Stenciling is a folk art form of wall painting that originated as an alternative to buying expensive wallpapers and rugs.
Scenes of everyday life were cut into templates then stenciled on walls and wood floors to create decorative patterns that actually resembled upscale wallpaper and rugs.
Now the technique has been revived along with the other elements of Country-style decorating and design. One advantage of stenciling today is that the modern plastic stencils don't tear, fray or fall apart like the paper versions did in the old days. They're also sold at craft stores in pre-cut, ready-to-paint forms, and available in any number of patterns.
You can also buy sheets of pre-drawn stencils and cut them out with a hobby knife. And if you want to be more creative, get plain clear plastic material, draw your own pattern and cut it out yourself.
Traditional designs focus on leaves, flowers and other everyday items. But there's really no limit on what's now available, what you can create, or where you can put stencils.
Create walls and/or floor border, highlight certain parts of a room, cover entire wall sections, or decorate furniture and fabrics.
Crafts stores stock small cans or bottles of paint specifically for stenciling projects, but you could use any latex or alkyd-based paints.
If you're using more than one color on a stencil, though, it's better to work with fast-drying paints or to add a product known as "Japan Dryer" to the paint to encourage quick drying.
Stencil paints work best over an existing flat paint surface, but they'll also work over wood and non-vinyl wallpapers.
You can stencil with regular paint brushes, but there are special circular brushes available for stenciling that have densely packed bristles.
They're better than regular brushes for filling in the tight areas of a pattern, controlling paint along curved edges, and are a bit neater.
They also come in several different sizes so you don't have to labor with a tiny brush on a larger area.
Preparing to Stencil
Before getting into the paint, do a dry run of your stencil layout. If you want a repeating design, use a straightedge to line it up, measure out the placement of each design and mark them lightly with a pencil for reference.
For first-time stencilers or if you just want to see how the stencil will look, practice by painting the stencil on a scrap of wallboard, paper or newspaper. That'll give you a sense of the paint's texture and how to manage the brushes.
Once you're ready for the real thing, clean the stencil off and tape it securely in position so it doesn't move while you're painting.
Drafting tape works best since it won't pull off the existing finish, but painter's masking tape is also appropriate for this kind of job because it has a weaker adhesive. Whatever tape you use, first apply and remove it on the surface in a hidden area.
When using a stenciling brush, the best painting technique is to lightly tap the end of the brush on the surface, covering small sections at a time. Don't get too much paint on the brush because paint could run down behind the stencil.
If you're using more than one color, one option is to use separate brushes to apply each color. On large projects, it's often easier to apply one color first, moving the stencil as needed. Then go back to the beginning and apply the second color, and so on, until all the colors are done. That way, the first colors will dry before the next ones are applied.
By the way, wet paint can smear when you pull the stencil off, so make sure the paint has dried. Stenciling paints dry quickly and shouldn't pose this problem.