The Versatile World of Stencils


Choices abound in today’s stencil market.

By Diane Franklin  

Stencils have come a long way from mini-floral borders and roosters on kitchen walls. Today there are more patterns than ever before. To make the most of those patterns, today’s stencilers are using diverse color choices and mediums to create one-of-a-kind looks for their walls and other painted surfaces.

Stenciling has a lot going for it. It’s a project that can provide endless enjoyment for DIY enthusiasts of all skill and experience levels. You can start with an easy project and take on increasingly challenging projects as you become more adept at what you’re doing.

Many people consider stenciling a great way to bring pattern to their walls—easier than wallpapering—and if you don’t like what you’ve done, you can paint over it and try something else.

But it’s not only walls. What you stencil is only limited by your imagination. You can also use stencils on ceilings, floors, furniture, cabinets, doors … essentially, anything that is paintable is a candidate for your stenciler’s brush.

Trends in Stenciling

Today’s consumers have the advantage of selecting from a broad array of stencil themes (and if you can’t find what you want, you can order or create a custom stencil).

You’ll still find plenty of traditional florals in manufacturers’ stencil collections, but you’ll also find interesting geometrics, animal prints, natural elements like brick and wood grains, fabric looks like lace and damask, and ethnic themes like Moroccan and Chinoserie.

To suit the uniqueness of your personality, you’ll also find novelty patterns, pop culture themes, sports themes and designs that are perfect for children’s rooms. There are even stencils that will allow you to create a full-scale wall mural.

With such a diversity of selection, DIYers can use stencils to complement virtually any type of decorating motif. This means not only traditional settings but transitional and contemporary settings as well. You simply need to choose a stencil and color scheme that works in your style.

As an example, a simple geometric in a bright color on a white background can give a room a sleek, modern appearance. Or a large mandala stencil in rich, saturated colors can make your room the epitome of Boho Chic. Or you can stencil an intricate tile pattern in warm, spice-tone colors to be the defining element of your Moroccan décor.

Innovative Uses of Stenciling

An advantage of stenciling is that it allows you to go big, go small—or somewhere in between. You can do anything from a simple border to an all-over design. You can follow the trend of stenciling heartwarming words and phrases—like “Family” or “Home Sweet Home”—in a prominent place in your kitchen or family room.

The most important guideline for using stencils is: Be creative! Create a dramatic staircase by using stencils on the risers. Sponge or rag-roll your stencils to look like decorative accents on a plain wall or a faux-finished wall. Embed an adhesive stencil into Venetian plaster for a multi-dimensional look. Or use a distinctive medium like gilded, metal leaf to give your stencil pattern a really gorgeous look.

Start Stenciling!

Stop by your local paint store to buy many of the products you need to accomplish your stenciling project, including foam rollers, foam paint brushes, sponges, latex paint, faux-finishing supplies, painter’s tape and drop cloths. Some paint stores also have adhesive stencils and additional stenciling supplies. Craft stores, art supply stores and/or on-line stencil manufacturers/suppliers will have whatever else you need.

Follow the stencil manufacturer’s instructions on how to use their stencils. And remember: Practice, practice, practice. Test your stencil on a sample board first to make sure you’ve got the right “hand” for the project and to ensure that your color choices work well together.

If you’ve never stenciled before, the best advice is to start out with something simple, like stenciling a dresser or doing a pattern over your bathroom vanity. If you like what you’ve created, you can move onto a more extensive project.

Larger projects will require patience and a time commitment, but when you’re done, all your hard work will be worth it. You’ll have a unique decorative look for your home.

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