Decide on your design. I had the design in mind already, of course. I went into my favorite image editing software and turned it into four separate images, each with one bolt. In retrospect, I wish I'd turned them all black and white because...
Print it out. For small designs, printer paper works fine, but I wound up sending them to the local office store to get printed on big paper. This costs like twenty cents a sheet if it's black and white and they don't have to ship it, so.
I went to the craft store and got:
- x-acto-type craft knife
- spray paints and primer
- I used these little half-cans called Short Cuts, but they all work fine. I suggest getting paint all from the same brand so they'll have similar drying times, but if you gotta mix and match to get the colors you want, so be it. Primer is technically optional, but it helps the paint stick and stand out, especially if you're painting on black fabric like me.
- stencil plastic, which is thin plastic that can be cut with said knife and a little pressure. I got mine in big sheets because I was cutting a big thing, but they also sell smaller sheets in multipacks. Cardboard or card stock works in a pinch, but cardboard can be too rigid and card stock might not hold up too well.
You'll also want some painter's tape. You'll be taping a lot of stuff down and don't want it leaving residue.
Also, start collecting newspaper. You'll need it for not getting paint on your jacket.
Cutting out the stencils.
- Find a large, flat smooth surface, big enough to hold the stencil plastic and stencil comfortably. I used my stovetop.
- Put the sheet of paper with your design on it on the stencil plastic, design side down so you can see it through the other side of the plastic. This is the other benefit of the stencil plastic- it's see-through so you can do this.
- Tape the paper to the plastic with your painter's tape.
- Turn it over so that you have the plastic on top, then the paper, then the counter. You should be able to see the design through the plastic. Use the painter's tape to tape the plastic down so it doesn't move when you're cutting.
- Cut the plastic with your craft knife. It takes a fair bit of pressure, especially to keep your lines straight, but it's not hard. Wear eye protection if you have it. I was pretty worried I'd lose control of the knife or something.
Painting the jacket
- If you can do this indoors, even if it means having some paint fumes floating around (put some fans up! open windows! ventilate! spend time outside while the paint dries!), it's worth it. you'll be much more patient when shaking cans and waiting for the paint to dry if you're not worried about wind and rain kicking up.
- Wear clothes you don't mind getting a little paint on.
- Read the cans and note how long they say it takes the paint to dry. It can take longer or shorter depending on the heat and humidity. I tended to leave it a few minutes longer because I live somewhere humid.
- Get something cheap to use as a tarp. I got a tablecloth from the dollar store. Put it down first and secure it with the painter's tape if need be.
- Do a test spray on the tarp itself if you want to be sure by following these steps without putting the jacket down first. It's a good way to practice with the spray paint and get a good feel for the drying times.
- If you do overspray, the scrubby side of a damp sponge can get at least some of it out, especially if you act fast.
- Smooth down the jacket as best you can. This might require refolding it a few times to make sure you don't get any funny lumps caused by the jacket laying on itself. It can also help to put things on a thinner table.
- Put your stencil down and tape it in place. Make sure it's where you want it to be. No going back after this.
- Tape your newspaper around the edges of the stencil to protect yourself from overspraying. I wish I'd done this sooner, my jacket has some weird primer stains because I didn't tape down the newspaper well enough.
- Shake your cans well! The can will tell you to shake it for at least a minute, maybe two, after you start hearing the ball bearing inside rattling. Do this! I wish I hadn't been lazy about it, but you get a much better spray with a well-shaken can.
- Spray the primer first and let it dry. The can should tell you how long to wait- mine said ten minutes before you can paint over it. I only did one layer of primer and I kinda wish I'd done more. This person knows more about it than I do: https://tootplanet.space/@sophistoche/102716196728228507
- Spray your color over the top of the primer. Use long, even strokes and spray from ten inches or so away. It can be tempting to realize you missed a spot and get in real close to spot fill, but this just gives you ugly globs of paint.
- The can will tell you how long to let the paint dry and how long until you can “recoat”. Mine say something like “recoat within two hours or after 48 hours”. Once that initial drying period has ended, you can either put another coat of paint on or move on to the next color. Up to you, but if you say no now, you'll have to wait.
- (For what it's worth, I ignored this for a few touch-ups later on, so, your mileage may vary)
- Once the paint is dry, remove the newspaper and the stencil. If you have more stencils and colors, make sure the paint is dry before putting a new stencil on! Otherwise, you'll get sticky blobs of paint on your stencil that makes the process much more complicated.
- Rinse and repeat with each stencil and color until you're done! The paint can should tell you how long (24 hours or so) until the paint is totally cured.