Not sure what the correct name is. Check the picture: why do these letters have gaps in them?

I could understand the letter "O" having gaps because the spray-paint-mold had to hold the inside area. But for other letters "L", "E", "N", this seems unnecessary?

Sliced letters

  • 2
    To save paint, of course! Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 12:16
  • 10
    "Stencil font" migth be a useful search term
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 13:18
  • Has anyone mentioned the fact that without the "gaps" letterforms with counters would just be solid shapes... Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 19:50
  • This entirely misses the point of the question Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 22:25
  • 1
    Why doesn't the "T"?
    – Octopus
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 22:48

5 Answers 5


The actual reason is not for unity. Is for durability of the stencil. Small triangles like under the N or the gap that would form inside the E would break very fast and the stencil would be useless in no-time.

  • beat me to it by a few minutes
    – Luciano
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 12:19
  • 1
    also the reason why it has 2 gaps; 1 would be enough to keep the letter shape, but wouldn't make it durable enough and possibly still difficult to lift the stencil when wet with paint.
    – Luciano
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 12:36
  • 1
    BTW, that stencil looks pretty poorly designed. If the T can hold its shape without any gap at all (and it looks like it can), I'm sure most of the gaps in the other letters could've been made much smaller. And the A makes no sense at all -- moving (either) one of the gaps from the left side to the right would produce a much sturdier shape at zero cost to readability. Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 17:44
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    @IlmariKaronen: Having "gaps" [stencil supports] be of roughly-uniform size is generally better aesthetically than having the sizes vary depending upon strength requirements. Further, many of the gaps serve to visually emphasize the important aspects of the letter shapes (e.g. the diagonal of the "N") and could thus improve legibility even if they weren't required structurally.
    – supercat
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 17:38

There are a number of reasons for the gaps on the stencil letters:

  • Not to collapse when wet with paint
  • Ease to remove from the stenciling surface
  • durability of the stencil itself
  • The letters were often made with paper/metal/plastic and cut with mechanical die-cut punching, so the gaps made it easier to keep the stencil shapes correct during the process.

Reduce blurring/smearing of the letter edges around small areas of the stencil:
The gaps are additional connections from the primary area of the stencil into an area with a small shape. The additional supports are placed such that any small shape is always provided with at least two connections, from different directions, back to the primary area of the stencil. This helps keep all areas of the stencil in a flat plain as much as possible which significantly improves the quality of the lettering deposited. In addition, this additional structural support while handling the stencil increases the useful life of the stencil.

While applying paint:
Having the stencil remain flatter to (closer to) the surface being stenciled significantly improves the look of the resulting lettering. The farther an area of the stencil is from the surface the more likely that paint will not have a sharp edge when applied. When the stencil is not close, paint will migrate under the stencil leaving blurring/smudges). These extra supports help pull these areas of the stencil into close contact with the surface being painted. Thus, having the extra supports improves the look of the lettering deposited when the stencil is used.

When removing the stencil:
This extra support is also important when removing the stencil from the area after the paint has been applied. Once the paint has been applied, the edges surrounding the painted areas will be tacky to the surface. How much adhesion there is will depend on the type of paint used and how the paint was applied. This can be anywhere from minimal to significant. Having the extra supports helps all areas of the stencil to be removed from the surface uniformly. If the supports were not there, the smaller areas would deform causing them to move slightly along the surface being painted and dragging some paint with them. This would result in the there being more blurring/smearing of the edges in these areas.

Improve the durability of the stencil:
Durability, as other posts have mentioned, is also a significant concern. The extra supports prevent the smaller areas from freely bending along a single support to the primary area of the stencil. Most stiff materials tend to become weaker the more a particular area is bent. This is particularly true for paper stencils when they become wet (e.g. from paint). In addition, any bend that is beyond a certain degree does not return to fully flat. Having the extra supports greatly reduces any bending in these areas and makes their connection to the overall stencil much stronger. This provides a significant increase in the usable life of the stencil.

  • Just an extra reason in the line of what you already suggest: if there's only one support and the stencil is flexible (made from paper, plastic) , the peninsula or pylon tends to rotate around that single point, even in the plane of the drawing.
    – Ideogram
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 10:37
  • Thank you - as a layman, your explanation provided noteworthy extra insights as opposed to simple bullet points.
    – Konerak
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 11:38

For consistency of design. So that letter O's necessity is not obvious.

  • 1
    Are you guessing, or do you have a source?
    – Konerak
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 11:37
  • 1
    The design of the 'T' doesn't obey.
    – Vincent
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 11:55
  • can you expand your answer? One-line answers are generally considered low quality
    – Luciano
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 12:04

This was created to avoid having a mix between letters with holes and the ones without. To make it look more unite.

  • 4
    Design of "T" disproves this statement.
    – user11153
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 12:58

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