Monday, October 13, 2014

How-to Make Stencils, and "Spooky" Halloween, Sugar-Dusted Brownies

Um...cute, right?  (I mean, spooky.) These things are perfect for any Halloween shin-dig you've got going on--fun family function, whatever!  All you need are brownies (or cookies, cake, etc.), powdered sugar, a piece of cardstock, and your Silhouette machine.
 Yep. The cardstock is used to create a stencil, and your brownies suddenly become a fitting part of the party. So pin this one and use it during your Halloween festivities this year or in the future.

Sugar dusted Halloween image on brownie using a cardstock stencil.
This post will also explain how to make your own stencils using your Silhouette machine.  

Here is how I made the stencils that I used.  

First, I found the shapes that I wanted to use.  The skull and crossbones was perfect, as were the ghost, witch's hat, and the "Boo" phrase that I had in my Silhouette library.  Pumpkins or Jack-o-lanterns would be great too.  Because the black-cat was a sort of "backwards" stencil, or the least intuitive to make, I'll explain first how I made this one (then the other ones will only take a line or so to explain).

Now, when I say "backwards" stencil, it's because I wanted the image (the cat) to NOT be the hole in the cardstock. (I wanted the cat to still look black, so I wanted to have it framed by the powdered sugar, and not filled in by it.)  Does that make sense?  Yes? No? Well scroll on down and look at the pictures. :)

So, for a stencil like the cat (where you want the image to be framed by the cut-out pieces), first draw a rectangle around the shape that you want blackened out.  Make it about brownie size. :) 

Next, go to the handy "Modify" window in Silhouette Studio (the one with the encircled "m" over a rectangle on the right).  Have you played around with these features much?  I know I need to more. Now, after selecting both shapes, click on "make" under compound paths.

What this will do is basically merge the two shapes and cause the cat, or inner-most shape, to now act as a "hole" in the rectangle (or overall image).  This is initially what you want for a backwards type stencil, but it won't stay that way because you'll soon frame it with another rectangle.  Keep following me.  

Now, so that the cardstock cat will be attached to the outer frame of the stencil (and not just be a hole), I needed to make a frame around it that I could attach it to.  So, I next went ahead and used the  "knife" cut feature at this point.  

Click on the knife (on the panel on the left of Silhouette Studio) and draw a line that overlaps the cat image and the rectangle.  It will then produce a hole, or connecting line, in this case, from the cat to the outside.  Like so:

After merging, use knife feature to "cut" or connect outer edge and inner image.

If you hadn't merged the images like I mentioned, it will not work and you will be able to see the ends of the "line" that you cut/slice with the knife.  That's why the merging is important.

Next, draw another rectangle around the outside of the first, creating a frame around the stencil.

Draw a second rectangle around the image to create a frame that it is attached to.
The inner portion is now connected to the outer frame by the cut lines that you made.  Thus, when your image is cut, you can pull up one connected piece of the frame, cut/attach lines, and the inner portion. The "fall away" pieces that you will weed out are the three shapes you see around the cat, inside the frame.  Kapeesh?  Kapeesh.   That's how you make a stencil where you don't want to weed away (and thus, fill in with whatever medium you are using--sugar, paint, etc.) the main image.

Now, for my other stencils, I wanted the main picture to be weeded away, leaving just the framing around it.  So, this takes slightly fewer steps.  First, draw a rectangle around your image.  If your image has no inner pieces (i.e., no eyes, inner portions of letters, etc.,) then you are done. When the Silhouette cuts out the rectangle and your image inside it, just weed out the image and you are left with your stencil (the rectangle frame and the hole within it).  Yay.

If the image does have inner letter portions, or eyeballs, or other "connected" things you want reflected in your image, you'll want to use the "merge" function again, and then use the "knife" tool to draw connecting lines to the outer portion of the image (but NOT to the edge of the rectangle border this time).  I supposed you could also more easily use the "erase" tool to draw your line, though it's harder to make it straight.  

You have to be okay with these little lines showing up on your stencil initially, so as to hold those inner pieces in place.  You can see what I mean by looking at how I had to connect the eyes and nose of my skull to my stencil using this method, in the screen shot below (I colored most of them in so I'd be sure to see what part of the stencil would end up showing).

Use lines to connect needed inner shapes (like the center of an 'o') to the outer stencil.
Had I not connected the eyes in this manner, or the center of the "o"'s for that matter, they would not have been connected to the stencil, once cut. Luckily, I made them right, and the stencils turned out great.

Be sure to use your spatula to carefully remove the stencil, paying careful attention to those precariously attached inner portions.  Especially if you have a particularly stick mat.

To be honest, my mat was a bit sticky, and so the "connecting lines" on the cat stencil were hard to pull up and ended up breaking.  BUT!  One of them stayed whole, and thus made the stencil still useable.  Yay.  This may be a reason again to try the erase instead of the knife feature next time, because you can make thicker lines.  

Aaaaanyways.  Now all you have left to do is place this lovely lil' homemade stencil on top of your deliciously delectable brownies, dust them lightly with powdered sugar, and sit back and enjoy your tasty artwork.  

Note: If you aren't familiar with "dusting" sugar images onto to your fine baked goods, as I was not, let me share my method with you.  I held a fine mesh strainer over the brownie, poured a little powdered sugar into the strainer, and then lightly tapped it over the brownie until my stencil had been filled with a fine dusting.  Took me a few brownies to realize I'd dumped on, more than dusted, the first few. :)  But all in all, I found these a deliciously spooktacular success.  My friends at the party where I brought them were pleased, and each debated over which image they wanted to be sure to eat. ha. :)  Anyways. "Bone" appetit.  :)

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