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How to stencil - Steps to stencilling success

Furniture ready for stencilling

There’s nothing more satisfying than taking an old, tired piece of furniture and upcycling it into something that fast becomes the focus point for the room. 

Beyond simply painting your chair, dresser or sideboard a brand-new colour, you can add further interest and design flair by using stencils, taking your project to a whole other level. 

The art of stencilling is certainly not new. Infact, it is thought the first stencils date back to around 105AD, with the Chinese the first to develop a paper-based stencil to advance their printing techniques.  

Soon, a passion for stencilling began to grow, with this easy technique to transfer pattern being used on fabric, furniture, home décor and in works of art. 

Modern stencils are usually made out of a sheet of plastic or cardboard, and feature a cut out design so when ink or paint is applied to the sheet the pattern will be reproduced on the surface below. If cared for well, stencils can be used time and again. 

Although the process of stencilling is straight forward, it can take a little practice to get a perfect result. Here is our quick guide for those who are just starting out and wish to learn how to stencil. 

What you will need 

Getting started 

Before you begin make sure your surface is clean and dry and is yet to be waxed or lacquered as this will seal the piece.   

Put your stencil in the perfect position and use low tack tape or masking tape to make sure it doesn’t move or shift. 

Apply paint to your brush and wipe off any excess. Then, working from the outside of the stencil in, lightly tap the paint in an up and down movement, rather than side to side as you would with regular painting. Build up layers of paint to achieve the colour you are looking for.   

If you are using a sponge roller, roll off as much paint as possible and move the roller in all directions with a light application and repeat to build up the colour.  

One of the most common problems people face when new to stencilling is blurry undefined edges to their design. This is caused by paint seeping under the edges of the stencil. To avoid this, be frugal with the amount of paint you use and allow each coat to dry before adding more. 

Once you have finished painting don’t be too eager to remove the stencil. Leave it in place for around 10 to 15 minutes before carefully lifting it from your design. Allow a further few hours to fully dry before sealing with wax or lacquer. 

Finally make sure you clean your stencil properly by running it under warm water and wipe around the edge of the cut-out areas with a soft dish cloth. If you have allowed the paint to dry before cleaning, soak the stencil in warm soapy water or latex cleaning solution for an hour or so, then lightly scrub with a dish brush to remove the paint. 

The Little Gems Interiors team are always happy to offer advice on how to stencil and can give guidance before you start on your project and we stock everything you need for stencilling success. Check out our selection of stencils online or visit in person at Assington Barns near the Essex/Suffolk border.  

Annie Sloan Stencil - Meadow FlowersAnnie Sloan Stencil Meadow Flowers