Stencilling Hints & Tips
Adapted from “The Stencilled Home” by Helen Morris
Adhering a stencil to a surface
In my experience, the best way to secure your stencil is to use an adhesive repositioning spray. A light spraying will last a long time without leaving traces of glue on your surface. This is valuable when stencilling fabric or using spray paint. Always follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions. A cheaper, but inferior, alternative is to use low-tack masking tape.
Emulsion (latex), acrylic and water-based stencil paint will dry instantly if you use this method. Use a separate brush for each colour and ensure that each one is dry before starting work.
1. Shake up your paint so that it coats the inside of the lid, making a handy palette. Put just the tips of the bristles in the paint and circle the loaded brush onto a wad of kitchen paper. A vigorous swirling disperses the paint up the bristles. Do one last swirl on a clean patch to dry the tips of the brush.
2. Before your first attempt at stencilling, do a test stipple on a piece of paper and run your finger instantly over the mark – if it smudges, go back to your kitchen paper. It is surprising how little paint you need and how far it goes. Stippling, or pouncing, is produced by tapping the flat end of the brush straight up and down onto your surface, keeping your brush at 90 degrees so that the bristles do not escape under the stencil bridges.
3. Another method of stencilling is to swirl or circle the paint through the stencil. The method is just as the names describes just ‘tickle’ the paint through the stencil windows. Begin the stencilling motion on the film just outside your design and swirl your way into the shape.
Stencilling with oil paint sticks
This is a very easy way of stencilling for beginners, where the colours blend well. Brushes should be used with these crayons to disperse the colour. Make sure that you have a clean, dry brush for every colour. Some crayons are colour-fast on fabrics always do a test piece and wait 72 hours before laundering.
1. Use a dust sheet to protect surfaces and have kitchen paper handy to keep oily fingers at bay.
2. Using a non-porous palette, such as a tile, a polythene bag or the surrounding plastic stencil, scribble colour from the crayon.
4. In order to create shading, add deeper colour around the edges of the shapes.
5. When using paint sticks on a surface that may need varnish, wait three to five days before doing so. Clean your stencil and brush with white spirit.
Shading and blending
When shading, start with the lightest colour and finish with the darkest. Follow this sequence and the order in which the colours were applied will be easily remembered. You then only need to take extra care in placing the last colour, as mistakes with paler colours can be covered up.
1. Start by stencilling onto the surround and work your way into the holes from the edges in (see photograph below).
2. Round shapes, such a fruit or balloons, benefit from gradually fading the colour towards the middle of the shape. This gives dimension to the shape, acting as a bloom on fruit, a shine on a balloon, or sunlight on a leaf. Yellow has been applied to some of the leaves on this stencil, which will merge with the green and red and make the image appear softer and more colourful.
3. The next colour can now be applied wherever it is desired. The yellow leaves here are lightly covered with green, but the centre of the fruit has been left.
4. Finally apply your darkest shade, which will emphasise any outlines that you want to define. Keep the darkest or strongest colours to the edges of each shape so that the design edges are clearly visible. If you stipple or wiggle your brush onto the surround so that just a few bristles get to colour the shape, you will achieve delicate outlining. Note that the largest amount of red paint is on the outside, rather than the inside of the stencil pattern.
5. When repeating your shaded design, do not bother to replicate the first one – a similar effect will be better than an exact one.
Cutting a stencil
Although all our stencils are supplied ready cut you may want to experiment with cutting your own stencils. Use a self-heal cutting mat or a sheet of glass. Hold a scalpel or craft knife like a pencil and make your cut smoothly and continuously. Do not lift your blade more than necessary and always cut towards yourself and manoeuvre the stencil rather than the knife.
1. Cut out all areas to be stencilled as well as the registration marks. As you cut the stencil it will become floppier, so start with small details and work from the middle outwards. If you break one of the stencil bridges, repair it by placing sticky tape over the wound and cut the shape again through the tape.
2. A heatpen can be used to cut polyester stencils by tracing the outline of the design with the nib of the pen. The shape should pop out. Do not forget to cut out your registration crosses. Cut on to glass when using a heatpen.