Stenciling Tutorial

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Joined: Tue May 18, 2004 8:13 pm
Location: My Front Parlor

Stenciling Tutorial

Post by Greg »




Where to get stencils

This is where I got mine.
This site has thousands of different historic styles as well as modern ones.
Online stencil tutorial


-Stencils Idea
-Spray Adhesive
-Stencil brushes preferably one for each color (they have a flat tip)
-artist brushes (I used round ones) for painting crown molding detail
-paint tray(cardboard works)
-tall ladder(My ceiling is 11' and I could comfortably reach the ceiling with a 10' ladder)
-paints(I used regular acrylic paint from an art store. Use acrylic over latex/acrylic background and oil over oil)
-wet paper towels for wiping off mistakes and wrapping brushes when you take a break so that the paint doesn't dry too much and cause the brush to get stiff.
-painters tape to get a straight line on the crown molding detail
-container to hold brushes at the top of ladder(the lack of ladder real estate makes it a little tricky to have all supplies at the top)
-Scotch Brite Sponge
-drop cloths if you are concerned about dripping paint(I didn't use any and I was working in a fully furnished room since I use it everyday. The painting involved is not that wet and messy anyway.)


1. First paint the ceiling, wall, and crown molding(if applicable) an eggshell or a flat finish is the best for stenciling.

2. Complete one stencil pattern for the entire room at a time since it simplifies matters. For example, start with the ceiling corners and then the ceiling border.

3. Have all the colors and brushes required for the stencil in use.

4. Stencils often have multiple layers so make sure you begin with the right one and make sure it is oriented correctly. There are numbers that indicate this.

5. Spray the back of the stencil with spray adhesive. Make sure you do this in a place where you won't ruin furniture, rugs, drapes, etc. Outside is best.

6. Position the stencil. If your house is like mine, the corners do not make right angles. Position the stencil by eyeball. It is not crucial to be extremely precise as the overall effect will cancel out any slight aberrations. There are many in the stenciling I did but you really have to look closely to notice them. Perhaps you might want to have some strategy for placement or you could do as I did and just improvise as you go.

7. After the stencil is in place, there may be holes to help aid positioning the subsequent adjoining stencil. For example, where the border stencil meets the corner pattern. Sometimes I find these useful other times not. Mark these holes with a pencil.

8. Work with one color at a time and make sure the brush is very dry. This is one of the most important aspects of stenciling. You might want to have a paper towel handy to blot off extra paint. Apply paint in a swirling(circular) motion. Watch out for fragile edges of the stencil as you may accidently lift them up with this motion. In these areas you might just want to dab the paint on instead. By dab I mean positioning the brush perpendicular with the surface and tapping the brush up and down.

9. Remove the stencil carefully after you have double checked that all areas are covered.

10. Reuse stencil until the resolution of the design becomes noticeably fuzzy. I say noticeably because from the floor you probably can't tell if the lines are a bit fuzzy. There are many fuzzy patterns in the work I did and it really doesn't make much difference. It adds character and was obviously done by hand. Wash stencil if it has an excessive amount of paint buildup or resulting pattern is unacceptably fuzzy.

11. Wash stencil in warm soapy water and scrub carefully with the corner of a Scotch Brite sponge. Be careful not to bend little corners, however it is difficult not to do this. I did manage to bend many corners but I just dab the paint on in these spots since the bent parts are not flush with the surface. I tend to err on the side of using a stencil to the point of fuzziness so I don't have to wash it so often. Washing is no fun and it can be bad for the stencil if done too many times.

12. For crown molding, tape off the area that you would like to apply some color. I only taped off the lower bound of the area and feathered the brush along the upper bound of the area. This may require two coats of paint.

13. My crown molding had an ogee curve in the middle which was wide enough to apply a small stencil pattern. Due to the ogee curve this was a bit tricky since the stencil wouldn't lie entirely flush. I tended to dab the paint on instead of using the swirling motion.

I realize this tutorial did not turn out to be so short after all but I explained the process as concisely as I could without excluding important details based on my own experience. I hope this tutorial will be helpful to those of you who are interested. I usually worked while listening to music or the radio, which helped alleviate some of the tedium. Oftentimes the work is tiring but other times it is relaxing in a Zen sort of way.

Have Fun!

Posted by Greg on behalf of Vlada

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