Stencils are an amazing tool for painters. You can use them in a very complex way or a very simple way. One thing is certain, they aren't just for crafters and street artists. The speed at which you can create a body of work with the use of stencils is enough reason to start experimenting!
I urge you to create your own stencils rather than purchase premade ones ---otherwise it may be pretty easy for someone to copy your artwork! But if that doesn't bother you or if you can figure out a way to make it unique then be my guest.
1.Take a drawing or printout or photocopy of your photo/design that you want to make a stencil of and place it under a sheet of mylar or stencil film. using a permanent pen trace the design onto the plastic.
2.Place the plastic with the traced drawing onto a cutting mat and cut out your stencil.
* You can use a stencil burner like this instead of a knife. It makes cutting curves much easier than with an exacto knife.
3. Using a stencil brush use a dry brush technique to apply the paint onto your surface. I'd recommend a non-flexible surface like wooden panel or paper that has a smoother finish. Make sure the stencil doesn't move while you are working. Holding firmly or using a little tape may help.
4. The dry brush technique is achieved by putting a small amount of paint on the brush and lightly "scrubbing" it onto the surface. Do not wet the brush before you start. Do use a scrap piece of paper or cardboard to rub the paint across the surface of the stencil brush before you start applying paint to your artwork so that their are no globs of wet paint. This is a great video that shows how to use a dry brush technique when stencilling.
5. *Be careful of bleeding paint at the edges of your stencil, this is why it's great to apply the paint with a dry brush technique. If there are any bleeds once you remove the stencil just touch them up with a small brush.