Simple Basics of How To Stencil by Stencil Me In
This blog post is the basic steps for "How To Stencil".  There are no "set in stone" rules.  This is just the simple fundamentals of stenciling that I myself like to use.  These instructions will work on most any medium but for this lesson we are using a pine board to create a sign using our stencil "Days Until Halloween Chalkboard Countdown"

Wooden Board
Acrylic Paint
Chalk Paint
Chalkboard Paint
Stencil Brushes
Liner Brush
Sawtooth Hanger
Paper Plate or Palette
Paper Towels
Small Bowl of Water
Stencil Brushes (Various Sizes)
Spray Seal

Step 1: If you have any holes in the wood that you don't want to see be sure to putty them by following the instructions provided by the putty manufacturer. Sand your board free of any rough spots you don't want.  In some cases the rough look is what you are going for but in this case we want a smooth surface.  Dust your board free of the sawdust.  We use a slightly damp towel to get the board good and clean of any dust and dirt.

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 1 by Stencil Me In

I do like my signs based along the edges as well.  This is simply a preference.  You may have a project that looks better with only the face of your board painted.

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 2 by Stencil Me In

Step 2: Now that your board is ready you will need to set your stencil in place.  I will be honest, as you get used to stenciling you will simply plop your stencil down and get to the fun part, but if you are new to stenciling I highly suggest anchoring your stencil down using some painter's or masking tape.  You can also use Stencil Adhesive.  Just follow the directions provided on the container.

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 3 by Stencil Me In

Step 3: Now your board is ready for you to start stenciling.  For this project we used

DecoArt Americana
  • Ebony Black Acrylic Paint
  • Chalkboard Paint

Delta Ceramcoat
  • Calypso Orange Acrylic Paint
  • Violet Pearl Acrylic Paint
  • Gecko Green Acrylic Paint
  • Georgia Clay Acrylic Paint

FolkArt Home Decor
  • Monarch Orange Acrylic Chalk Paint
Basic How To Stencil Instructions -Paints Used- by Stencil Me In

I use all sizes of stencil brushes.  You can NEVER have too many or the wrong size stencil brush.  I keep lots of them in all sizes.  For this project I used

Laurie Speltz Stencil Brushes
  • 1/4"
  • 3/8"
  • 5/8"
  • 1"
Her brushes are the absolute best in my opinion.  Below is a link to where I buy them.

Basic How To Stencil Instructions -Stencil Brushes- by Stencil Me In

Keep in mind stenciling is done using a very dry brush.  Squeeze a bit of paint from the bottle onto a paper plate or whatever it is you are using for a palette.  Dip your brush into the edge of your paint puddle.  DON'T dunk your entire brush into the paint.  You only want a little bit of paint on your brush.

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 4 by Stencil Me In

Swirl your brush on a clean area of your plate or palette.  This spreads the paint onto all the bristles without saturating your brush in paint.

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 5 by Stencil Me In

After you have the paint spread to all the bristles of your brush be sure to have a good absorbent paper towel handy.  I have found Viva to be the best for this.  You will need to brush across the paper towel to get the excess paint off the bristles.  This is EXTREMELY important.  If you don't do this you will most likely have excess paint seeping under your stencil creating rough edges around the stenciled design, this is called puddling.  You wouldn't see this until you have finished stenciling and lift the stencil off your board to reveal a HOT MESS!!

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 6 by Stencil Me In

Your brush is now ready for you to stencil.  When I stencil I use a method called pouncing.  Pouncing is a continuous up and down motion while moving across your stencil.  Another option is swirling, which is continuous circular motions while moving across your stencil.  I almost never use the swirling method.  The reason I do not like to swirl is because if you don't have every inch of your stencil anchored down you can easily cause the brush to slip up under and lift your stencil.  That is never a good thing.  You don't want to have to undo that.  Tight little areas of the stencil design is usually the locations where you may need to do some swirling to make sure the paint gets down into the little detail areas of the design.  Be very careful and take your time.  Swirling can also cause you to break or tear your stencil.  Again, be careful and take your time.  I have found pouncing is the safest way to go for the most part :)

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 7 by Stencil Me In

Pounce your way across your project from left to right while working your way toward the bottom.

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 8 by Stencil Me In

Change your paint colors as you like.  This is why I suggest lots of stencil brushes.  You don't want to use a freshly washed WET stencil brush.  Your brushes need to be dry and free of any water, dirt, dust, or hair.  Those things like to be seen and they will find a way to be a part of your project.  Clean dry brushes only!

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 9 by Stencil Me In

For the certain words that I wanted to stand out I stenciled a base color and then stenciled that same area with a pearl paint.  It makes my project unique and gives it a little pop!  I gave it a base color of purple in some places and in other areas I used black. It didn't really matter.  After the base colors dried, which didn't take long at all, I stenciled over the same areas with the Violet Pearl paint.

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 10 by Stencil Me In

For the moon on this design I decided to do a shading.  This is how I do my shading.  I have no idea what others would suggest, this is simply how I like to add a little shading to my stencil projects.

First I stenciled my base color of Calypso Orange which is actually very yellow in color.  Ignore the little bit of darker shading you see at this point.  I explain that in the next picture :)

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 12 by Stencil Me In

I then used the same exact brush (do not wash it) to dip into a little bit of Georgia Clay paint.  Give the stencil brush a little swipe on your paper plate or palette to cause the colors to blend just a bit. Doing this allows your colors to have a more natural soft blended look rather then a hard definitive color change.  Don't forget to swipe the paper towel to get the excess paint off your stencil brush.  Once again, stenciling is a dry brush method.  Now simply stencil along the edge of the moon to give the moon its shadowy edges.  Simple and easy :)

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 13 by Stencil Me In

So at this point all I had left was to stencil my "ampersand" in the Georgia Clay paint color.  I didn't stencil the chalkboard area yet because I want to first seal my sign.  We will come back to that part.  I CAREFULLY removed the stencil to reveal my project.

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 14 by Stencil Me In

Now, I need to mention while you are stenciling do NOT lift your stencil for a little "look see".  I know you want to see how it is coming along and it is VERY hard for me NOT to peak.  I am a peaker, I am impatient and I CANNOT stand not knowing how it is coming along.  I have made the mistake of peaking many times.  DON'T do it!  Just keep stenciling and you will see it when it's all done.  Plus, trust me when I say, you will save yourself a lot of aggravation!

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 15 by Stencil Me In

Once you have removed your stencil you will need to take the little overlay for the cat's eyes and position it in place.  I stenciled his eyes in Geckco Green and then I stenciled his little pupils in Ebony Black.  Done....remove that overlay and on to the next part of your project.

Now, this next part is a subject of controversy.  It is a fight over should I fill in my bridges or shouldn't I?  There is no stencil rule book.  Do it if you want to, Don't do it if you don't want to.  For some this is just not something they want to do or maybe they just simply don't have the time for it.  Some of my customers put out an EXTREMELY high volume of signs and filling in the bridges is simply not going to happen.  If you are selling your signs this way and it works for you, then don't fix what isn't broken.  We all have our own way of doing things.  I have had MANY customers ask me about this and I ALWAYS ENCOURAGE filling in the bridges.  As I have said, it is up to you.  This is ONLY my OPINION!  If you would like to see how I fill in my bridges I have a provided a link below to my video on how I fill in the bridges of stenciled letters.

After I finished filling my bridges, I took my sign outside and sprayed it with a clear matte seal.  You can use any brand, it doesn't matter.  The one I used was Krylon.  I avoided spraying the area where the chalkboard is located, as much as I could.

Once the spray seal was nice and dry, I brought it back inside and positioned my stencil back over the already stenciled project.  I then stenciled the chalkboard area with DecoArt Americana Chalkboard Paint.  I pounced for the first layer of chalkboard paint.  After the first layer dried I went over the area with a bit more chalkboard paint using my stencil brush.  Filling it in from left to right. I allowed that second layer to dry and again, using my stencil brush, I brushed on another layer of chalkboard paint from top to bottom.  Done and Dry.  Again, carefully remove your stencil.  I Filled in the bridges of the chalkboard section to give the tag shape a completed look.

At this point follow the directions on the chalkboard paint bottle for any curing instructions.  Attach a sawtooth hanger in the back and you are done!  Now you can start counting down the days to Halloween!

Basic How To Stencil Instructions 16 by Stencil Me In
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