How To Stencil
How to paint a wooden sign for beginners:
Stencil brushes and/or cosmetic sponges
Paint (acrylic and chalk paint are most common)
Foam brush or foam roller
Low Adhesive masking tape (such as painters tape)
- PREP YOUR BOARD
Sand/smooth out any rough areas on your board. (A rough surface may cause your stencil to not lay as flat ). Make sure the surface is clean, then apply your base coat of paint or stain using a foam brush or roller (both are washable/reusable). They both smooth out and cover paint evenly with fewer strokes, helping eliminate brush marks.
*Tip: You can find pre-cut wood pieces in many craft stores or purchase wood at a local hardware store - many places will even cut your board to size for you. Or upcycle barn wood, fence posts, old cabinet doors, ect.
- POSITION YOUR STENCIL
Once board is very dry, position your stencil where you want it on your board, then secure it with some painters tape. This helps prevent stencil from shifting when stenciling. (Some use spray adhesive on the back, but tape tends to be the quickest with no mess).
- LOAD YOUR BRUSH/SPONGE
Squeeze a small amount of paint onto a paper plate, newspaper or scrap of wood. Lightly dip the tip of the stencil brush or sponge into the paint (do not saturate - you want just a little). Work the paint into the bristles by dabbing/swirling the paint in a fresh/dry area of your plate, then blot off any excess paint on a paper towel. It should feel almost "dry" to the touch (NOT WET) - this step is SO important, as too much paint will cause it to bleed underneath the stencil and won't produce a crisp result. Make sure there is very little paint on your brush.
- STENCILING (DRY BRUSH STENCILING & SPONGING)
There are different ways to stencil. The most common is either the 'stippling' or 'swirling' technique. Stippling is tapping your brush or sponge in a straight up and down motion. Swirling is moving/swirling your brush in a continuous circular motion. For a beginner, we suggest starting with the stippling method.
Start stippling from the edges of a cut out shape in the stencil and work your way into the middle (this helps prevent "pushing" the paint outward against the edge, possibly causing it to "puddle" along the edge - then the paint bleeding underneath). Depending on how opaque your paint is (and how you want it to look in the end), will determine how many layers of paint you need. Allow each layer to dry before starting the next.
Stencil brush or sponge? ...whatever works best for YOU! We like using both!
Sponges are fantastic! They're great for larger projects with more space to cover, as they are quick and they evenly distribute the paint. If you want your edges looking sharp and crisp, do another layer with a stencil brush. Brushes are great for small detailed areas (as the bristles can "reach" better in those tiny nooks and crannies and against edges) - just make sure to not use too much paint)!
There are so set rules to stenciling, so try out different techniques on some scrap wood or cardboard and see what works best for YOU!
*Tip: You can find triangle cosmetic sponges in your local convenient stores (located in the make-up isle). They are cheap, easy to use and disposable. They have small pores (so they cover smooth and evenly).
*Tip: First project? Try stenciling with black paint. (black paint tends to be the easiest to work with, as it's the most opaque so it covers quickly with less layers - it hides "imperfections" which makes it easy to fill in bridges too).
*Tip: The swirling technique can be great for making really crisp edges in those small detailed areas (and produces great results). Just be careful how hard you "swirl" so you don't move/shift part of the stencil and the brush needs to be VERY "dry" or it can puddle against the edge - possibly causing paint to bleed underneath. Mixing this and the stippling technique also work well for blending/shading colors.
- BRIDGING *(optional)
Bridges are designed to hold the middle of the letter in place. Without them, the middle of letters like A, O and D would fall out. The middles (also known as "islands") need to be fastened to the rest of the stencil, thus "bridges" are designed. We take a lot of time and effort designing our bridges in the correct spots to make them strong and visually appealing. Some choose not to fill them in - this is a personal preference. (We love the look of it filled in)! To do this, simply take a small liner paintbrush and dip the tip into the paint. Then lightly paint/connect the area. If you are bridging a large area (such as large letter on a jumbo sign), you could carefully tape the sides of the bridge and sponge in the open area, then remove the tape. Taking the time to connect the bridges will give your project that final polished look - you'll be happy you did!
- FINISHING *(optional)
If you want to protect your sign, you can add a coat or two of polyurethane. It can be applied with a rag, brush, foam roller and even comes in a spray can.
*Tip: if you plan to seal your project indoors, we suggest to use a water based polyurethane (as it has little to no odor and dries fast).