Everything you need to know about stencilling

All you need to know about stencilling - how to stencil, the best supplies, how to store, what to make, where to buy, plus! Featuring Old Sign Stencils at funkyjunkinteriors.net

One of the MOST asked questions I receive is… 

“What are your favourite stencil brushes?”

Everything you need to know about stencilling - featuring Old Sign Stencils | funkyjunkinteriors.net
So, today I’m going several steps further. This massive, LONG overdue post will showcase everything you need to know about stencilling.

How to stencil, my fav supplies, how to store, how to clean, what to make, where to purchase these stencils, and more!

Here we go!

About these stencils

Click to visit shop at Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils Store
I carry my own stencil line of what I deem Funky Junk’s Old Sign Stencils. They are market sign themed stencils made from a durable 10 mil mylar.

I’m a 20 year sign maker by trade. So when I started creating old signs for my own home, readers desired to make the same designs. Hence… the stencils were born! So now anyone can… in minutes!

Visit the online store (we ship worldwide) or at a nearby retailer HERE.

As the creator of these stencils, I come across lots of successes and failures on what works and what doesn’t. So here’s what I love to use and why…

* This post contains some Amazon affiliate links so you can locate the same gear I love!

Rustic reclaimed wood paint shelf storing Fusion Mineral Paint and brushes, made with Old Sign Stencils | funkyjunkinteriors.net
Basic supplies

(paint shelf tutorial is HERE)

As with any hobby, you’ll want to stock some basics.

I suggest to gather these things up, and have them all nearby before you start. There is nothing quite like having to run alllllll the way upstairs, while juggling four invaluable stencil brushes threatening to dry up on you… 

good lighting – natural light is best

a work table

a big roll of paper to protect surfaces

something to pour paint onto

something to off load paint from the brush

container of water

stencil brush

other specialty paint brushes

a box of plastic sand which bags (for wet paint brushes)

plastic wrap (for wet paint brushes or trays)

high density sponge roller – useful for glass

masking tape

measuring tape and pencil

scissors – helpful to reduce the footprint of the outer stencil in tight areas

stencil spray adhesive – optional

paint of choice

hanging storage for stencils

shelving for supplies, and paint

crate with farmers market stencil-8335

How to stencil


Stencilling is actually very easy. However in order to achieve exceptional results, a little practice comes into play. 

The most common issue is bleeding underneath the stencil. This is due to too much paint applied.

The key for super sharp lines is using VERY little paint. Once you load your brush, off-load most of the paint before you stencil.

1. Pour your paint onto a flat surface of choice.

2. Dip your brush into the paint, then off-load most paint onto a surface, such as a rag. Your brush should be dry-to-the-touch.

3. Position your stencil, then tap up and down on the stencil with your brush. You can also ‘swirl’ the brush if your brush is dry enough.

Learn more about How to stencil HERE

Stencil brushes - All you need to know about stencilling - how to stencil, the best supplies, how to store, what to make, where to buy, plus! Featuring Old Sign Stencils at funkyjunkinteriors.net

Favorite stencil brushes

A good brush can make a big difference in the outcome of your stencilling. The best way to test this one out is by trial and error.

I have come across wonderful brushes that have worn out with overuse, right down to brand new brushes constantly losing their bristles, or the brush separating from the handle.

My personal preference is slightly larger brushes if I can find them, such as 2″..


Quality features to consider:

* Tips flat or very slightly curved.

* Brush slightly flexible – not too stiff.

* Comfortable handle.

* Various sizes. I like medium and large sizes. The smaller the brush, the more work is required.



#1. The Martha Stewart brushes are super good quality, but I do find the bristles a little stiff, and short. I highly recommend Martha Stewart’s Stipple Brush HERE, however they are no longer made and hard to find.

#2. I currently use this Staalmeester wax brush #3600 (on Amazon HERE) I received from Fusion Mineral Paint, shown below. This is a big, hefty brush perfect for larger stencils or to achieve a wonderful dry-brushed look (where you do not tap). It’s gorgeous! I usually use it with no elastic band as I find the bristles stiff enough on their own.

Create your own stencil brush by wrapping an elastic band around wax brush bristles. Shown is a Staalmeester brush sold by Fusion Mineral Paint merchants.

Stencil Brush hack: Wrap an elastic band around a fatter wax brush

Find many kinds of brushes HERE

Coating a crate with Fusion Mineral Paint's Bedford, a gorgeous neutral sage green | funkyjunkinteriors.net
Garden themed crate desk in an entry using Garden and Potting Shed, from Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils
Other paint brushes

(Potting Shed crate tutorial is HERE)

Before you stencil, you may desire to coat your surface first.

For this reason, I stock several different brushes. 

The most important part is quality. If you get quality stuff, your work just turns out better, and the brush lasts longer.

Tip: An all synthetic brush may offer the least amount of brush strokes.

Find many kinds of brushes HERE

Potting shed sign on a rustic garden shed : made with Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils
Potting shed sign on a rustic garden shed : made with Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils
Masking tape

(Potting Shed sign tutorial is HERE)

Masking tape is needed to hold your stencil in place. For that reason, a low grade is all that’s really needed.

But it also comes in handy for other things, such as painting lines. Here’s where you want more of a specialty painter’s grade tape so the paint won’t bleed underneath.

I stock both cheap and good stuff, then use accordingly.

Tip: The Martha Stewart blue tape is exceptional for no bleed lines!

Stencilling on old window glass with LUNCH - Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils
LUNCH sign on an old window with Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils
Paint of choice

(Lunch window sign tutorial is HERE)

Nearly any paint can be used for stencilling. But the more opaque, the less paint you will require.

What paint you chose can also depend what surface you are painting on.

However, this is where it pays to think outside the box. An old window, furniture, permanent built-ins such as stairs all work. ANYTHING can be painted. You just need to find the right kind of paint for your chosen surface.

Paint I use:

Fusion Mineral Paint - Homestead Blue | funkyjunkinteriors.net

Fusion Mineral Paint – click for website

Find on Amazon HERE

– requires little to no prep work
– built in top coat
– great indoors and out
– matte finish
– very durable
– use it for coating out pieces and stencilling
– exceptional for stencilling raw wood for indoors or out. May need 2 coats if stencilling on a dark surface.

* Fusion is sold via retailers. Check with a local one near you HERE for my stencils, and MANY other great supplies listed in this post.

Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in toolbox paper caddy | funkyjunkinteriors.net

Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint – click for website

Find on Amazon HERE

– comes in powder form you mix with water
– can achieve chippy textures
– exceptional for raw wood – it soaks in
– coating out pieces

* MMSMP is sold via retailers. Check with a local one near you HERE for MANY other great supplies listed in this post.

Acrylic craft paint – any good name brand will do

– offers exceptional opaqueness for all tones of stencilling


For Glass

Fusion Mineral Paint with a high density foam brush

For Wood

Fusion Mineral Paint
acrylic craft paint
Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint – excellent for raw wood


Fusion Mineral Paint
acrylic craft paint

Rustic reversible holiday and everyday coasters with Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils
Clean your stencils – yes or no?

(reversible coasters tutorial is HERE)

Honestly? I don’t clean my stencils. 

I use to when I first started stencilling. I’d diligently run to the sink, and start rubbing the paint off before the paint dried on permanently.

But I soon found the stencils were at high risk for damage, and I could never get them completely clean for photography reasons anyway.

So now I let them be. I run my finger against the cut edges to remove any build up, then let them dry.

However I am sharing below some tips by those that do clean their stencils regularly. This is suggested if they get heavy use such as for repeated workshop use.


Cleaning tips: (tried and true methods by those that clean)

* After stenciling, soak the stencil in hot water until there’s time to clean.

* Spray Simple Green on the stencil, then gently rub off the paint as the solution starts to work.

* No sink nearby? Wipe the paint off with baby wipes for a quick fix.

Photography Tip: I stock 2 of each stencil. I keep one in new condition for before shots, then use the 2nd one for my projects. A great tip for those that resell stencils, or host workshops.

Spray adhesive tips with Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils
Spray adhesive tips with Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils on an old crate

Spray adhesive – yes or no?

I personally don’t use stencil adhesive any longer. But I sure did when I first started! And it single handedly saved my work!

When I first started stencilling, I had trouble getting the lines looking super crisp. For this reason, I’d spray a light coat of spray adhesive on the back of the stencil, allow it to tack up a bit, then stencil.

The adhesive makes it so little to no paint bleed occurs so crisp lines are achieved.

But with a little practice over time, you will not require the adhesive. The key is using a super dry to the touch paint loaded brush.


Pros: It works well!

Cons: Spray adhesive leaves a glue texture on the underside of the stencil. Hello lint catcher…

My suggestion: – Practice so you don’t need it.

How to use spray adhesive:

* Lightly mist the underside of the stencil.

* Allow it to sit for a few minutes to tack up.

Leave the adhesive intact after the fact, but do hang the stencil up to avoid lint accumulation. The adhesive will eventually become dry to the touch.

Old crate stencil storage trolley featuring Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils
Old crate stencil storage trolley featuring Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils

Stencil storage ideas

Over time, I’ve created various ways to store my own stencils.

I like them hanging in full view so they inspire me to play and are within easy grasp.

Here are a few ways I’ve stored stencils myself… and I’m sure I’m not done finding even MORE new ways as my collection grows!

Stencil Trolley – pictured above

Ladder and plank storage

Simple DIY stencil ladder

Check out the cool wooden racks I found on Amazon below… swoon!


Antiques paint cart trolley made from an upcycled cupboard

Fence planks made into a paint and paint brush storage shelving unit

Paint and brush storage ideas

One of my fav things to do is to come up with creative ways to store my gear. Repurposing junk to store junk is my fav challenge!

Here are a few of my favourite storage methods to date:

Repurposed cupboard to antiques paint cart (above)

Reclaimed wood paint shelf

A tour of my paint studio with LOADS of junky storage ideas

A tour of my workshop and all the storage ideas

Junk styled work stations


Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils - buy them HERE

Where to buy these stencils

A quick online search will have you finding virtually any kind of stencil imaginable.

My own stencils are designed around vintage antique old market signs and iconic patterns. You can purchase them by:

Visiting my online store HERE

or finding a local retailer near you HERE

Many creative and rustic projects using Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils - all on one page. Click here!

Stencil project ideas

Due to having my own line of stencils, many of my projects showcase unique ways to use them.

Visit my entire stencil project collection on one page HERE

Visit blogger’s creations using the stencils on Pinterest HERE


Share your projects

Whether you are a novice, or professional, one that resells the stencils, or creates merchandise to sell with them, there is now a place for everyone to play!

Join our Facebook group, What I made with Old Sign Stencils, so you can share YOUR creations with us! 

Hope to see you there! 🙂

Subscribe to Funky Junk's Old Signs Newsletter
How to subscribe to stay current

If you wish to stay current with my newest stencil designs or repurposed projects, there are several ways to do so… 

Subscribe to daily blog posts HERE
This will send you out a prompt in your inbox the next AM. Most thorough and current of all!

Subscribe to Old Signs Newsletter HERE – periodic
Get alerted with new stencil design releases, new projects, and more!

Subscribe to become an Old Sign Stencils Retailer HERE
Sign up to be alerted when we open up applications for retailer-ship. Coming soon!

Follow on Facebook

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Old Sign Stencils

Follow on Instagram

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Old Sign Stencils

– – – – –

Whew. That was some post. I think I got it all.

But if you have any questions on stencilling at all, feel free to leave them in comments below. I will answer them, and possibly even add an FAQ to this post if needed.

Thanks for your visit, and happy old sign stencilling! 🙂

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Categories: All Cool Projects, DIY, Junk Drawer, Old Sign Stencils, Reclaimed wood projects, Signs
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  1. Thank for such a complete tutorial! It must have been a lot of work to post and include the product links, but it is fabulous and I appreciate all the good information!

    Thanks, Donna!

  2. Thx for this. I tried stenciling on a wooden Christmas tree…. and the letters ended up being fuzzy (like the paint bled)? Not sure what I did wrong. 😮

    • He Reenie!

      Yes, you guessed right. What happened was there was too much paint on the brush, which then seeps underneath the stencil, creating fuzzy lines.

      A super dry brush is #1. After you load your brush, tap most off it off again onto a cloth. Then try again.

      And if you can get away with only one layer, stop there if you can.

      Also make sure your brush is dry. If you wash a brush and it still carries some water, it’ll dilute the paint too much, making it too translucent, therefore, wanting to use more paint, which is never a good idea.

      Keep trying. The day you land the perfect image, you will be HOOKED!

  3. Great post! Thanks so much for sharing all that info. I’m trying to get the nerve to stencil a clock face my husband made from pallet wood … which I’m scared of ruining. So your post was most helpful.

    • Thanks Cindy! And I totally get it.

      Just do lots of practice on a like minded surface. Surfaces that absorb vs. those that don’t need a totally different hand. Once you succeed, you’ll truly find it hard to quit. Nothing is plain in my house any longer… haha

  4. Donna,

    Very nice post. Now I feel like I could stencil anything with your precise instructions. I tried stenciling years ago and made a mess. Paint oozed under the stencil. Never did it again, Thank you for your instructions,

  5. Thanks SO much for this post! It had to have been a LOT of work so I really appreciate the time & energy you spent creating this for all of us! I love that it is so specific…. I am one of those “visual learners” so this fits the bill for me perfectly!
    I do have one suggestion 🙂 you should partner with a company, or however those things work, & create your own brush & sell along with your stencils!

  6. So….I use a paper plate to off my paint, I don’t clean my stencils either, nor do I use spray adhesive, mostly because I’m just lazy. But I’ve been using stencil brushes I’ve had since the 80’s, so I added the short fat one to my Amazon cart. Oh and the stencils have a place of honor on top of shelving in my family room where they lay nice and flat, but I am going to make something cool to hang them like you’ve done.

  7. Very well done post!!!

    What do you use to clean the adhesive from your stencils? I seem to have quite a build up on some of mine.

    I haven’t found a sure fire way to clean them up!! Looking for guidance please,


    • Hi Dawn! I’d suggest some kind of environmentally friendly glue remover that is safe for plastic. I used to use something called Rapid Remover when I had my sign company. As always, test anything before using it full throttle.

      I personally do not use adhesive, and when I did, never did clean it off. I found it safer to allow to cure as is. There will be a rough texture left on the backside. Aggressive cleaning can tear the stencil, hence my suggestion for not using it at all. 🙂

      • Hello! this is a fantastic post with tons of fabulous information! Thank you. I’m an avid stenciler and love to do raised/embossed stencils and have found spray adhesives for those invaluable – especially on doors, for furniture,etc and have ound THE BEST stencil cleaner – it easily removes the paint and adhesive residue. It’s called Goof Off and comes in various formulae. I prefer regular or Professional Strength. It may remove the color off the stencil (like the gray of the DecoArt Stencils) but doesn’t harm them in any way. The Pro Strength s faster – no wait time but the Reglar formula you only have to wait 3 minutes. No scrubbing needed and it only costs about $3 – $4 a bottle. I hope this information helps. Thak you for all your hard and beautiful work!

  8. I have read that others recommend using Mod podge first to fill in stencil prior to using paint. Your thoughts on that?

    • Hi Mary! I have read that too! I think if one is having bleed issues, it may be a helpful step to attempt. However, lack of sharp images simply means too much paint on the brush. That is easily fixed by off-loading more paint until your brush is dry to the touch. A little practice is really all that’s needed to achieve perfect results.

  9. I had a question. I get that I am supposed to use a dry brush but sometimes the little lines or dots on my stencil are so tiny I cant seem to get any paint into them with the dry brush. I go over and over and over and it is like a tincy speck instead of the area covered in paint and looking like a line or a dot. So then I get frustrated and over load my brush and then I get smudges. Not sure how to solve this problem. Is my brush size wrong? I am using one that is about dime size for these smaller spots. Thanks!

    • Hi Emily!

      It’s a matter of finding the right amount of paint for a given area. If your brush is too dry, try adding a little more paint. The key is whenever you load your brush with fresh paint, ensure you offload again to take the super fresh paint off.

      A brush can make a difference although I’m uncertain that’s your current issue. I’d suggest to pick up a variety of sizes so you can try the one that best suits. My favs are 1.5″ and larger.

  10. Love your stencils and projects! Can find tons of stuff I’d like to do for myself. Would like to see more for my husband’s workshop!

  11. Hi,

    I really like your stencils and your website and the tutorials. I am wanting to try to do some stenciling. I noticed you mentioned using the craft paints to stencil with. Do they need a top coat or anything else besides the craft paint? Do they work as well as the Fusion Mineral paint? What is the best way to decide what size container, etc to by to use with the stencils?

    Thank you for your answers


    • Hi Cindy!

      Acrylic craft paint doesn’t require a top coat as it’s already built in. My preference is Fusion because I can use that paint for a base coat for my projects as well. It’s just handy to have one paint that does it all.

      I base the size of my paint depending on how much I think I’ll use it. I always have lots of black and white on hand so I get larger in those, and smaller sizes of colours. Most acrylic craft paint comes in a great size for small projects already as you’ll soon find out once you shop. Try for a name brand so you know the quality is good and you should be good to go!

  12. Thanks for all the information. I’m about to start my first project and was fortunate enough to find your web site