• How to Stencil on Rough Surfaces

    In general, it is best to stencil on a smooth and even surface. Stenciling on a rough surface is difficult and might not produce the best results. If the surface you are stenciling on is rough, there are a few things you can do to make your  stenciling project easier and more effective. Here are our expert stenciling tips for how to stencil on a rough surface.

    The number one problem with stenciling on a rough surface is paint bleed. Paint bleed is when paint slips beneath the stencil template and blurs the stenciled design. You can prevent paint bleed by cleaning and smoothing the surface you want to stencil on, sealing it with a sealant and/or painting a base coat. Using the right stenciling technique is also important. Stenciling with too much paint can flood the stencil and cause paint bleed. Paint should be applied in multiple thin layers when stenciling. Keep reading to learn more about these stenciling tips: 

    1. Clean the surface you will stencil.

      Dust and dirt will keep the stencil template from sticking to the surface you want to stencil. Places where the stencil sticks up are places paint can bleed beneath the stencil. Always clean the surface you want to stencil before stenciling. You can wipe it down with a damp cloth, or use masking tape or a lint roller if you are stenciling on fabric. Just make sure you are stenciling on a clean surface.

    2. Smooth the rough surface you are stenciling on.

      If you are stenciling on wood, you can sand and prime the wood before you stencil to create a smooth surface. If you are stenciling on concrete, walls, or another surface you can sand, do so before stenciling. Painting a base coat before you stencil can also help to smooth the rough surface you want to stencil.

      If you can't sand or paint the surface you want to stencil, you can use a sealer spray to smooth it. The spray sealer will help to even out the surface you want to stencil. (If you are stenciling on cork or corkboard, we strongly recommend you seal the cork before stenciling).

    3. Proper stenciling technique:

      It is very important to stencil in thin coats of paint. Stenciling with too much paint will flood the stencil template and cause paint to bleed underneath the stencil.

      If you are stenciling with spray paint, spray light coats in quick side to side motions perpendicular to the stencil template. Wait a few seconds for each coat of paint to dry before spraying the next layer.

      If you are stenciling with a brush or roller, stencil with the dry brush/roller technique. Use the "Dot Test" if you are stenciling with a dry brush or the "Fingerprint Test" if you a stenciling with a paint roller*.

      For the Dot Test, swirl you stencil brush in paint and then dab all the excess paint on a paper towel. When you think your brush is ready, make a dot on a piece of paper. Brush the dot with your finger, if the dot smudges you have too much paint to stencil. If it doesn't, you are ready to go!

      For the fingerprint tests, roll your foam roller in paint and then roll off excess paint on the paint tray or scrap cardboard. Press your finger into the foam, if paint wells up around your finger you have too much paint for stenciling. Continue rolling off excess paint.

      Stencil in multiple thin layers of paint until you are satisfied with the color.

    *Stenciling Tip: We recommend stenciling with high density foam rollers. High density Foam Rollers absorb less paint, which helps to prevent paint bleed and gives you more control when stenciling. 

    Again, rough surfaces are not ideal for stenciling. While these stenciling tips can help you avoid paint bleed when stenciling on rough surfaces, you might still experience some bleed.

    For more stenciling tips and techniques see our other FAQs or visit our stenciling blog or stenciling projects video gallery. If you have other questions about how to stencil, ask us (we are stenciling experts). 

  • Are Our Stencils Pre-cut?

    Aside from a few popular items, most of our stencils are cut to order.  We have literally thousands of designs, and it would be impossible to keep inventory of all those pieces. Instead we maintain a high level of production capacity everyday so that most orders can be cut and shipped within 24 hours. Over 95% of our orders are shipped within 3 days of their order.  We adjust our machines and work schedules to ensure that we can keep up with our customer demand. If you have a particular timing need we are always willing to try and meet your deadline if possible. Please email or call us if you have a specific timing question.

  • How We Cut Our Stencils

    We use state-of-the-art C&C lasers to cut the majority of our stencils. Lasers cut a microscopic slice out of stencil material to provide the most accurate cutting possible. We prefer using lasers because they can cut a broader range of stencil materials than any other process and consistently produce the highest quality stencils.

    Occasionally we do use other Technologies, such as CNC routers and knife cutting, for stencil designs that are better suited by these processes. No matter the process, we always maintain the high quality of our stencils.

  • How to Clean Stencils

    Always clean your stencils (and brushes) immediately after use. 

    If you are stenciling a long project (such as a wall), periodically wipe paint off the stencil with a damp cloth or sponge to prevent the paint drying on the stencil. (Be gentle and don’t bend the cut-out design). When you have finished stenciling, give your stencil a final clean.

    Cleaning a stencil will depend on what type of paint you have used: oil-based or water-based paint.

    If you don't know what type of paint you are using, the paint can, or bottle will likely say if it is oil or water based. If it doesn't, one clue would be if the paint is flammable, most oil-based paints are flammable, while water-based paints are not. If you are still not sure, an easy test is to run your used paint brush under some water. If the paint dissolves in the water easily it is water based, if not then it is oil based. We normally recommend acrylic paints for stenciling, which are water based. 

    For Water-Based Paint:

    • The easiest way to clean a stencil is to immerse the stencil in hot water, and let it soak for about five minutes. The paint should soften and swell and can be wiped off with a cloth or a soft bristle brush.
    • Be gentle when wiping off paint to not bend the cut-out designs.
    • Thoroughly clean all paint off the stencil, so that it can be used again and again.

    For Oil-Based Paint:

    • Dampen a cloth or sponge with turpentine or mineral spirits and gently rub off the paint in small circular motions.
    • Be gentle and don’t bend the cut-out designs
    • Clean thoroughly.
  • How to Prepare Surfaces for Stenciling

    Preparing surfaces to be stenciled depends on what you are stenciling. General Rule: Clean all surfaces before you stencil. (Wipe all dust off with a damp cloth before applying the stencil). For Rough Wood: sand wood and then clean it with a damp cloth. Wash and Dry Fabrics.

  • How to Stencil on Fabric

    KEY TIP: Use a Piece of Cardboard

    • Spray a piece of cardboard with Spray Adhesive and lay the fabric flat onto, this will help create a still, even stenciling surface. When stenciling bags, it sometimes is useful to weight the ends of the bag down with rocks, or a paperweight.

    Clean First: make sure that you have cleaned the surface you will stencil, this is especially important when stenciling fabric that you might later wash. If you are stenciling a bag, t'shirt, blanket, ect. be sure to wash and dry the item before stenciling. Sometimes it also helps to run a lint roller over the fabric before applying the stencil.

    • Iron If Needed: If the fabric is very creased, consider ironing first. Smooth surfaces are best for stenciling. You can iron on any clothing, bags, and some curtains you plan to stencil. (If there are wrinkles you can't iron, considering steaming).
    • Or when stenciling fabric lampshadespillows or upholstery gently wipe a damp cloth over the fabric to remove any dust that might be on the surface.

    For Paint: mix acrylic paint with fabric paint medium 2:1 ratio (2 parts acrylic to 1 part fabric). 

    Stencil: stencil using the dry brush technique and apply swirl on the fabric in very thin layers. Fabric tends to require more layers of paint than hard surfaces, but keep those layers thin. 

    Have Fun Stenciling! 

    P.S. sometimes the paint needs to dry between layers. If you notice your brush is removing paint rather than adding it, take a few minutes to rest and let the paint dry, then go back to stenciling.

  • Best Stenciling Techniques

    1. Essential: Use an adhesive spray to firmly stick the stencil to the surface you are stenciling. (unless you are using an adhesive-backed stencil).
    2. Less Paint on the brush/roller is best. This is called the “Dry Brush Technique”. Using too much paint will cause color “bleeding” under the edges of the stencil design, and a less even finish.

      If using a Brush: The Dot Test: dip your brush in the paint, then blot all excess paint onto a paper towel/paper towel roll. Then use your brush to make a dot on some scrap paper. Brush the dot with your finger, if the paint smudges the brush has too much paint. Repeat blotting, and then make another dot. When your dot does not smudge you have the right amount of paint for stenciling.

      If using a Roller: Blot off excess paint on a paper towel or in the paint trough. Be sure the roller is almost dry before you begin stenciling.

      3. Color is best applied in many light, even coats of paint. (5-6 coats is normal, stenciling on fabric may require more). Swirl the paint onto the stencil design and continue to apply more layers until you are satisfied with color.
      4. Allow the paint to dry between coats. If you notice your brush is removing paint rather than adding it, take a brief rest and let the paint dry before adding more coats.
      5. If the surface you are stenciling is uneven, stipple (dab the bristles up and down) to prevent color “bleeding”. Stippling is also a good technique for stenciling slippery surfaces such as glass.
      6. Apply painter tape (we highly recommend frog tape) around the edges of the stencil and on any areas you don’t want to paint. This helps create a crisp finish.