Everything you need to know about stenciling

If you’d like to master stenciling with pro results, this post will get you there! It’s filled with tips on how to stencil for exceptional results, plus where to find stencils, how to clean and store them, favorite stencil supplies and SO much more! Get ready to learn all about stenciling because you’re about to become a stencil pro after reading this post!

Learn everything you need to know about stencilling in one post! How to stencil, the best supplies, how to store, what to make, where to buy, plus! Featuring Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils. Click to post loaded with tips and tricks and many tutorials! #stencils #stenciling #stenciltips #howtostencil

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.

Learn everything you need to know about stencilling in one post! How to stencil, the best supplies, how to store, what to make, where to buy, plus! Featuring Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils. Click to post loaded with tips and tricks and many tutorials! #stencils #stenciling #stenciltips #howtostencil
So, today I’m going several steps further. This massive, LONG overdue post will showcase everything you need to know about stenciling.

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!

This post contains some Amazon affiliate links in which I earn a small percentage from qualifying purchases through these links, at no extra cost to you. Thank-you for helping to support my blog!


Everything you need to know about stenciling


Learn everything you need to know about stencilling in one post! How to stencil, the best supplies, how to store, what to make, where to buy, plus! Featuring Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils. Click to post loaded with tips and tricks and many tutorials! #stencils #stenciling #stenciltips #howtostencil

Click to visit shop at Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils Store

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!

View and learn more about the stencils HERE

Learn everything you need to know about stencilling in one post! How to stencil, the best supplies, how to store, what to make, where to buy, plus! Featuring Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils. Click to post loaded with tips and tricks and many tutorials! #stencils #stenciling #stenciltips #howtostencil

(paint shelf tutorial is HERE)

Basic must-get stencil supplies


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

I suggest to gather these stenciling 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

stencil brush

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

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 (I use Fusion Mineral Paint)

stencil storage 

storage for paint supplies nearby

Learn everything you need to know about stencilling in one post! How to stencil, the best supplies, how to store, what to make, where to buy, plus! Featuring Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils. Click to post loaded with tips and tricks and many tutorials! #stencils #stenciling #stenciltips #howtostencil

Learn everything you need to know about stencilling in one post! How to stencil, the best supplies, how to store, what to make, where to buy, plus! Featuring Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils. Click to post loaded with tips and tricks and many tutorials! #stencils #stenciling #stenciltips #howtostencil

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

A Staalmeester wax brush becomes an excellent stencil brush if you use an elastic band around the bristles! Click to learn many more stencil tips! #stenciltips #stenciling #howtostencil

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 stenciling 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 stenciling brushes are:

For small stencils – dome tipped

For Large stencils – Staalmeester #3600 wax brush (shown above)

Learn everything you need to know about stencilling in one post! How to stencil, the best supplies, how to store, what to make, where to buy, plus! Featuring Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils. Click to post loaded with tips and tricks and many tutorials! #stencils #stenciling #stenciltips #howtostencil

 How to turn any round paint brush into a stencil brush


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
(Potting Shed crate tutorial is HERE)

Garden themed crate desk in an entry using Garden and Potting Shed, from Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils. Part of Learn everything you need to know about stencilling in one post! Click to full tutorials and stencil tips! #stencils #stenciling #stenciltips #howtostencil


(Potting Shed crate tutorial is HERE)

Other paint brushes


Before you begin stenciling, you may desire to coat your surface first. For this reason, I stock several different paint brushes. 

The most important part is quality. If you purchase quality paint brushes, 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 quality paint 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

(Potting Shed sign tutorial is HERE)

Masking tape


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

But a good quality painter’s masking tape also comes in handy for creating painting lines that won’t allow the paint to bleed.

So I suggest to stock both quality painter’s tape and a budget friendly masking tape so you’re ready for anything.

View lots of masking tape choices HERE

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


(Lunch window sign tutorial is HERE)

DIY Paint of choice


Nearly any paint can be used for stencilling. However, the more opaque, the less paint you will require since it will offer better coverage.

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

Wood, glass, fabric, indoor, outdoor all play a part in choosing.

Fusion Mineral Paint - Homestead Blue | funkyjunkinteriors.net

Purchase from Fusion’s website HERE and save 10%!

The paint I use:


I personally use Fusion Mineral Paint today. It’s super durable, requires no added top coat, and is a DIY paint suitable for most surfaces, including wood, furniture, fabric, glass and metal. It’s also outdoor durable.

Perks of Fusion Mineral Paint:


  • rarely requires a primer
  • built in top-coat
  • great indoors and out
  • matte finish
  • very durable
  • use it for painting pieces AND stencilling
  • excellent for fabric


3 ways to purchase Fusion Mineral Paint:


Shop for Fusion Mineral Paint in my Amazon store HERE

Purchase from Fusion’s website HERE and save 10%!

Locate Fusion from a local retailer HERE

Learn how to stencil a buffalo checked checkers board! Click to full tutorial. #checkers #buffalocheck #stencils

Visit Buffalo Check checkers board tutorial HERE


Should stencils be cleaned?


Personally, I don’t generally clean my stencils. 

However 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 instead of cleaning stencils, I run my finger against the cut edges to remove any paint build-up, then let them air dry.

However, I do have some tips if you wish to clean yours on a regular basis, because they sure are prettier when they are clean!

3 ways to clean stencils


  • 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 with a baby wipe or rag after the solution starts to work.
  • Use baby wipes for a quick clean right after stenciling before the paint has a chance to try.

Purchase Simple Green cleaner from HERE (which is what I use and love)

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, although I did when I first started stenciling.

Spray adhesive coats the back of the stencil, creating a sticky surface to reduce the possibility of paint bleeding underneath.

However, with a little practice, you will find you don’t require the stencil adhesive. The key to sharp images with stenciling is all about removing most of the paint off your brush until it feels dry.

However if you’d like to try stencil adhesive, here’s how to use it:

How to use stencil spray adhesive


  1. Lightly mist under the stencil.
  2. Allow it to set / tack-up before using.
  3. Leave adhesive on the back to dry, then hang stencil to store to keep clean, as adhesive attracts dust.

Shop for stencil adhesive spray HERE

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

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.

2x4 wood stencil storage

Stencil storage rack made from 2x4s

This is my current stencil storage rack, made very simply out of 2x4s. It’s super strong, and holds a LOT of stencils!

Wood and pipe stencil storage hooks

Here’s a few other ways I’ve stored stencils:

View some other stencil storage ideas on Amazon HERE

Antiques paint cart trolley made from an upcycled cupboard

easy paint shelf with shipping crate stamp stencils-012

Visit this paint station HERE

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 how I’ve built a few different paint storage stations over the years:

Easy pallet-styled shelf (in my workshop)

Repurposed cupboard to antiques paint cart (above)

Reclaimed wood paint shelf

Visit my paint studio with LOADS of salvaged storage ideas

A tour of my workshop and all the storage ideas

Salvage styled work stations

adjustable wood paint shelves

Update: Adjustable paint shelves made from reclaimed wood

These are my current paint shelves that are made from reclaimed wood and fully adjustable. Best paint storage I’ve ever had to-date!

Learn stenciling from these stencil videos


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! 

View the Garden Label post HERE


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

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:

One page access / listed by stencils alphabetically

By project posts / listed newest to oldest


Share your 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! 🙂

Subscribe to Funky Junk's Old Signs Newsletter
Subscribe to hear the latest stencil news


Would you like a heads up when there’s some new stencil designs released or new projects to make?

Subscribe to daily blog posts HERE

Sign up to subscribe to Old Signs Newsletter HERE

– – – – –

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

But if this post didn’t answer all about stencilling for you, 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!

Visit Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils by clicking HERE

Visit the stencils store HERE

Find all my stencil projects HERE

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Categories: All Cool Projects, DIY, Junk Drawer, Old Sign Stencils, Reclaimed wood projects, Signs
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34 thoughts on “Everything you need to know about stenciling

  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

    • Hi Lynn! I use Fusion Mineral Paint’s brush cleaner that comes in a tube. And if I run out, I use a bar of soap but you have to really ensure you get all the soap out. The brush cleaner is better because it conditions the bristles.

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