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What Is Pochoir and why does it matter?

Pochoir is French for “stenciling” and is pronounced “poo shwar”. Pochoir is a stencil-based printing technique popular from the late 19th century through the 1930s, with its center of activity in Paris. The word pochoir is used for the technique and also for the actual reproduction created using the technique.

Stenciling is one of the oldest art techniques and dates back to the Stone Age. Cave dwellers made hand images by blowing or spraying paint around hands pressed against rock surfaces.

Many artists (including Picasso, Miró, and Matisse) used studios specializing in this technique to create limited edition reproductions of a work of art. Using hand-cut stencils and stippled brush and sponge application, each pochoir is considered an original work of art. In pochoir prints, the edition number refers to the number of unique prints made before the fragile stencil is destroyed during the wear and tear of the printing process.

Pablo Picasso. Image from

There may be more than 40 hand-cut stencils for an especially detailed piece. Using an extremely sharp knife, each stencil is cut from a material of the artist’s choice—aluminum, zinc, copper, or (later) plastic. Color is then applied to each layer using countless techniques, from daubing to swiping, spraying, and spattering.

Printmaking through pochoir required large numbers of highly trained staff and was extremely time and labor-intensive. With the mechanization of printing and improved technology, pochoir eventually fell out of favor. Today, many street artists such as Banksy and fine artists such as Mick Manning use the technique to create their work.

Banksy. Image from
Mick Manning. Image from

Want to learn more about Pochoir?

Sign up for intro to pochoir at kentuck!

Join us August 20 as contemporary book artist Beth Sheehan shows us the ins and outs of this technique.

Elizabeth (Beth) Sheehan is a printmaker, papermaker, and book artist living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her work investigates ideas of memory and perception to explore her own lack of episodic memory. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is held in public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Center for Book Arts, and the San Francisco Public Library. Sheehan has worked as a professional printer at Durham Press in Pennsylvania and at Harlan and Weaver in New York. She was also the Lead Binder and Bindery Manager at Small Editions in Brooklyn and teaches paper, print, and book workshops around the country.

Class Details: click HERE to register

When: Saturday August 22, 10am-11:30am Instructor: Beth Sheehan Where: Kentuck's Clarke Building, SoNo Classroom Class size:  Maximum:  10 students                           Minimum:  6 students Students Supply Materials: paper (copy paper is fine), pencil, cutting mat, craft knife (X-acto, Olfa, or similar), ink or paint (2 colors of any kind. Even nail polish would work!). Optional: gloves, cotton rounds, mylar. Tuition: $50 ***This class is limited to 10 students and will follow social distancing protocols. Each student will be required to wear a mask.***

I find myself choosing printmaking, papermaking, and book arts processes because they each demand a substantial amount of time, effort, and attention. With each of these mediums, you build up an intimate relationship with your work at every stage of the process. This is particularly beneficial for my work because my concept is based in relational exploration. Additionally, the repetitious acts of printmaking, papermaking, and book arts also provide a cathartic experience and act as atonement as I work through and explore my concept.

Want to see a little more about what to expect? Watch these videos!


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