How to stencil safely

How to spray paint safely

How to stencil safely

How to stencil safely

How to stencil safely….it’s all too easy to push aside the niggling thoughts about the dangerous side effects of inhaling spray paint. You might have even experienced some of the short term side effects such as respiratory tract irritation, shortness of breath, dizziness, influenza-like symptoms, tightness of the chest, nausea and headaches.

If you’ve ever experienced some of these side effects, then it’s time you have a good long hard think about the long term side effects which include cancer, sensitisation of respiratory systems, asthma, abnormal reduction in lung function, emphysema and central nervous system dysfunction. There are some very serious consequences to be had from not taking proper safety precautions.

Plus there’s also the risk of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) to hands and wrists caused by cutting intricate stencils for days on end with a small narrow knife. Not to mention neck and back issues from hunching over a cut out on a table.

Here’s what some of the pro’s have to say about how to stencil safely in the long term:

“Spraypaint is so so bad for you, you’ve got to make sure that you always paint in a spot with extractor fans indoors, or that you have fresh air flowing through your space. I would say the most important thing is a really good quality respirator, and always keep filters clean and fresh.”

23rd Key
“RSI is a big factor especially when cutting lots of small detail. I had a bout of RSI that lasted 2 months before my solo show last year, I actually almost thought I’d never be able to continue stenciling. I saw a really amazing Osteopath though and they had me change up what I was using to cut stencils with. A lot of people don’t know it but the thin pen like handles we have on things like scalpels are actually really bad for us to use on a long term basis…the circumference of my cutting knife is almost like a tennis ball now. It’s changed the style of my stencils a little bit but I don’t think anyone has really noticed it too much, the real difference is that I’m using different muscles in my arm and hand, more developed muscles that’ll give me a much longer longevity with cutting.

A really good ventilation mask especially for outdoor painting. I found I kept getting aerosol blowing into my eyes and face while painting so I got a full face mask (mine is a 3M 6000 series full face mask). They’re quite expensive, but I bought the mask component on ebay for about half of what you get it in some stores and then get the respirator heads from hardware stores. It’s the most cost effective way to do it and really not very expensive for the piece of mind and comfort of not inhaling a bunch of vapors.”


Stencil Revolution Guide To Respirators
An excerpt from The Loki Safety Guide to Painting The World

The number one form of protection any aerosol artist should invest in is a respirator. The common question seems to be “Is it worth the money?” The answer: Absolutely!

The paints and chemicals a aerosol artist works with are highly poisonous. You may not see immediate effects of inhalation, they can take a very long time to show up, but if you’d like to be somewhat healthy and enjoy life when you get older you should invest in one.

Most important factors in a mask:

  • Does it fit and seal? Place your hand over the exhaust and exhale hard…if air leaks out the mask does not fit.
  • Can I get new filters for it? Don’t get a mask you can’t get filters for, otherwise you just have a cool decoration.
  • Do I need a full face mask to protect my eyes? If you wear contacts or have astigmatism or just plain react to paint fumes by tearing up a lot you may want a full face mask, or a set of sealed goggles to go with your half-face mask. Just beware some full face masks fog up inside and are useless when you can’t see.

Read more from Stencil Revolution here


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