Everything you need to know about stenciling
Some of the most asked questions I get about stenciling are:
“What are your favourite stencil brushes?”
“How do I stencil without paint bleed?”
“What’s the best way to clean stencils?”
“Which paint do you use on fabric?”
… and so much more.
How to stencil, my fav supplies, how to store, how to clean, what to make, where to purchase these stencils, and more!
Ready to learn big today? Here we go!
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Everything you need to know about stenciling
About these stencils
First off, this post features my own line of stencils.
I personally design Funky Junk’s Old Sign Stencils. They are market sign themed and patterned stencils made from a high quality 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 you can make the signs I make too!
Basic must-get stencil supplies
As with any hobby, you’ll want to stock some basic supplies.
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 flat-ish to pour paint into
something to off load paint from the brush (rag or plank of wood)
container of water
other specialty paint brushes
a box of plastic sandwich bags (to store wet paint brushes)
plastic wrap (for wet paint brushes or to cover trays)
high density sponge roller – useful for glass
measuring tape and pencil
scissors – helpful to reduce the footprint of the outer stencil in tight areas
stencil spray adhesive – optional
paint of choice (I use Fusion Mineral Paint)
storage means for stencils (I created a trolly you will see below)
storage for paint supplies nearby
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. Your stencil brush once fully loaded should feel dry-to-the-touch.
How to stencil to create sharp images:
1. Pour the paint onto a flat surface of choice.
2. Dip the stencil brush into the paint, then off-load most paint onto a rag, leaving your brush dry-to-the-touch.
3. Position the stencil into place with masking tape, then tap or swirl paint through stencil to create the desired effect.
Learn more about How to stencil HERE
Favorite stencil brush tips
- Collect a variety of all sizes
- Think beyond just stencil brushes, try large wax brushes too!
- Select dome-tipped brushes if you can find them.
- Go for a higher quality. They do a better stencil job.
Collecting a variety of quality stencil brushes has become somewhat of a hobby! However, the better the brush, the better the outcome.
Some paint brushes aren’t even specifically stencil brushes. Pictured above is actually a quality wax brush, perfect for working with large stencils.
I suggest to collect all sizes and types of stencil brushes.
And choose dome-tipped stencil brushes if you can find them. The paint goes on so beautifully thanks to the slightly rounded edges.
My two personal favorite stencil brushes are:
Make any brush into a stencil brush
Other paint brushes
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.
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!
Paint of choice
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 on what surface you are painting.
Wood, glass, fabric, indoor, outdoor all play a part in choosing.
The paint I use:
I personally use Fusion Mineral Paint today. It’s super durable, requires no added top coat, and is suitable for most surfaces, including fabric, glass and metal. It’s also outdoor durable.
Here are Fusion’s main perks:
- 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
- excellent for fabric
- exceptional for stencilling wood
How to purchase Fusion:
Should stencils be cleaned?
Personally, I don’t clean my stencils.
But for photography purposes, I do stock 2 of each. One to use, and one for photos.
I use to clean stencils when I first started stencilling, but I found the more cleaning they got, the more risk of damage they came in contact with.
So today, I do not clean. I run my finger against the cut edges to remove any paint build-up, then let them air dry.
However if I conducted workshops frequently, I’d consider cleaning them due to being used repeatedly to ensure those sharp edges are maintained.
Here are some cleaning tips if you prefer to clean yours…
How to clean stencils (if desired)
- 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.
- Use baby wipes for a quick clean.
Spray adhesive – yes or no?
I personally don’t use stencil adhesive. But I sure did when I first started!
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.
How to use stencil spray adhesive
- Lightly mist under the stencil.
- Allow it to set / tack-up before using.
- Leave adhesive on the back to dry, then hang stencil to store to keep clean, as adhesive attracts dust.
How to store stencils
What’s the best way to store stencils? Horizontal, vertical or otherwise?
I’d say it’s dependent on how often you reach for stencils, how visual you like them to be, and what kind of space you have.
I myself prefer to hang stencils so they are in full view and easy to grab.
Hanging stencils also reduces the risk of them getting damaged or tangled up with other stencils.
Here’s a few ways I store stencils:
- A plank of wood attached to the wall with nails
- Standing coat rack with nail hooks
- Stencil Trolley – pictured above
- Ladder and plank storage
- Simple DIY stencil ladder
Check out the cool wooden racks I found on Amazon below… swoon!
Paint and brush storage ideas
I find it handy to have paint and brushes stored near the stencils. Therefore, I created what I call a paint station. It’s basically a work table with two shelves, housing all my paint and brush supplies.
Here’s a few of my own paint storage stations:
If you’re a visual learner, most of our stencil projects HERE include short video clips.
Or you can VISIT THIS POST which shares many stencil videos in one spot for easy access.
Click above to watch one of many short stencil videos!
Stencil projects to make
Desire some stencil ideas on what to make? Boy can I help there!
Click below to view all my own stencil projects:
Join this Facebook group, What I made with Old Sign Stencils, so you can share YOUR creations with the rest of us in the group!
Hope to see you there! 🙂
Would you like a heads up when there’s some new stencil designs released or new projects to make?
Subscribe to daily blog posts HEREThis will send you out a prompt in your inbox the next AM. Most thorough and current of all!
Sign up to subscribe to Old Signs Newsletter HERE – periodic
Get alerted with new stencil design releases, new projects, and more!.
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Whew. That was some post. I think I got it all.
But if this post didn’t answer everything you need to know about stencilling for yourself, feel free to leave questions in comments below. I will answer them, and possibly even add an FAQ to this post if needed.
Thanks for your visit, and happy stencilling to all!
Find all my stencil projects HERE