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While the finished product is usually beautiful, stenciling a wall can be overwhelming and tedious. Last week when I painted my friend’s wall to review a Royal Design Studio stencil, I was up most of the night beforehand, worrying about making a mistake.
Most of my worries came from horror stories I had read on other blogs. It seemed like everyone made a mistake here and there–one stencil wasn’t level so they had to start over, paint seeped through the stencil, the corners were impossible to do, etc.
The only problem was that this wasn’t my wall. If I made a mistake, I couldn’t just repaint it later whenever I felt like it. I knew I needed to be prepared and do things right the first time.
Thankfully, that preparation paid off. There were no mistakes. No do-overs. No “oh well, it doesn’t look that bad” remarks. Nope. I got it right the first time and here’s how I did it!
Things You’ll Need
Stencil (if it’s an allover pattern, make sure it has repeat registration marks)
Two foot plastic level
6″ high density foam roller
Natural bristle stencil brush
Small acrylic/oil paint brush
Stencil spray adhesive
Paint tray, cardboard strip, or paper plate for holding paint
Good quality paper towels
Canvas or plastic drop cloth
Ladder or step-stool, if needed
I found that the most important part of stenciling a wall is to use the proper tools. It will save you tons of grief in the end, I assure you!
The first weapon in your arsenal should be stencil adhesive spray. I used this Martha Stewart version because that’s all our Michael’s had, but any brand should work fine. Be careful, though, to get stencil adhesive spray, not just adhesive spray. The latter is a permanent adhesive–not what you want!
The purpose of the spray is twofold. First, it helps the stencil adhere to the wall, in addition to painter’s tape. Second, because many stencils have are intricate and have a lot of cut out pieces they can be very flimsy. If those the tiny pieces of the stencil aren’t adhered to the wall, the paint can seep underneath and create a very messy pattern. The stencil spray ensures a nice, clean paint job.
After you spray the adhesive on the back of the stencil, use painter’s tape to secure the edges. Then use the stencil’s repeat registration marks to line it up with the patterns you previously painted.
In the picture below, I was painting between two stencils I had already done. The pattern called for it to be exactly midway between the stencils, but somewhat lower. Instead of having to measure (and pray) for it to be even, all you have to do is line up the marks on the stencil with the pattern on the wall.
FYI-Registration marks obviously can’t be done on the very first stencil painted on the wall. Instead, find the exact middle of the the wall and start at the top, close to the ceiling. Starting in the middle means that the rest of the stencil pattern will be symmetrical. This is especially important when the room contains a fireplace or some other defining feature.
Even if you have the registration marks lined up perfectly, it is absolutely necessary to make sure the stencil is level. Do this each and every time you paint a new stencil or you run the risk of having one or more of them being crooked.
I used a two foot plastic level. It was light enough to hold with one hand, but long enough that it measured the entire length of the stencil.
After you place the stencil on the wall, line it up, and level it, it’s time to get rollin’. Seriously. I used this exact roller–the Whizz 6″ roller for doors and cabinets. It is the perfect size for stencils, if you ask me. I found it at Lowes.
Even more important than the frame, though, is the roller itself. You want high density foam rollers, because they don’t absorb nearly as much paint as one made for walls or other surfaces. I bought these at Lowes, as well. They gave the stencil a perfectly smooth finish, and I had no drips whatsoever.
In addition to a high density foam roller, paper towels are your number one way to prevent paint drips and seepage. After you dip the roller in the paint, roll the excess onto a good quality paper towel. Then, using even pressure, roll the paint over the stencil. (Acrylic paints work best.)
Peel off the stencil, and you’re ready to move on to the next one. I was able to move the stencil three to four times before I had to spray on the adhesive again.
Corners require special tools. A roller won’t reach all the way to the corner, so you’ll have to use a stencil brush. I used a natural bristle brush that you can see in the photo above. It’s even more important when using a brush to get off all excess paint. Once you’ve brushed in the areas that the roller can’t reach, take off the stencil and use a small acrylic paint brush to touch up. I used an “angled shader” that I got in a variety pack of paint brushes at Hobby Lobby, and it worked very well.
You can see in the photo below that the stencil doesn’t look level. It’s not, not completely. I only needed the right side to be level. Adhering as much of the stencil as possible to the wall on the right made the rest of it unlevel. It didn’t matter, though. I checked and rechecked that the part on the right was level, then went to work. It turned out perfectly every time.
I’ll never type the words right or level again, I promise.
Just in case you need more proof of how flexible these stencils are:
So there you are. Here’s the photo of Christine’s wall when I was done with it. You can read more about the stencil I used and see more pictures here.
Now go stencil something!