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What exactly is a stencil?

What exactly you get in your mind when you read or hear the word "stencil"? How would you exactly define a "stencil"?

Sorry, I'm not a native english speaker. I looked into many websites but I wasn't able to get a clear answer (even with google definitions).

a random geek on the Internet
Thursday, September 02, 2004

A stencil is a flat piece of metal or plastic, with shaped holes cut out (typically letters or numbers). By moving a pen around the edge of the holes, you can draw the shape exactly.

.
Thursday, September 02, 2004

In a wider sense, the material can be anything, even paper or fabric; and the painting does not have to be done only by a pen; in some cases, you can use a spray can instead. This is the most common use in day-to-day life. :-)

The word is also used to mean an old kind of a copying machine; which used a stencil of waxed paper. You could use a typewriter or a pen to etch stuff on the paper, which was then used as a master copy to produce numerous copies (on paper), using a think ink applied through a roller in the machine.


YOu may also go to http://stencilarchive.org/http://www.stencilrevolution.com/tutorials/ ,  or do a google image search for stencils.

Another Random geek from internet
Thursday, September 02, 2004

If you cutout pieces from a piece of paper. Would that paper be called a stencil? And what about the cutouts?

Can we also say that a stencil can help you cutout pieces from a larger surface? i.e. paper?

a random geek on the Internet
Thursday, September 02, 2004

errr.. aren't the little pictures in Visio called 'stencils' in the manual?

muppet
Thursday, September 02, 2004

yes, and in the application too....

Throwaway
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Incidentally, in realtime 3D graphics a "stencil buffer" is an array of pixels, the same size as the screen, which can be used to perform "cut out" effects. For instance, you could draw a circle into the stencil buffer, and then say "draw a 3D scene on screen, but only where the stencil is NOT set", and you'd get a picture with a circular hole in it.

Although this might seem trivial, you can perform a variety of operations using stencil buffers. They're at the heart of Doom 3's realtime shadows, for instance.

Adrian
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Adrian, isn't it called a mask? Probably, an inverted mask?

Yes muppet, actually the way Visio uses this term made me wonder whether the stencil is the cutouts or the paper left after the cutouts?

a random geek on the Internet
Thursday, September 02, 2004

random geek: Yes, the action of selectively drawing based on a separate image that defines the "cutout" is often known as masking. I just wanted to point out that in realtime 3D (OpenGL or Direct3D) the mask is often called a stencil buffer, or stencil.

Adrian
Thursday, September 02, 2004

A closely related word for "stencil" is "template".  A stencil is a specific kind of template used specifically in drawing, to trace around.  i.e. I can use an ashtray as a stencil to draw a circle, if I trace around the ashtray.  In visio, template shapes are called stencils, because they are for drawing.

devinmoore.com
Thursday, September 02, 2004

When you cutout pieces, those are "patterns". If you use the patterns as an inverted "stencil" (i.e to NOT trace in the part you cut out), then they are "masks".  I knew I got a fine art degree for a reason!

devinmoore.com
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Sorry to repeat post again, but actually if you assemble cutout pieces into a single "pattern", then the individual pieces are "blocks", even though a single cutout piece can be used as a "pattern" as well.  I'll stop now, before silicon valley transforms into the art district.

devinmoore.com
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Deven, give us Philistines a link. If you don't know of one keep on explainng and then you can link to this thread in future.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Yes, the visio objects are called stencils. I remember using a plastic flowcharting stencil way back when I didn't have grey hair. That's probably where the name comes from.

A.T.
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Yes, a 'stencil' is a small flat piece of plastic with various symbol shapes cut in to it.  It was intended that you would place it flat on a piece of paper and run your pencil or pen around the shape, to get that shape on the paper.

In Visio, they have a 'Stencil' file (.VSS).  This file holds a set of Visio Shapes, and can also hold VBA code.

They also have a 'Template' file (.VST).  This file can contain VBA code, menus, and references to stencil files.  When a drawing is created using a Template, the Template is copied to the drawing file.  The drawing uses the Drawing's copy of the Template file, but uses the links to the Stencil file.

AllanL5
Thursday, September 02, 2004

OK, some art links to help explain it in fine art terms:

http://www.artlex.com/ - has definitions like the one below.  I would use this one first, then hunt for other places if it's not there.
http://modernsculpture.com/glossary.htm - much shorter, relates more complex art words back down to words like stencil.
http://www.progressiveart.com/art_terms.htm - yet more terms... art is complicated!

artlex definition of stencil: "stencil - Stiff paper (or other sheet material) with a design cut into it as a template for shapes meant to be copied. Ink or paint forced through the design's openings will produce a print on a flat surface placed beneath. The design need special to producing a stencil: balance the requirement to cut out most of the desired shapes against maintaining the strength of the loosest parts of the stencil. The relationship between the positive and negative spaces is best when no part of the sheet is damaged or lost in its use. In lettering stencils, for instance, the centers of such letters as A, B, D, O, and P are some of the shapes most likely to have this problem. The "bridges" holding these "islands" in position are the chief characteristics of stencils. Art in which stencil letters are used often make reference to flatness, cheaply hand-produced signage and package labeling, among other common applications. Patterns and other designs are also painted as stenciled architectural decorations. Pochoir and silkscreening (or serigraphy) are types of stencil processes. Also, the image produced, and the process of making it." (lots of linked words on the real page)

devinmoore.com
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Re the 3D stuff, stencils are implemented in the GPU which means they're fast. Also they can can have properties additional to 2D surfaces, which differentiates them, partly, from the concept of a "mask."

.
Thursday, September 02, 2004

I'm old enough to remember mimeograph stencils.

Let's just say that the copy machine was a really great idea.

Hats off to Xerox.

confused
Thursday, September 02, 2004

I'm old enough to remember sniffing the old mimeograph copies in grammar school.  At least, I think I remember...  Mmmm...  Mimeographs...

Anonymouse
Thursday, September 02, 2004

It used to have to type stencils on an old manual Underwood from the 1930s and then run off the copies from a machine in my bedroom.

A second vote for the photocopy machine!

Stephen Jones
Friday, September 03, 2004

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