How to Stencil an Upcycled Dresser | Designer Stencils

Project Ideas, Tutorials, Upcycling -

How to Stencil an Upcycled Dresser | Designer Stencils

Upcycling is a great, budget friendly way to breathe new life into well-loved furniture and upholstery. In this how to stencil tutorial, we will show you how to stencil a dresser or chest of drawers with our Moroccan inspired Marrakesh Wall Stencil. We will cover basic stenciling techniques such as the Dry Brush Technique as well as specific furniture and wood stenciling tips. Whether you are planning to repaint or stencil a dresser, table, wooden bedframe, this stenciling tutorial will have tips and tricks for any home décor stenciling project.

Before and After...

how to upcycle furniture with stencil templates How to stencil a wooden dresser

Stenciling Supplies for Painting Furniture:

Practice Stenciling First

Stenciling is a little different than painting, but just as fun! The most common stenciling mistake is stenciling with too much paint which causes paint to bleed under the stencil, which is why we recommend using the dry brush technique for stenciling. We always recommend practicing stenciling on a piece of cardboard before beginning a project, especially for first time stencilers, so you can get a feel for just how little paint you need to stencil.

How to Prepare Your Dresser/Furniture for Painting

To start, remove the dresser drawers and unscrew the knobs or drawer handles.

how to upcycle a dresser or chest of drawers

Lightly sand the dresser and drawers. Sanding the dresser before stenciling will help to smooth the surface of the wood, because paint will gather around any little bumps sanding first helps to prevent paint bleed when you stencil. Sanding will also give your paint something to cling to. Replace the drawers (without knobs).

how to upcycle furniture

After sanding, wipe down the dresser with a slightly damp rag to remove any dust and detritus. Dust will prevent the stencil from properly sticking to the wood later.

Cover the dresser mirror

If your dresser has a mirror (or any edge you do not want paint to get on) tape a piece of paper, cardboard or newspaper to the mirror with Frog Painter’s Tape (this is gentler and takes off less paint when removed).

How to Paint a Base Color on Furniture

how to paint wood furniture

Paint your dresser with 2-3 coats of chalk paint (we used Serendipity Blue Annie Sloan chalk paint) as a base layer. Let the paint dry completely before stenciling.

How to Prepare the Stencil Template

Now prepare your stencil template for stenciling. Spray the back of the stencil with our Repositionable Spray Adhesive. Hold the spray can 10” away from the stencil (and facing away from the dresser!) and keep your mouth closed while spraying. Wait 30-60 seconds after spraying before centering the stencil template on top of the dresser. (Our adhesive spray is strong and if you position the stencil too early you may have trouble removing it later). Firmly press all the cutouts of the stencil template into the wood, making sure no edges are sticking up. Tape around the outer edges of the stencil with Painter’s Tape.

How to Stencil Furniture with the Dry Brush Technique

It is important to stencil with a dry brush which means that your brush should be almost dry to the touch when you stencil. (And yes, we do really mean dry). Stenciling with too much paint will cause the excess paint to “bleed” or seep under the stencil design and blur the template design. Before stenciling, use the Dot Test to be sure you have the right amount of paint for stenciling.

 The Dot Test For Stenciling:

How to check that you have the right amount of paint to stencil

  1. Dip you brush or roller in your paint.
  2. Dab or roll all excess paint onto a paper towel or rag. (We recommend holding a roll of paper towels in one hand and dabbing the stencil brush onto the roll).
  3. Make a dot or roll of paint on a scrape piece of paper. Brush the dot with your finger. If the paint smudges you have too much paint. Repeat step 2. If the paint does not smudge, you have a dry brush and are ready to stencil!
  4. If using a paint roller, press the foam with one finger, if paint wells up around your finger, you have too much paint. Repeat step 2.

how to stencil on furniture how to stencil a dresser

To stencil, swirl or stipple your stencil brush over the stencil template. When you first start stenciling, it may seem that only minimal layer of paint is coming through. This is normal, resist the urge to add more paint to your brush. Color will accumulate in many thin layers of paint, 3-4 coats of paint is normal, but you may need a few more depending on your project and the colors you are using. When the brush is completely out of paint, repeat the dot test and continue stenciling until you are satisfied with the color.

Relax while Stenciling

Play some music, listen to a podcast or audiobook and enjoy watching the stencil design gradually fill in. This is time you can relax and have some fun with stencils and paints!

How to Reposition the Stencil Template

You do not need to respray the stencil when you reposition it. If the stencil loses its tackiness, wipe the back (stick side) with a slightly damp cloth to remove any dust. If the stencil is still not sticky, then you can respray it.
To see how to realign the stencil, please see our video, beginning at the 1:10 time stamp.

After removing the stencil template, realign the stencil with the design you just stenciled. If you were able to make registration marks, align the stencil marks with those pencil dots. Firmly press down the stencil template cutouts, re-tape the edges. Repeat steps 4 through 6 until you have stenciled the entire dresser. You may need to lie the dresser on its back or side, please see our video at 1:10 to see how to realign the stencil.

How to Clean the Stencil Template

When you have finished stenciling the final repeat on your dresser, remove the stencil and re-screw in the dresser knobs.

Our stencils are washable and reusable. After stenciling, please clean the paint off the stencil template so that it can be reused for future DIY home décor stenciling projects. How you clean the stencil will depend on the type of paint you used. Chalk paint is a water-based paint and remarkably easy to clean off stencils. Thoroughly soak the stencil template in hot water for five minutes, then wipe the paint off the stencil template with a cloth. For more information on how to clean stencil templates, please see our FAQ page.

Watch our How to Stencil a Dresser Video Tutorial:

What is Stenciling?

Stencils are a design template that enable you to transfer a decorative design onto another surface, such as a piece of furniture. Stencils make personalizing your home décor easier and we offer a broad collection of stunning DIY home décor stencils in a wide array of décor styles from farmhouse and Victorian to mid-century modern stenciling templates. You can stencil almost anything in your home, including glass, fabric, wood, walls and floors. Our stencils are made of high quality Mylar and are easy to use, reusable and very thin to create a precise and even stenciled finish. 

Although you use a brush and paints to stencil, stenciling is not the same as painting. Stenciling with too much paint will cause paint bleed under the stencil. A dry brush and "just a kiss of paint" is used when stenciling and paint is applied in several thin coats until the color has reach your desired saturation. The Dry Brush Technique, or the finger print test explained above, are key to stenciling.

Congratulations, you have upcycled a dresser! Visit our DIY stenciling projects photo gallery and How to Stencil video gallery for more ideas on how to decorate your home with stencils. 

Please send us a picture of your upcycled furniture stenciling projects or share your DIY stenciling projects with us on social media! We love seeing stencils in action.