Although stenciling is an Early American art form, there's no limit on the sort of designs you can stencil on your walls (or other surfaces)! You can buy ready-to-use stencils, entire stencil sets (that include paint and brushes), browse pattern books offering various motifs, or make your own patterns.
8 tips to make your stenciling project great
Do it yourself
A homemade stencil can be made using thin cardboard, but make sure the paper is the right weight so that it will stay close to the wall while you paint and draw. As an alternative to cardboard or paper, transparent Mylar or similar plastics are durable, washable, and allow you to see through to the working surface. (See a stencil cutter here.)
Your stencils should be clean-cut and with no rough edges to ensure sharp edges on the finished design. Depending on the design size and repetition, several copies of the stencils might make painting easier.
Tape it up
Use blue painter's masking tape to hold the stencil to the wall until you have completed painting that section, then remove the stencil carefully. When repositioning your stencil, make sure there isn't any paint on the backside that has seeped through the open space.
Color by color
If you have a stencil pattern that will have more than one color, paint one color at a time. For example, if you're creating a floral pattern, first do the green stems and leaves. Then, when that dries, do the red flower petals. Next, if you have some petals that are another color, add paint for those petals.
Quick-drying float paints or water-base latex work well for stenciling -- acrylic paints especially formulated for stenciling are also widely available. (Drying speed is important because stencil designs are built up one color at a time.)
Just a little
Load the brush or sponge with only a little paint before applying it to the working surface, and consider dabbing the paint applicator a few times on plain newsprint to get off any excess paint.
To protect and enhance special effects walls, a low-luster satin varnish is suggested. Wait at least 24 hours before applying this final coat. Polyurethane is suggested to brighten colors.
During any paint application, proper equipment and adequate ventilation are extremely important to your health. For best results, read and follow label information and seek advice of paint experts.
About our featured stencils
First row, left to right:
- Large leaf damask with crosses stencil
- Hibiscus flower stencil
- Spiral scroll border
Second row, left to right:
- Swirl tile-effect stencil
- Moroccan Woodwork Screening
- Kingbird Accent Home Decor Stencil
More about painting
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Sources include North Dakota State University, Colorado State University and Sheffield School.