How to Emboss With Stencils

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How to Emboss With Stencils


IMPORTANT PRACTICE FIRST on poster board, cardboard or a piece of paper.


We suggest that you start by practicing your stenciling technique on poster board, cardboard or a piece of paper. This is a very important first step so that you feel comfortable with using the Sculpture Stencil™ and Stencil or Crackle Paste. If you do make a mistake, remember you can scrape off the paste with a putty knife, wipe the stencil and reuse the paste. Once you have practiced a few sections of the stencil and are comfortable with your results, you should be ready to begin.

1. Determine area to be stenciled. (Stencil Paste and Crackle Paste can be applied to almost any surface except oily surfaces). Carefully cut desired section from the stencil using scissors. You can cut along the "stitched" marks or cut the element as you like (see figure 1).

2. If you are stenciling a border, mark a level line or chalk line on the surface where you wish to begin stenciling (see figure 2).

3. Spray back of stencil with repositionable stencil adhesive spray. Let spray dry for one minute before sticking to surface.

4. Place painters tape along outside edges of stencil to prevent paste from going onto unwanted areas. You are now ready to apply the paste.

5. Using the 1 ½" putty knife, scoop some paste out of the jar (see step 1). Depending on the size of the stencil pattern, you may want to transfer the paste to the 3" or 6" blade. The larger the design of the stencil, the larger the putty knife you will need.

6. Spread paste smoothly over design, holding tool at slight angle (45 degrees) over stencil. Pull in several directions to level paste over pattern. For a thinner raised pattern, scrape paste off to level of stencil. For a thicker raised edge, leave 1/32" to 1/16" of paste on top of the stencil.

7. Slowly lift stencil off surface being decorated. If you make a mistake you can easily scrape the paste off of smooth surfaces immediately with putty knife and try again. Allow paste to dry 2-3 hours if you choose to paint over the design. Paste will dry completely overnight.

8. If a continuous border is desired, mark the surface at the right or left edge (depending on the direction of the repeat) using the edge of the stencil as a guideline. Move the stencil to the repeat position by lining up the marks with the edge of the stencil (see figure 3).

Border Tips:

  • Begin by measuring the distance from corner to corner on each wall.
  • Determine the center point of each wall and mark it.
  • Apply corner designs in all of the corners first (if your stencil comes with a corner design).
  • To apply the border design, START FROM THE CENTER of the wall using the edge of the stencil as your starting point (you will use the right edge when you are repeating to the left and the left edge when you are repeating to the right).
  • Remember to mark the wall using the edge of the stencil between each repeat (see figure 4). 
  • Work from the center out to each corner until you have completed all but one repeat shy of the corner design. At this point you will determine what part of the border design you will end with before each corner design (if your stencil comes with a corner design). Try to end with a completed portion of the border elements; for example, don't split a leaf design or a fleur de lis element down the middle. Make sure you can fit a whole element into the final repeat (see figure 5).figure 5

Advanced Tips:

  • Paste can be tinted with a pure pigment tint before stenciling. Follow manufacturer's instructions and do not over-dilute as it will thin the paste to a consistency that will "sag" on the wall. If you want to glaze over the dimensional design, allow paste to cure at least 24 hours before top coating.
  • Clean stencil thoroughly when finished stenciling, and do not allow paste to cure onto it. If the paste does harden, soak stencil in warm water for several minutes and paste will soften and can be cleaned. Rinse and scrape off all paste on edges of putty knives and other tools used. Store stencil flat.
  • Wipe paste off stencil with a clean damp sponge between every repeat. Do not let the paste dry completely on stencil.
  • Use a soft lead pencil for repeat position marks and a good quality eraser for removing them later.
  • PRACTICE. Take some time to practice your technique. No matter what your experience level, the job will be much easier.


  • Putty Knives in 1½", 3" and 6" sizes
  • Carpenters level (when doing borders) and pencil
  • Moist towel or hand wipes for cleaning stencils and tools. Note: A coarse scrubbing pad, bristle brush, or fine-grit sanding sponge is helpful for completely cleaning stencil if the paste has dried on.
  • Painter's tape or low-tack tape for taping off edges of stencil and preventing paste from getting onto unwanted areas.