One of the oldest forms of art anywhere on the planet is stenciling. Stenciling has been with human beings for a very long time but not many appreciate how far back in time that stenciling has been with us. The essence of this piece is to outline and discuss the history of stenciling, one of the most enduring forms of art known to humanity.

From time to time, cave paintings are discovered in different countries of the world and everyone is excited but what is even more exciting in this case is that stenciling is one of the primary techniques used by prehistoric humans to make these long-lasting paints on the walls and roofs of caves. In fact, some researchers have calculated that stenciling might have been used in prehistoric societies as far back as almost 40,000 years ago. So it is clear this is not a recent art technique that was recently stumbled upon. Hand stencils are the type of stencils that belong to this category. In this type of stenciling, the human hand is placed on the roof, floor or wall of the cave then the paint, ink, pigment or dye is then applied over it. Some of these hand stencils remain some of the oldest art forms known to humanity.

The following sections of the piece will focus on the history of stenciling after the pre-historic era. Centuries ago in the Far East, it is believed that stencils were used in applying colors to fabrics and this practiced went on for so long that it can still be observed in some rural areas today. During the same period, stenciling was picked up in Europe by the masters of printing and they applied it in the application of color to archaic master prints that were usually bland and lifeless. This practice also continued for a very long time.

The advent of the printing press in Europe also boosted the profile of the art of stenciling as it was quickly deployed in the printing of huge number of books. This was made possible due to the fact that stencils can be used over and over again and there is no need to keep making fresh stencils whenever printing was to be done. This is still very much in practice today, a set of stencils can be used for as long as possible without any decrease in quality of the product.

The history of illustration of books can never be complete without talking of how it was widely done in the early 20th century with the use of stencils. This technique was perfect by artists in the studios in Europe, especially in France where legends like Andre Marty took stenciling to the next level. Today, not much has changed as far as the popularity of stencils of popularity is concerned and this is bound to continue in the nearest future and beyond. Stenciling has managed to remain very relevant owing to its nature of visual clarity, affordability (it is relatively cheap when compared to other techniques), durability and simplicity.