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Paint Stenciling FAQ

Yes. There are four common types of strokes for stenciling.
Circular: Use a circular stroke to achieve an evenly shaded print. Move the loaded brush in a clockwise direction, focusing on the outside edge of the cutout area. The circular stroke is recommended when using dry brush paint. If acrylic paints are used, care must be taken to remove excess paint from the brush and to keep a light pressure on the brush to prevent smudged prints.
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Pouncing: A pounced stroke is ideal for beginners, as it will not readily cause a smudged print. Apply the paint in an up-and-down pouncing motion. The more you pounce, the more solid or opaque the print will become.
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Sweeping: Use a back-and-forth sweeping stroke to create a directional print. This stroke is especially effective in large cut out areas, or when using a flat stencil brush. Use caution - too much paint on the brush can result in a brush-under smudge.
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Rolling: The stencil roller can by used with one or two shades of paint. A darker color can then be added to accent ares of the stencil or for the second overlay. The finished print will not have outside edge shading.
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Combination: A combination stroke blends pouncing, circular and sweeping strokes. This is a secondary stroke added after the stencil is first rolled on the surface. Then certain design elements can be added using a different technique.
You may try adding weight to the dry stencil between uses. Lay a sheet of waxed paper over the stencil then load it up with heavy books, etc.
Absolutely, forced air will help to speed drying time not only on the stenciled surface, but also on the paper stencil itself if it is to be repeated.
It is always best to begin by creating a paper pattern. Trace each letter or word onto tracing paper checking your spacing between each letter and each word. Once you are happy with the design, use this paper pattern as your template to stencil directly onto your surface. It is best also to begin stenciling in the center of the word or phrase. Then continue stenciling outwards one letter / word at a time. Also be careful that each letter is completely dry prior to stenciling next to it. Do NOT lay a paper stencil over a wet letter/word.
Paper stencils are not intended for life-long uses. If your stencil is well used and paint has built up over the design with use, you might be ready for a new paper stencil or you may try this tip: gently sand the dried paint build up with a very fine grit sandpaper.
You might try spray sealing both sides of the paper stencil prior to stenciling the first time. If you know ahead of time that you might repeat this design several times, or if you are planning to use a heavy paint application technique, it is a good idea to spray seal the stencil to provide a little added protection.
If you tear a stencil, repair it by applying a small amount of transparent tape to both sides of the tear. Use a utility knife to cut away tape from inside the cutout areas of the design.
When you wish to use only one part of a design, tape over the cutout areas near it with stencil tape. Sometimes this is done to stencil part of the design with one color and other parts with another color. If you then want to include the areas you masked out, remove the tape, tape over the areas you previously stenciled with the first color, and stencil the next areas with the second color.
For unfinished wood: Apply a base stain or clean wood sealer and allow adequate time to dry. After stenciling, wait 2-3 days and apply waterbase varnish to finish. Test a small section before applying the finish coat. Choose waterbase finishes; oil-base polyurethane can yellow the surface.
For pre-finished paneling: Wash to remove wax or dirt. If applying a glaze for a pickled look, test the color in an inconspicuous place. IF paneling has a glossy finish, paint may not adhere to it. In that case, paint paneling with a bonder/primer such as BIN or KILZ. After stenciling, roll on one or two coats of waterbase varnish for maximum scrubbability. Be sure not to layer water and oil based paints together.
Gently remove the cut outs from the stencil by pressing on them. If they do not pop out easily, then use a craft knife to cut the area where they remain attached. After removing the cut outs, put them aside you can use the shapes for tracing templates.
  1. Pre-wash and dry fabric. This will remove the sizing that comes in new fabric and help the paint bond better with the fibers.
  2. Place and secure fabric over a plastic-covered or waxed cardboard to create a firm surface for stenciling and to prevent bleed-through to any other part of the fabric.
  3. Load stencil brush by dabbing into paint puddle and circle on a paper towel to disperse the paint into the bristles and remove the excess. You can always go back and add more paint, however, an overloaded brush can cause an instant smudge that is next to impossible to remove from fabric.)
  4. Apply paint with either a pouncing or circular stroke. Let fabric thoroughly dry, at least 36 hours.
  5. Heat set by placing cloth over the stenciling and applying concentrated heat, at the wool setting, for several minutes. Launder or dry clean as you would any delicate fabric.
To adjust a stencil design to fit the corners of your room, on one wall you might need to stretch and on the other to squeeze the design. Try to stretch or squeeze the motif when stenciling the final corner where the design is to meet. If that's not practical, another option is to add a less dominant design motif, such as an acorn, a leaf, or a twig, in the final corner to finish the design.
To stretch the design: To ease the design into the corner so a major design element fits on the adjoining wall, stretch the last 304 repeats by increasing the space between design elements 1/2" to 1" per repeat.
Squeezing the design: Decrease the spacing between design elements 1/4" to 1/2" so that the design element that would have gone into the corner is pulled back on the wall before the corner.
After cleaning with water or Murphy's Oil soap, store stencils flat in the package they came in or in large envelopes or file folders. Tape a copy of a paper proof to the package, envelope or folder for easy identification.
1. Dip tips of bristles into brush cleaner. To activate cleaner, dip brush in water. Never soak a stencil brush in water.
2. Work the brush on the scrubber in the lid of the brush cleaner. Add more water if needed to make a foam lather. Rinse clean with running water. Blot brush on a towel to remove as much water as possible.
3. On larger brushes, loop a rubber band around bristle tips and roll it to the ends of the bristles to keep bristles from splaying. Place brushes on their sides to dry. When dry, store flat or on the handle ends with bristles up. Brushes must be completely dry before re-use.
Shading is a simply a matter of building up a greater intensity of color in part of the cutout area, leaving other parts light. The shaded area is frequently around the edges of the design area. Shading can also be done with a different color, applying it only in the area you wish to shade, letting the first color show in other areas.
It is advisable to wait until the first paint application is thoroughly dry prior to layering a second part of the stencil design. Layering a stencil while wet will ensure a mistake of blurred paint.
Bridges are partitions within the design of the stencil. Stencils without bridges are called "bridgeless" or "theorem-style" stencils.
A paper proof is a sample print of the stencil design, used for testing accuracy of overlays, alignment and colors and for practicing stenciling techniques. Paper proofs are also measurement tools for judging design placement for stenciling.
A shaded stencil print is a stenciled out image of the design with a lighter tone at the center of the print and a darker, more opaque tone around the edge of the cutout area. Shading is achieved with varying degrees of pressure or with complementary or contrasting colors of paint.
A shadowed stencil print is a stenciled out image of the design with a shadow that makes the print more lifelike.
A stencil print is a stenciled out image of the design.
A template is a shield which consists of an edge that can be stenciled to create a design, such as a large, curved piece to form hills or mountains. When used in this context, a template is also called a frisket. Many pre-cut stencil designs include templates or friskets. You can create a template by cutting a piece of a 5" x 8" index card or stencil blank material to the shape you need.
A translucent stencil print is a stenciled out image of the design that is lighter toward the center of the design with a shaded, more distinct outer edge. On some surfaces, the wall surface or texture shows through.
An opaque stencil print is a stenciled out image of the design with intense color build-up and without shading or tone variance. This style of stenciling is very effective with bright or primary colors.
One color stenciling is not just for beginners, it is quite popular in today's home fashions as a monochromatic or serene trend. The bonus for the beginner is that this type of stenciling is easy to do, yet achieves a decorator look. While many stencils are made for one color stenciling (one overlay), any stencil can be used. When there are multiple overlays, simply use the same color with each.
One Color Stenciling with a Brush: Stencil with a light circular stroke. Swirl paint on the entire cut out area or around the outer edges of the design. Add more pressure to your brush, not more paint, continuing with a clockwise, then counter-clockwise, motion.
One Color Stenciling with a Roller: A foam roller is an excellent tool for stenciling large areas with an overall coverage. With the stencil taped securely in place, roll back and forth, applying even pressure. Roll in several directions, distributing color to the edges of the stencil.

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