How to Turn a Photo Into a Stencil in Illustrator
By Ken Burnside
Stencils are printed as masks or screens. You lay the stencil down on the surface you want to paint, and run the ink over the stencil; it goes through the holes in the stencil and paints the surface. The stencil is removed, and in a multi-screen process, the surface being printed on is shifted to the next stencil in question. Adobe Illustrator's Live Trace function allows vector-based stencils to be made easily from raster artwork, including a scanned photo.
Load your raster image in your raster editor of choice; this can be GIMP, Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro.
Delete the background of the image you want to convert into a stencil, and replace it with white. Once that's done, outline the area you want to convert into a stencil with a 3-pixel wide black border.
Convert the image to Gray Scale, using the fewest tints of gray that you can. Save the image in PNG, JPEG or GIF format.
Start Illustrator with a blank artboard.
Click on the "File" menu, and select "Place." Navigate to where you've stored your image, and double click on it. The image will be placed in Illustrator's artboard.
Look above the artboard. You'll see a button labeled "Live Trace" and next to it a small button with an arrow. Click the small button with the arrow and select the "Black And White Logo" option. Illustrator will convert your artwork into a set of black and white vector objects.
Ken Burnside has been writing freelance since 1990, contributing to publications as diverse as "Pyramid" and "Training & Simulations Journal." A Microsoft MVP in Excel, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alaska. He won the Origins Award for Attack Vector: Tactical, a board game about space combat.