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Why Stencil Lettering Looks Weird: Bridges and Islands in Stencil Design

Stencil design can be a confusing and tedious proposition.

It incorporates considerations of manufacturing capabilities and limitations, customer requirements, materials, size, and the specific art, logo, design, or image to be made into a stencil.

Fortunately, our design experts weigh these factors to create custom mylar stencils optimized for both aesthetics and longevity.

What is a stencil bridge?

A bridge is a part of a stencil's design that connects floating elements, called islands, to keep them attached to the rest of the stencil. Often referred to as connectors, connection points, lines, or gaps, bridges can be used to improve structural integrity of a stencil. Typically, bridges are required in the design of a stencil to accurately depict details in lettering, faces, or logos. Sometimes, bridges can be removed, adjusted, or placed in a concealed manner that allows them to be minimally visible. 

Bridges in Stencil Lettering

Here’s an example how lettering can vary when bridges are used:

Stencil Bridge vs. No Bridge Diagram - Why Stencil Lettering Looks So Weird

As you can see, the upper row of lettering does not include bridges. Therefore, the inner parts - the islands - of the lettering in the A, the B, and the D are gone. Deliberate exclusion of bridges in fonts and logos can be a nice graphic design element. However, customers typically prefer their images to include bridging, as seen in the bottom row of lettering in the above graphic.

Bridges and Islands in Small Stencil Designs

Size is another factor when adding bridges to a stencil design. Check out this stencil we made for Victoria’s Homemade Cake in South Florida:

Homemade Cake Logo Into a Stencil Design - Bridges and Connectors Make Stencils Look Weird

As you can see, the original logo submission is different than the resulting stencil design. Let’s take a closer look.

Bakery Logo Stencil Design - Why Stencils Look So Weird

The main ingredient (no pun intended) altering the logo’s features is the size. It’s only 1 x 1 inch, which is among the smallest of stencils that we can make. Therefore, detail and extensive bridging required to connect the insides of the letters are not included.

Here's what the size of a potential bridge for this stencil design would be:

Small Bridge Size Example - Keep Letters and Design In Place

That’s a bridge size of .05 inches, or 5 hundredths of an inch. Typically, we only include details that tiny if they are specifically requested by a customer. Small areas like this can reduce a stencil’s durability because these areas aren’t as stable as a .25” bridge, or even a .1” bridge. One errant snag while moving the stencil could rip this detail and yield the stencil unusable. Therefore, for this particular logo design, all islands were simply blocked out in both the text and whisk in the upper part of the logo.

Concealing Bridges in a Stencil's Design

Let’s take a look at one more stencil design that demonstrates how Stencil Stop uses a logo’s existing elements to create unobtrusive bridge features. We recently made this stencil for decorating the top of lattes and other foamed coffee drinks for an event with Nike at the Dallas Cowboys Headquarters.

Cowboys and Nike Art and Stencil Design - Why Stencils Look So Weird

Note where the bridges are in the Cowboys star logo. They’re not cutting off the middle of the outer border of the star, like this one does. Instead, the bridges are flowing with the visuals of the design and are tucked into spaces where they appear to fit.

Dallas Cowboys Logo Stencil Design

If you're still confused, no worries - we’re here to help! Holler at us if you want to know how we’d approach designing your specific logo or image, or if you have any questions.


  • Posted by Lisa Shileny on

    Hi there!
    I am writing because I really like your company and hoping you are able to make a few stencils for corn hole boards I am making for my boss. His brand is high quality so I want this to be very clean. I am hoping this messaging system will provide me with a representatives email so i can send over the logos I am hoping can be created into the perfect stencil for a corn hole board. Specifically measurement questions, hope to talk soon. Thank you for your time!
    - Lisa

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