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Why do street artists need new stencil typefaces? Glad you asked.

Historically, stencils were cut using machines. Typefaces needed to provide bridges to hold in “islands” and to add stability to the stencil, but little else. Pre-cut stencils are sold letter by letter in arts, crafts and hardware stores—again, made by machine.

Modern stencil faces are generally designed for use in print media, for effect. They aren’t intended for making actual stencils. As such, hand-cutting isn’t a consideration. Indeed, many modern designs are “stencilized” versions of existing print typefaces.

Traditional and modern stencil Typefaces

The top four typefaces are in the traditional industrial style. The rest are modern designs. Note Pochoir and Graphic Stylin, both of which are clearly based on print typefaces given the stencil treatment.

Distressed typefaces

The above refugees from the grunge craze are designed to look like stenciled text that’s been sprayed on a surface. The irregular edges make them even harder to use for hand-cutting.

While I doubt that it was their intent, there are typefaces out there that are better than average for hand-cutting.

Getting better

None of these typefaces have any curves, which makes them much easier to cut. Octin Stencil Bold and Militia Sans are my favorites from this batch, due to their simple form and lack of serifs. Even so, short lines like those at the ends of strokes are a nuisance to cut, and slow down the process considerably.

Like I said, this is a quick and dirty survey. I still have lots of research to do about the history of text stencils. Oh, and please excuse the sloppy layout of the type examples…I’m new at this.


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