and might result in more easily recognizable designs once you use the stencil. Filling the sections of color with white is an optional task, since you’re going to cut those parts out around the black lines anyway. It might make cutting easier on your eyes and the removal of the color might be less distracting, helping you make more precise cuts.