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These 2 examples show how the same stencil is used to create both a relief carving and an inlay.
(click on the image to view a larger example)

Relief Carving Wood Inlay

There are a number of ways to transfer an image onto the materal you are going to carve, engrave, or etch on.

Freehand Sketch

If you are a good free hand artist, you could draw directly onto your subject. You can first coat the surface with Whiteout or white enamel spray paint, to provide a better surface to draw on.

Rubber Stamp, Picture,

Most artists prefer the stencil approach since it is a lot faster than free hand. Stencils can be free hand drawn, printed from a computer, traced from a photo, or produced on a copy machine. You can also cut out a picture from a magazine or use a rubber stamp. These are the least expensive methods and work well if there are no fine line details. Once you have the image on the stencil, it is a good idea to use a spray fixative or clear coat over the image to prevent smudging it with your fingers. Since the glue stick is water-soluble it makes removal easy when you are finished engraving. This is a definite advantage when working with delicate items such as eggshells.

Solvent Transfer

Another way of getting an image onto a surface is called solvent transfer. With this method you use a laser printer or copy machine to create an image on a piece of paper. You then take the paper and lay it with the toner side facing the working surface. Once the paper is taped into position, wet the backside of the paper with a Q-tip dipped in acetone. The acetone dissolves the toner and transfers it to the work surface. This method will not work on certain surfaces. Nonporous surfaces require a very controlled application of acetone, otherwise the image will blur. Heat is another way of transferring the toner to the surface you are working on. A cloths iron works well for this.

Water Slide Decal Paper

Ultra speed products can provide you with 2 types of water slide decal paper that you can print or copy onto. They are very thin and work well when you have a lot of fine details. One type puts the image on the topcoat, the other puts the image on the glue itself and you apply the lacquer topcoat yourself. This puts the image closest to the work surface and is best for extra fine detail engraving.

Cutting a line through the stencil requires a little more pressure than without it, so you will need to practice first. Use a rubber stamp, carbon paper tracing or the solvent transfer method to apply the design directly onto the work surface. In this way, you wont have to worry about applying the correct amount of pressure to cut through the stencil. Carbon paper leaves a dark blue line, which works well for light colored objects. With dark colored objects a white carbon paper is required. Craft and fabric outlets sell a white transfer paper. Once the design is put on your subject, use a clear coat, or fixative, to prevent the design from rubbing off.

Waterproof Mylar Stencil

Turbo Carver has an excellent waterproof stencil, which is made from a thin Mylar sheet, with a peel off backing, it is called repro paper. Also, it is transparent and can be used to trace on. This stencil works especially well if you are going to use water or have fine details. This material tends to form bubbles when it is applied. Piercing them with a sharp object can eliminate the problem. You can run this stencil through a copy machine or laser printer. Once the stencil is applied, simply trace the lines, cutting through the stencil into your subject material. It will take some practice to develop the proper cutting force to use. It does take more effort to engrave the surface when you are cutting through the stencil. This stencil material is available for $1.15 per sheet.