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Dual-Mode Stenciling Tutorial (Aka Mod Monograms)

What the heck is dual-mode stenciling, you ask?! (So sorry - it's the former engineer in me who loves to make up pseudo-scientific names to explain cookie decorating techniques!)

 

Anywho . . . it's a term I coined (I think) to indicate multiple, layered stenciled patterns made with two different stenciling media, such as airbrush coloring for an underlayer and royal icing for a top layer, as in the mod monogram cookies pictured below among debris from a recent photo shoot.

 

Debris

 

 

I love the added depth that this technique affords; plus, stenciling is such a speedy way to add lush detail and texture to cookies. Read on to learn exactly how I applied this technique to these cookies. Or check out the related video on my YouTube channel (or here on this site).

 

Finished-Monos-Horizontal

 

What you’ll need:

  • As many topcoated gingerbread or sugar cookies as you want to stencil
  • Airbrush and airbrush colors (or substitute spray colors, such as PME brand)
  • Parchment paper and backdrop, to protect your work area from food coloring!
  • At least two different stencils (I used floral and polka-dotted ones for the backgrounds and a single fancy letter for the monogram on top of these cookies)
  • Metal trussing needle or toothpick, as needed
  • Enough Royal Icing to stencil and otherwise detail the topcoated cookies
  • Liqua-gel (aka soft gel) food coloring of your choice (darker colors are usually better for dual-mode stenciling)
  • Water, for thinning icing, as needed
  • Powdered sugar, for thickening icing, as needed
  • Small offset spatula (about 3/4 x 3 1/4-inch blade)
  • Parchment paper pastry cones (or substitute disposable plastic piping bags or pastry bags fitted with round tips)

Method:

1 | Get your cookies ready to go. Make sure the top coats on your cookies are dry all the way through, as you'll be applying pressure to them in Steps 3 and 4, and smooshing top coats is generally not a good thing! To be on the safe side, I usually dry top coats overnight, if not longer.

 

2 | Prepare to airbrush the underlayer. First, take cover! By this, I mean cover your work surface with parchment paper and also set up a "surround" to capture any airbrush coloring that goes airborne (and, believe me, it will)! To keep my kitchen color-free, I use a foam-core, tri-fold backdrop (see photo below) that I picked up at Michaels.

 

Step1

Also, if you're new to the airbrush, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions to rig the filters and connectors properly; then practice airbrushing on paper before you ever touch a cookie. It's wise to get a feel for how the coloring flows at various speeds and distances from your work surface. (If you don't have an airbrush and don't want to make the investment, then you can also use spray coloring for this step, though I find that many spray colorings don't cover the cookie as uniformly and/or bead up when they hit a smooth cookie top coat.)

 

3 | Now airbrush the underlayer. Place your first stencil (for the background pattern) on top of a cookie. It's critical that your stencil lie as flat as possible on the cookie surface; otherwise, coloring can easily sneak under it into areas you don't want, leaving you with a fuzzy pattern. I prefer to use the tip of a trussing needle (aka turkey lacer) to hold the stencil flush against the cookie surface. A toothpick or your fingers will also do, though you're more likely to airbrush yourself (!) with either of these approaches since your hand will be closer to the cookie. It was hard to photograph myself while holding the turkey lacer and airbrushing, but my video shows my stencil steadying approach quite well - if I do say so myself.  

 

I also find that I get the crispest stencil when I hold the airbrush nozzle as perpendicular to the cookie surface as possible, set the flow to medium speed, and use broad circular motions of my hand to apply the color (rather than directing the color into a particular cookie area at a time). Be careful, however, about holding the airbrush too nozzle-down. If the receptacle is full to the top with coloring, you run the risk of pouring coloring onto your cookie. Again, if in doubt about your airbrushing technique, test the stencil on paper first.

 

Once you've covered the stencil evenly with color, to the desired hue, carefully peel away the stencil (i.e., "roll" it off one side of the cookie) to reveal the pattern. Allow the airbrush coloring to dry to the touch before adding the next icing layer. Airbrush coloring dries very fast, so it will likely be a matter of minutes before you can move onto the next step.

 

A few added side notes:

  • Remember, the longer you spray, the darker, more saturated the end hue.
  • Some amount of underspray (airbrush coloring that sneaks under the stencil around the cookie edges; see next photo) is inevitable unless you mask off the edges of the cookie or stencil with tape. If masking is too much work for you, but you don't like the look of underspray, then work with a dark dough. As you can also see in that same photo, the underspray is virtually imperceptible on the gingerbread cookie; not so on the sugar cookie, however.

Overspray

  • The same coloring does not look the same on all cookies. Airbrush coloring can interact with the underlying topcoat, even if the latter is completely dry, and change hue. I think you'll see what I mean in the next photo, where pink sprayed on a blue topcoat looks more purple than pink.

Pink-on-Blue-is-Purple

 

4 | Stencil the icing layer. First, tint your icing. I recommend mixing a color that is darker than the underlying airbrush color to ensure that no airbrush coloring peeks through the stenciled icing on top. Next, thin your icing to stenciling consistency, which is fairly thick. (I like the icing to have body and to cling to the end of an offset spatula without falling off; see next photo.)

 

Step2b

Anchor the stencil flat on the cookie with a trussing needle as described in Step 3. Using a small offset spatula, gently dab tiny amounts of icing on top of the stencil to cover all the stencil openings. At this point, I am going for coverage only, and not worrying too much about whether the icing is evenly applied. However, use the icing sparingly at all times. The more icing you use, the more likely it is to creep under the stencil especially on the final swiping passes.

 

Once you've covered all the openings, clean off the offset spatula and make one or two full passes across the entire stencil to smooth out any unevenness and to eliminate icing track marks.

 

At all times, hold the stencil down firmly with the trussing needle, as any sliding of the stencil will result in a blurry pattern. The icing should also be spread no thicker than the thickness of the stencil; otherwise, you'll lift up excess icing and create icing peaks when you remove the stencil. Peel away the stencil as described in Step 3 to reveal the final pattern!

 

Step2-c

For more stenciling tips, see my tutorial on my site or Lesson 10 in my cookie decorating video series.

 

5 | Add finishing details. You can go as over-the-top or as minimalist as you want with further icing embellishments. Just be sure that any stenciled underlayers are dry to the touch before adding icing on top. (If colorings are still wet, there's greater chance of the stenciled colors bleeding into the details.) Here, I applied small blue and yellow dots using icing of beadwork consistency to accentuate the floral pattern in the stenciled background pattern. I also used black icing of beadwork consistency for dotted borders and thicker black icing of outlining consistency for outlines - naturally! Even a small change in border technique can lead to markedly different looks, as demonstrated below.

 

TwoDifferentBorders 

So that was pretty easy, right? Just think of the myriad design possibilities now at your fingertips with this dual-mode technique. Swap around stencils, change colors, tweak icing embellishments . . . heck, go crazy!

 

P.S. If my YouTube video links take you nowhere, it's because I'm still upgrading my YouTube channel. Stay tuned. Any videos I upload to YouTube will soon be uploaded to this site as well.

Attachments

Images (8)
  • Cookie Debris from a Recent Photo Shoot: Cookies and Photo by Julia M Usher
  • Finished Monograms - A Slightly Better View: Cookies and Photo by Julia M Usher
  • Airbrushing Setup: Photo by Julia M Usher
  • Underspray Is Much More Obvious on a Light Cookie: Photo by Julia M Usher
  • Pink Airbrush Coloring on Blue Does Not Equal Pink: Photo by Julia M Usher
  • Second Stenciling with Royal Icing: Photo by Julia M Usher
  • Lift the Stencil on One Side and Roll Off the Other: Photo by Julia M Usher
  • Two Different Borders Equal Different Looks: Photo by Julia M Usher

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Comments (14)

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Kelley Henderson posted:
Julia M. Usher posted:
Kelley Henderson posted:
Julia M. Usher posted:
Kelley Henderson posted:

Where can I buy this same floral stencil from? 

I bought it at Michaels or Hobby Lobby a few years ago, and I forget what brand it was. So sorry I can't be more helpful.

Thanks!! We found it at Michaels! They still have it. Score!!

OK, good to know. Do you know what brand it was? If so, I'll put the information in this post. Thanks!

FolkArt® Small Painting Stencil, Ditsy Floral

You can find it here: http://www.michaels.com/folkar...tencils&start=77

Great, thanks for adding the link!

Julia M. Usher posted:
Kelley Henderson posted:
Julia M. Usher posted:
Kelley Henderson posted:

Where can I buy this same floral stencil from? 

I bought it at Michaels or Hobby Lobby a few years ago, and I forget what brand it was. So sorry I can't be more helpful.

Thanks!! We found it at Michaels! They still have it. Score!!

OK, good to know. Do you know what brand it was? If so, I'll put the information in this post. Thanks!

FolkArt® Small Painting Stencil, Ditsy Floral

You can find it here: http://www.michaels.com/folkar...tencils&start=77

Last edited by Julia M. Usher
Kelley Henderson posted:
Julia M. Usher posted:
Kelley Henderson posted:

Where can I buy this same floral stencil from? 

I bought it at Michaels or Hobby Lobby a few years ago, and I forget what brand it was. So sorry I can't be more helpful.

Thanks!! We found it at Michaels! They still have it. Score!!

OK, good to know. Do you know what brand it was? If so, I'll put the information in this post. Thanks!

Julia M. Usher posted:
Kelley Henderson posted:

Where can I buy this same floral stencil from? 

I bought it at Michaels or Hobby Lobby a few years ago, and I forget what brand it was. So sorry I can't be more helpful.

Thanks!! We found it at Michaels! They still have it. Score!!

Kelley Henderson posted:

Where can I buy this same floral stencil from? 

I bought it at Michaels or Hobby Lobby a few years ago, and I forget what brand it was. So sorry I can't be more helpful.

You Can Call Me Sweetie, I think I got them from Stencil Planet a long while ago.(I believe this is the exact link: http://www.stencilplanet.com/c...alphabetstencil.aspx).  Designer Stencils also has several monogram sets, where the individual letter stencils actually slide in place next to one another vs. you having to tape them all together. http://www.designerstencils.co...rch.aspx?k=*letters*

Awesome tutorial Julia!!! Thanks so much. I did Monogram cookies this weekend for the first time...I piped it and no matter how much I tried the letters did not have crisp, straight lines . I love the stencils of the fancy letters you used here and would like to try out this technique for future projects.  Can you share please where you purchased those letter stencils?  Thank you, Sandie

Wonderful tutorial Julia!  The links to your youtube videos work but they say that the videos are private...can't wait to see them.  I haven't worked on a single cookie in 3 weeks so I'm anxious to get back to it.  This week is looking good and this is just the technique I was thinking about.  Thanks so much!

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