How to stencil like a pro.



Stencilling is a fun and creative way to add personality and interest to your living space.  When done well it can look stunning.  Furniture, walls, ceilings and canvasses can all be given a new unique look using stencils and a little bit of imagination.

There is, however, a knack to achieving good results.  As with most things, practice makes perfect, but it’s a fun thing to experiment with so once you have the tools you can happily work on your technique – making sure you’ve mastered it before putting stencil and paint to your living room wall or antique sideboard.


Things you need:

Stencils – easily and readily available on-line or in DIY and home improvement stores.  There’s a huge selection available out there, from elegant floral designs to children’s animal prints, lettering and geometric designs.  There’s something to suit most tastes.


Brushes – I use flat headed stiff brushes, as suitable size to the size of area you are stencilling.

Masking Tape 

Newspaper and Tissue/Kitchen Towels

Something to practice on – Initially I’d recommend practice on card or a sample surface similar to one you’d like to ultimately stencil.

Getting Started:

Firstly cover your working area, the table or floor, with newspaper to protect the area from accidental paint spills or splashes.

Shake or stir your paint, then take a small amount of the paint and put it on a shallow flat plate or bowl – jar lids make a good receptacle.  You need to make sure your paint isn’t too watery or runny, so taking a small amount of paint out first will immediately start to harden up the paint consistency, making it easier to work with.

Take your stencil and tape it lightly onto the surface to be stencilled.   The tape needs to be secure enough to hold the stencil in place, but not so strongly taped that it removes any existing paint or varnish on the item.


Take your paintbrush and dap it, lightly, into the paint, being careful not to overload the brush.  Dap the loaded paint onto a piece of tissue to remove all excess paint – it is important that you stencil slowly and don’t rush to process with a brush dripping with paint.


Holding the brush at a vertical angle carefully dap at the stencil, being careful not to let the paintbrush bristles to go under the stencil itself.  The entire process needs to be completed using repeated, careful, dabbing motions, using the tissue to dab away excess paint each time you reload the brush with paint.  If you use sweeping motions with the brush it will result in paint being pushed underneath the stencil, with will ruin the effect.

Once you have painted all the stencil pattern wait for the paint to dry before you carefully remove the tape and stencil.  If you have used the paint as sparingly as necessary, and depending on the surface you have stencilled, the drying process shouldn’t take too long.

If using the same stencil several times on one project keep repeating the process, sticking to one colour at a time.  If you want to use different colours on the same stencil carefully wash the stencil between colour changes, using warm soapy water and dry well using kitchen towels, ensuring you have a clean and dry stencil for the next usage.


If you remove the stencil and find it has smudged you can wash the paint off or, if the surface was originally painted with a base coat of paint, repaint over it and try again.  The more you stencil the easier it becomes and the better you become.  Get in plenty of practice to get the feel for the brush and paint before attempting any major stencilling renovation projects.  Different paints have different consistencies, so even once you are adept at stencilling I would still recommend a little test practice if using a new or different paint.

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