How to Stencil a Wall

Repeating Patterns, Tutorials -

How to Stencil a Wall

Wall stencils are a fun, reusable, DIY wallpaper substitute.

In this How-To-Stencil tutorial, we will show you how to stencil a wall using our Cornelius Wall Stencil and Tranquil Branches Wall Stencil. In this how-to stenciling project guide we will cover wall stenciling techniques, including how to stencil with a dry roller, how to prevent paint bleed, how to clean and wall stencil template and how to align repeating stencil patterns to stencil a whole wall or room.

Scroll down to watch our How to Stencil a Wall video tutorial. 

What is Wall Stenciling?

Wall stenciling is an easy, budget friendly way to spruce up your home by hand. Wall stencils are a fun, DIY wallpaper substitute. Our wall painting stencils can be washed and reused to decorate one room, the whole house or just one exciting home décor wall accent. Wall stencils are incredibly versatile and can be used to stencil more than just walls. You can use a wall stencil to paint your floors or ceilings, stencil curtains or paint upcycled furniture. With wall painting stencils, creativity is the limit!

Stencil Supplies Needed to Stencil a Wall

Practice First: We always recommend practicing stenciling on a piece of cardboard before beginning a project, especially if this is your first time stenciling. Stenciling is not the same as painting, and a key difference is the amount of paint you use to stencil. Stenciling with too much paint can cause paint bleed, when paint seeps under the stencil template. A "dry brush (or roller)" technique is used to prevent paint bleed, we will explain this later. It is important to get a feel for how little paint you need on your brush or roller (sponge or rag). Before stenciling your walls, take a little time to hone your stenciling technique on a piece of cardboard.

How to Prepare Your Walls for Stenciling

It is very important to stencil on a clean and smooth surface. Before stenciling you walls, clean them and sand off any rough or bumpy patches We also recommend applying a fresh coat of paint to your walls before stenciling as it helps to prevent paint bleed.

Dust will prevent the stencil from sticking to the wall, so clean your walls with a damp cloth before stenciling. 

Prepare the room as if you were paint you walls, lay down some cloth or newspaper on the floor to catch paint spills, and assemble all your tools, some refreshment and your favorite music. 

How to Prepare the Stencil Template

Remove the stencil from its shipping container and place it on a flat surface in a warm place, like the kitchen. You do not need to manually flatten the stencil, the stencil will relax and flatten if left in a warm place for about 15 minutes. Use this time to prepare for stenciling.

How to Spray and Position the Stencil Template

To position the stencil on the wall, we recommend using our Repositionable Adhesive Spray, which will enable you to remove and reposition the stencil after you have finished stenciling one section of your wall. You can also use painter's tape to hold the stencil in place (we like frog painter's tape because it is very gentle and takes off less paint when you remove it) or both. Just make sure the stencil is securely affixed to the wall until you are done stenciling.

Spray one side of your stencil with our Repositionable Adhesive Spray. Do this away from the wall you will be stenciling, you do not want the wall or anything else becoming sticky too. Keep you mouth and closed while spraying. After spraying the stencil, wait 30-60 seconds before positioning the stencil template on the wall. This is very important, our adhesive spray is strong stuff, and if you don't wait 30 seconds you might have trouble removing the stencil later. Use the carpenter’s level to make sure the stencil is properly aligned and straight.

Use Frog Painter's Tape
mark the registration marks

Once the stencil is in place, gently press all the edges of the stencil design flat and make sure that there are no edges sticking up.

If you are using repeating pattern, allover wall stencils, place a small piece of frog painter's tape beneath the registration marks in the four corner stencil template. Registration marks are small, triangular marks in the corners of the stencil. They register the exact location of the stencil, and will guide you when you realign the wall stencil to repeat the pattern later on. See our post on How to Align Repeating Pattern Allover Wall Stencils for more details.

Now you are ready to begin stenciling!

How to Stencil a Wall with a Dry Roller

rub off excess paint Finger print test

The key to stenciling is a dry brush (roller, sponge or rag). Stenciling with too much paint will cause paint to bleed under the stencil, blurring the artwork. To stencil, apply paint in multiple thin layers, typically 4 to 5 coats of paint, although some projects may need more coats. The Dot Test is one way of checking that you have the right amount of paint to stencil.

When stenciling with a paint roller* you can also do a finger print test. After dipping your roller in paint, offload (roll off) as much excess paint as you can in the painters tray or on a paper towel. Press one finger into the paint roller. If paint wells up around your finger you have too much paint to stencil. Continue rolling out paint on the paint tray, cardboard or paper towels until you have a "dry roller".

*Wall Stenciling Tip:

The key to stenciling is not applying to much paint. We recommend stenciling a wall with a 2" to 4" high density foam roller because it absorbs less paint which will help prevent paint from bleeding under the stencil. While you can stencil with any paint roller, you will get better results with a high-density foam roller.

Stencil with a dry brush or roller Color is accumulated gradually

Although it might seem as though there is too little paint to stencil, a dry roller is best for stenciling. The first coat of paint may seem too light but resist the urge to stencil with more paint. Continue stenciling in multiple, light coats of paint until you are happy with the color. You can lift up a corner of your wall stencil template to see what the paint color looks like. 

(Remember you are not painting the whole stencil, only the stencil openings).

How to Stencil a Wall with Allover Repeating Patterns

Once the stencil has been removed, reposition it on the wall in the next place you will stencil. Recall those faint pencil marks you made in the small holes in the four corners of the stencil; these will your guide to repositioning the stencil.

Wait for the paint the dry completely before removing the stencil. To remove the stencil, gently roll the stencil off the wall. Be slow and careful to make sure no paint comes off with the stencil. Once the stencil has been removed, reposition it on the wall in the next place you will stencil.

Line one side of the stencil with these registration marks, and place two of the circle cutouts on the stencil over two registration marks on one side of the section you just finished stenciling.

Make new registration marks in the registration cutouts in the stencil so that you are ready to realign the stencil when you have finished stenciling this section.

(You can see the pieces of green tape where we marked and aligned the stencil as we moved it along the wall using the registration marks on the stencil).

You will not need to respray the stencil every time you reposition it.The stencil should stay sticky after the first spray. If the stencil loses some of its tackiness, it could be because dust and debris have collected on top of the adhesive. Use a damp cloth to remove the dust from the back of the stencil (sticky side) and the the wall. If the stencil still does not stick, you can respray it.

How to Stencil in Wall Corners

Stenciling the wall corners and edges can be a bit tricky. First, put frog painter's tape along the wall corner opposite the one you will stencil first. This tape will prevent any paint smudges from getting on the other side of the corner.

Use painters tape to prevent accidental smudging Push the stencil into the corner Make sure the stencil is flat

 (Here we pushed and bent the stencil into the corner. If you look closely you can see where the painter's tape is, on the corner opposite the one we will stencil). 

Push the stencil as far into the corner as you can, making sure that it is completely flat against the wall. If there is not enough space to stencil a full repeat of the wall stencil pattern, you can bend the stencil into the corner. Just make sure the wall stencil registration marks align properly.

Stencil the corners the same dry brush or roller technique you used before.

How to Stencil a Wall from Floor to Ceiling

Stenciling along the top and bottom edges of a wall is similar to stenciling in the corners. Start by taping along the floor or crown molding along the wall to prevent accidentally paint smudging in places you do not want paint.

Using painter's tape to prevent paint smudging bend the stencil to fit Gently remove the painter's tape

The top and bottom edges of the wall is another place you might not have room for a full repeat of the wall stencil pattern. Again, just like when you stenciled the corners, you can bend the stencil to fit into this smaller space. You do not need to crease the stencil when you bend it, but do make sure that the stencil is completely flat against the wall where you will be applying paint.

Because you are stenciling a smaller space, it may be easier to stencil the edges of your walls with a stencil brush.

Once you are finished stenciling, remove the painter's tape very gently, to keep any paint from coming off with the tape.

How to Clean the Stencil Template

Our wall stencils are washable and reusable! But they do require a little care to keep their fresh appearance. After you finish stenciling, always wash and dry your stencil, paint brushes and paint rollers to keep them fresh and reusable.

How you clean you stencil will depend on what type of paint you used. Check your paint can for specific instructions on how to clean your painting tools (i.e. what sort of solution is needed to remove the paint), and read our How to Clean Stencils FAQ for more details on how to clean stencils.

Watch our How to Stencil a Wall Video Tutorial:

    What is the Difference Between Stenciling and Painting

    The main difference between stenciling and painting is the amount of paint you use to stencil. If you stencil with too much paint, the excess paint will seep under the stencil and blur the stencil design. Too much paint will also create a stenciled design that is noticeably thicker than the surface it was stenciled on.

    The secret to stenciling is to use a nearly dry brush or roller to stencil multiple, thin layers of paint. This is called the “Dry Brush Technique”, which we explain in more detail in Step 4. Although it may seem counterintuitive, your paint brush or paint roller really should be almost dry to the touch when you stencil. Paint color will gradually accumulate in many, thin layers of paint (5 to 6 coats of paint is common).

    If you are stenciling with a paint brush, avoid brushing paint onto the stencil and instead apply color by stippling with the brush or swirling the brush in small, circular motions.

    Wall Stenciling Tip:

    Paint does not bleed twice. Painting your walls before stenciling is one of the best ways to prevent paint bleed because it smooths the surface you will be stenciling on. Any small bumps or ridges on the walls are places where paint can slide around and under the stencil, creating minor imperfections.

    You do not have to paint you walls before stenciling, but if it has been a while since they were last painted, this might be the time to repaint. 

    Learn more about how to stencil your home and create beautiful home décor in whatever style you like. Visit our Stenciling Blog for DIY stenciling project tutorials, such as our How to Stencil Accent Wall Art. Or our Video Gallery for how to stencil tutorials and stenciling projects tips. You can find pictures of stenciled walls in our DIY stenciling projects Photo Gallery along with other DIY stenciling project ideas and inspiration.

    Wall stenciling may seem like a daunting home project, but with the right tools and know-how it can be a fun and exciting way to personalize your home décor. Whether you prefer an elegant damask stencil, a fun and whimsical stencil for a kids bedroom, or a subtle, farmhouse style stencil, there is a stencil design for you. Shop our DIY home décor stencils today!

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