Learn How to Stencil with Success

Learn how to stencil on wood or any surface in simple steps.

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Learn How to Stencil with these tips for Success

It’s no secret I have this new hobby revolving around stenciling and through a lot of practice, I figured out what works and what doesn’t to achieve a good stencil transfer.

Today, I’m sharing those tips and will use this post as a reference for future projects.

First tip is this, relax and enjoy the process because this is a fun activity that really isn’t that difficult.

Where to purchase Stencils?

My favorite stencil source is Old Sign Stencils, I also like to purchase single letters found at craft stores like Hobby Lobby or Michaels.

Since stenciling has become popular, finding neat designs isn’t that difficult because they’re everywhere.  I’ve listed addtional favorites to help you find what you’re looking for.

Scrap Wood

Believe it or not scrap wood has been a bonus for improving the transfer process.

For that reason I keep a bucket of wood in my workshop for easy access.

Learn to Stencil Supplies

Necessary Supplies for Success

  • Wood or some type of surface to transfer a stencil.
  • A good quality stencil.
  • Scrap wood.
  • Chalk or Mineral Paint, any brand will work and they’re easy to use.
  • Stencil Brushes – I prefer short handled ones with nice tight bristles.
  • Painters Tape.

NOTE: Later on I discovered Cutting Edge Stencil brushes and they’re amazing.  Learn more here.

Learn How to Stencil with these tips for Success

Beginning a Stencil Project

  1. Practice your technique prior to using the following tips.
  2. Once you have a ready to go transfer surface make sure it’s clean from debris.
  3. Use painters tape to attach stencil on the surface and cover open areas you don’t want transferred.

Learn Stencil loading the brush

Loading the Brush

Loading the brush is so important and where things normally fall apart if not done correctly.  Here’s my biggest tip, less is BEST!

This is no joke because every time I make a mistake it’s paint related or because I didn’t tape down the stencil.  I’ll show you what I’m referring to in a minute.

  1. First add paint to your brush.
  2. Then brush off the excess on the scrap wood.
  3. Repeat this process every time you reload the brush before you stencil.

The Actual Transfer

I’m serious when I say to practice your stencil transfer prior to adding  on a finished project.  This little step will build your confidence.

With this flower stencil some of my letters are lifted because it’s been used many times and no longer lays flat.

For that reason I didn’t tape the stencil in place because I knew I would have to hold it down anyways.

Note – regardless I should have taped it.  Keep Reading to find out why…

The transfer is a slow dot process over the open areas, sometimes with detailed stencils such as this it’s a good idea to hold down the tight spaces in addition to using painters tape.

Learn How to Stencil Reveal

The Big Reveal

Once the stencil is transferred, lift and see how you did.  Notice on the letter “e” I had a slight move outside the line.

This was because my stencil moved and I failed to tape.  This was intentional so you could see what happens when you don’t follow the steps correctly.

Removing Errors

Remember an error isn’t the end of the world; you can actually remove by using sand paper.

Allow the transfer to dry 100%, this may take 30 minutes or so to decrease any chance of additional smudging.  Once dry, lightly sand and remove it.

This little tip can save a project and remind you to slow down and not skip steps.

Hope you enjoyed this stencil lesson and if you’re already a stencil pro then think about teaching workshops.  I did this for several years and it was a lot of fun to watch others put their own spin on one of my kits.

To learn more check out my book, Make and Take Workshops.  You really can learn how to turn your craft into cash with easy to follow steps.

Learn How to Stencil with these tips for Success


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  1. Jane says:

    you’re such a great teacher! I also don’t like the adhesive…the back of my stencils become a mess.

  2. Jemma says:

    Good Afternoon!
    What a neat tutorial and just what I needed as I have some stencils out and a couple of containers that I am eyeing right this minute.
    I am wondering about stenciling on ceramic?? Is that even possible.
    Thanks again Carole for your tutorials, they are always so helpful.

    1. Carole says:

      Hey Jemma – I haven’t stencil on ceramic but if you have some tiles I would practice on them first. I would also probably use that adhesive spray because ceramic can be slippery. Hope that helps looking forward to see what you come up with.

  3. Sherry Legan says:

    Great post and what a great tutorial! Come over and share the fun over at The Fabulous January Party.
    It’s over here:
    The link changes each Sunday for a new party. Don’t forget to leave a comment even if you don’t link all comments and links are counted for my birthday Giveaway.
    Come by and visit!

  4. Patti says:

    Great tips! I especially love the sanding idea for goof ups. My stenciling has gotten better over time and the one thing I need to remember it to be patient which is a huge issue for me. Your example of less is more is exactly where my impatience gets the better of me. Great post and I know it will help loads of people.

    1. Carole says:

      The “P” word is HUGE!!!! Here’s what I found, because I actually lack patience or keep telling myself I do. Anyways I found stenciling helped me slow down and relax and discover patience. It’s been a really positive activity for me and more of a hobby than anything else. I really do enjoy it and as soon as it warms up around here (Next week) I’m going to get working on our challenge for later this month. Wait till you see what I’m doing.

  5. Cecilia says:

    Haha, I can’t tell you how many mistakes I made in learning to stencil…you’re right, it’s always paint related! I usually got impatient and tried to rush it, not blotting my brush beforehand. Bad idea! I never liked any of the brushes I used either. Definitely will give the Martha Stewart ones a try.

    1. Carole says:

      That paint is something but I do find with the chalk paint especially it’s easier to get it right. Love those brushes!!

  6. Karen says:

    This is a great tutorial, Carole! I’ve been considering an investment in those Martha Stewart brushes. Now I certainly will! Thanks for the nudge.

    1. Carole says:

      Do consider it because I purchased mine over a year ago and they still work great. Everything else I purchased I just recently tossed because they just didn’t hold up. Glad I could help!

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