Stenciling…My “Ah Ha” Moment

For years, I have looked at people’s beautiful stencil  work and am so envious! I have tried and tried to stencil numerous things over the years and it has always ended in epic failure for me.  Either it would be smudgy after I removed the stencil or it would be globby…I tried more paint, less paint, spray paint….taping stencil, spray adhesive on the stencil…read every article I could find on the subject.  No improvement.  My first ah ha moment came after visiting one of my favorite blogs, The Handmade Home.  Ashley had created a beautiful wall art piece using a stencil she had been given from a company. I headed to that company’s website and WOW were the stencils awesome! The one I REALLY, REALLY wanted was $49.95…I just could not make myself fork over that kind of money when I was not even  good at it (yes, I am thrifty…$49.95 is probably very reasonable…just not in my world)! However, it got me thinking that maybe I needed to invest in a better stencil instead of the small, cheapo, flimsy ones.  So I headed to Hobby Lobby with my 40% off coupon in hand (you can also use the electronic one via your cell phone, iPad, etc while checking out) and found very large wall stencils ($16.99 before coupon).  I really liked the Moroccan Theme stencil shown below:

It is thick and large enough to easily use on a table top.  Here is the biggest Ah Ha! moment…I ACTUALLY READ THE INSTRUCTIONS and bought the re-positional spray adhesive it recommended in the instructions.  Hobby Lobby carried it as well and I believe it was around $5.  I already had some stencil paint on hand in the brand it recommended, so I decided to just give  it another try with this stencil (Both items are shown below, along with a  tub of stencil paint as just another option; it is a thick cream. I chose to use the bottled paint).

I lightly sprayed the back of the stencil with the adhesive spray and it was so nice to be able to pick it up and move it without any nasty residue! It really was very easy to reposition and yet it still stuck really well once I got it where I wanted it.  Now here is where I veered from the instructions a bit.  I had given up on stencils…I was done, right? So I gave my roller to my oldest daughter for her arts and crafts adventures.  I wasn’t going to buy another one until I knew I could nail this stencil thing. So, I just used a foam sponge I had in my bucket of supplies. I put the stencil paint on a paper plate, lightly dipped the sponge in the paint, dabbed it again on plate just to get any excess off, and then rubbed it across stencil lightly. I don’t usually “dab” it on the stencil as I don’t like that sponge painted look it sometimes leaves.  So I basically just wiped it across the stencil with a light hand.  The nice thing about stencil paint is that it dries pretty quick, so once I was done with one section, I just removed the stencil, moved it onto the next section and repeated the  process until the table top was covered.  Easy! Here is a picture of what it looked like right after I was done with the stencil.

I wanted a really distressed, worn look, so this white was too white and too “Hey, I just stenciled this piece!”

So I distressed it:  

Covered it in CeCe’s clear wax: 

Then finished it off with a coat of CeCe’s clear wax tinted with Hershey Brown:  

Now, I must admit, I am not used to taking step by step pictures to share with others. I seriously did not even remember to turn the garage light on!! DUH! So, please understand you are looking at pictures taken in my dirty garage with the only light coming from the open garage door.  None of this is rocket science, and most of you that are pros are probably thinking “Really? This is basics lady”, but as I like to say, everyone starts somewhere, and this is my somewhere! I love working at something until I get it how I imagined it (expect wreaths and that is a whole other story)!!!   As I say in all my tutorial tips, this is just what worked for me. There are thousands of ways to do this, thousands of techniques that work for others, and a million and one ways to achieve the look you want. Just imagine and play!

Here are a few quick tips:

1.  You don’t have to go out and buy stencil paint! Regular Latex or Chalk Paint will work just fine. However, keep in mind Latex paint is a bit runnier, so go easy with how much you put on your roller.  Plus,  it is going to be harder to get off of your stencil afterwards.

2. Use re-positional spray adhesive to adhere stencil to your surface. So much quicker than taping and sticks great!

3.  Wash stencil immediately after use. Do not let the paint dry on it (Trust me on this one…learned why they tell you this in the instructions…the hard way).

4. If you are nervous or not sure what look you want, practice! This stencil came with a practice board and you can try it on that first, saving you some time and work if you don’t like the finished look.

I am now headed to Hobby Lobby for a more difficult stencil to try. Eventually I hope to learn to free hand…maybe even master the harlequin pattern as my fellow painter and friend Allison has, but, until then, I am happy to stencil away!  Hope everyone has a great week and Happy Stenciling!!



  1. Terri Anderson says:

    thanks soooo much for your post on stencils. I feel the same way as you…just never happy with the outcome. Certainly gonna try your recommendations. I have a few pics on my page Damsel In Distress..would love you to take a peek and like my page.

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