How to Basics: Stenciling

How to Basics: Stenciling
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Stenciling is an ancient tradition that was practiced by the Egyptians, Romans, and the Japanese. It truly is an old fashioned art form. Luckily for us, it's one that is simple to master with the right tools and techniques.
The key to stenciling is patience. It's not a quick process. It's one that needs to be done little by little with a slow hand and a focus on what you are trying to accomplish. Here are some tips to help you with your projects:

-Flat and satin surfaces stencil easiest. The glossier the surface the more difficult it is for the paint to adhere. If you are trying to stencil a glossy area, lightly sand it first with a very fine sandpaper. After the stencil is completed you can coat it with a glossy sealer to restore the shine.

-Color Tips: You will need a different brush for each color you are using in your project. Stenciling is basically a "dry brush" technique and trying to rinse the brush in-between the colors would take too long because the brush needs to be completely dry when you stencil. When using more than one color start with the lightest color, allow each one to dry, then continue on with the colors, doing the darkest last.

-The Stencil: Painter's masking tape that is removable can be used to adhere the stencil to the surface you are working on. You can also use a low-tack adhesive spray. Both work well, but everyone has their preference. Try both and see how it works for you.

-Painting: As mentioned this is a "dry" technique. It's a process of dabbing the brush in the paint, then using a circular motion on a paper towel or clean rag to remove excess paint. Do this 2-3 times. You will end up with very little paint on the brush, and it will appear dry, but then you brush or dab on the stencil at this point, then repeat the technique until the color is the way you want it. It's a process of layering on the color...there is no rushing.

-Positioning: You can use a chalk line or a chalk pencil to mark where you need to stencil your design. Make sure it's even with a level or by measuring from the bottom up to the design all along the area you are working on.

-Cleaning: After washing your brush, stand it upright to dry and reshape it by placing a rubber band around the bristles after they dry. Let them dry completely before using again. Wash stencils with dish soap and warm water. If adhesive builds up on the stencil you can use mineral spirits to remove it. If you are using an oil based paint you'll need to clean tools with paint thinner.

Each project will have it's own instructions and variations, but these tips should help you with small projects as well as large adventurous jobs such as a wall border or mural. Always start out small, and try practice projects before taking on large ones.

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About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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