Wondering how to make a stencil? Check out this DIY project where I show you how I made this stencil to paint letters onto these barstools!

Making my own stencils has come in handy SO many times in my different projects. In fact…now that I’m thinking about it, my very first blog post was about how to make a stencil for a design I painted in my laundry room. That was a cool project, you should check it out…; ) Anyhoo. Here are the steps for how to do it and a few tips that might help you along.

For this post I’ll show you how I stenciled on a fancy B after refinishing a friend’s barstools, but you can make a stencil of anything, and put it on anything so don’t be afraid to get creative. Here are three other posts of mine where you can see where I have used this trick: Hunger Game Shirt, Ninja Coffee Mug, DIY Fence Panel Clock.

1) If it is a letter you want a stencil of, then go into Word and type that letter then just play around with different fonts until you find one you like. If you are looking for an image, lets just say an elephant, then find one online and print it off.
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Now with the stencil being made of paper, the first time you get paint on it, it will get all warped and wavy then it will be useless for another go. To prevent this I always ‘laminate’ my stencils with clear packing tape on both sides. By doing this, the paint will not ruin your stencil and can be rolled right off after it dries.

2) I lay the image/letter flat then just put down strips of tape until the entire image is covered. Then I flip it over and do the same thing to the other side. Try to keep the paper flat as you are doing this.

Tip: It will save you some heartache if you leave a large boarder on your stencil. I cut real close to my B because I was needing to see how the size fit on the stool, but I typically like to leave about an inch of paper on each side of my stencil so that when I’m painting it on, I have room to move my brush without getting paint on my project.

3) Next is cutting the stencil. I used an exacto knife and just went through and cut everything out.

  • Put a piece of soft wood under your image.
  • Your knife will have an easier time if you are cutting with the grain.
  • Remember which part is going to be the stencil: You will be throwing away the actually image and keeping the background.
  • If you have something like a B or an O, then you need to cut not only the outline but also the inside.

4) Put your stencil where you want it and tape it down.

Here is mine, and you can see the four different ‘insides’ I had to cut out and keep track of.

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5) Position the insides in their respected places.

6) Now paint. I use a 1″ brush and start at the top then work my way down while holding the insides in place with a finger (or a pencil eraser if it is small) one at a time. If you dab on the paint first then it will hold those insides down and then you can release them and go back through and actually brush the paint on.

Tip: The trick with getting a good image with stencils is not overloading your paint brush. Just get a tad of paint (I use the lid of the paint can) on your brush and do multiple coats. If you apply it lightly then it will only take a few mins to be dry to the touch, then you can go back through and paint another coat. Then another if need be. If you glop the paint on then it will get underneath your stencil and you won’t come away with an image, but rather a blob.

7) Once it’s dry, I pull everything up and you can see that even being careful, my lines still are not perfect. This is why I laminate both sides, because you are bound to get paint underneath it at some point and you don’t want your stencil ruined.

8) So I go back through with the background color and a small artist paint brush and just clean them up until I’m satisfied.

And there you have it folks. Pretty snazzy trick if you ask me. ; )

Total Time: 35 mins

Total Cost: $0

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