Stenciling mistakes. Eeekk. Stenciling is not for wimps. I had to learn the hard way.
Supplies were ordered. Everything was rearing to go. Stenciling expert here I am. Or not.
My garbaged-picked end table was made for a fern leaf stencil on top. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Was I ever wrong.
In fact, it took six attempts to get it right. I made so many stenciling mistakes.
If you don’t implement best stencil practices, it’s like that recipe from Pinterest that bombs.
Technique is everything.
Stenciling is far too easy to mess up. In this post, I’m referring to the stenciling of a piece of furniture or sign, but these tips would work equally well if you are doing a border or accent wall.
Here’s what I learned about stenciling so that you don’t make the same stenciling mistakes that I did.
Stenciling mistakes happen to good people….
My heart goes into full panic mode the moment I’m about to rip the stencil off the project.
What if the paint bleeds? What if the paint peels off? What if the colors are off?
In the world of stenciling, you must be tenacious. If it doesn’t work out, step back, reflect, figure out what you did wrong. Then try again!
Joy in the journey.
But once you get it, realized that you’ve mastered a great skill. One that you’ll use forevermore.
Don’t hesitate to test out techniques on a piece of cardboard to get an ideas on how that it will work on a real piece of furniture.
After all, messing up on a trial run is much better than messing up on a piece of furniture, or worse, on a wall when you’re wobbling on a ladder.
Not using Mod Podge is a stenciling mistake…
I read that Mod Podge is the way to hold your stencil down to prevent bleeding. This advice is sort of true to avoid a stenciling mistake.
While I like Mod Podge and found it effective, I learned a few things about this product along the way.
1.) Only put one thin layer of Mod Podge on or all your paint will peel off.
More is always better? Right. So I put a layer down and then added a second layer.
When I went to remove my stencil, all the paint peeled off. It was too thick.
One thin layer works best. If used correctly, Mod Podge will hold the stencil down, prevent bleeding and not peel off the paint.
I just used my fingers to apply a small amount of Mod Podge to hold down the stencil but a foam brush works well, too.
This step seals the edges of the stencil so the paint won’t bleed underneath.
2.) Small bottles of Modge Podge are better.
You can buy 2 fl oz of Modge Podge at the Dollar Store.
Or you can buy much bigger bottles at craft supplies stores for a whole lot more. But those bottles will dry up before you can use it. Smaller is better.
Mod Podge works great on bare wood, especially rough, reclaimed wood like pallet boards. It will certainly help a lot with bleeding.
Not using painters tape is a stenciling mistake…
So it’s true, Mod Podge holds the stencil down. But I view Mod Podge as a product that prevents bleeding more than anything else.
This is why I still used masking tape to hold the stencil down. As a backup precaution, it’s worth it.
Why risk doing the stencil again over a tiny bit of tape?
And in the end it was the low tack masking tape in conjunction with the Mod Podge that help the stencil in place and prevented bleeding.
Look for the low tack masking tape also labelled “easy mask” or “quick release” tape, for masking. It will seal stencil edges securely but not remove any existing paint.
No painters tape? Try Craft Bond….
Craft Bond. Ever hear of it? It certainly helped me avoid another stenciling mistake.
I hadn’t until I found myself wandering the Walmart aisles looking for buckets. Oh well.
Craft Bond has a plethora of uses besides spraying it on the back of your stencil for a temporary bond. It’s sticky stuff!
And it’s a great product to prevent stencil paint bleeding~ our ultimate goal. Use it solo or with your low tack masking tape for a non-bleed stencil project.
Since the bottle is big, save it for future adhesion projects with fabrics, cork, canvas, paper, plastics, foam, rubber, foil, cardboard, photos, films and felt. Nifty to have!
Using cheap stencils is a stenciling mistake….
It wasn’t until Tom bought brushes behind my back that were designed for stenciling that my project began to turn around.
I can be so cheap. Dollar Store brushes ideal for kiddie crafts were never going to work for the professional stenciling projects I had in mind. The paint looked streaky and splotchy.
The bristles shed. No-go.
The table looked like my kids had done the project. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids! I love their crafts, but I didn’t want my table to look like they did it.
I wanted it to look like someone who has their own home & garden blog did it. (Did I really type that?!?) Professional results.
Stenciling brushes are round with short, stiff bristles. Brushes with comfortable long handles and dense, natural bristles to get the job done right. Use them in a quick up-and-down motion to dab thin layers of paint on your stencil.
Try not to get paint under the stencil’s edges as this increases the chances of it peeling when it rip it off.
Real stenciling brushes left a smooth, non-streaky appearance to my table. At first I blamed the paint. Then I realized, it wasn’t the paint, it was the cheap brush.
And remember: you if you wash the brushes thoroughly, you can use them again and again for various projects.
Insider tip: Start painting on the edges of the stencil working your way inward to the center. This is better than working from the center outward as paint tends to get globbed under the stencil.
Bad! Then when you rip off the stencil, you are more likely to rip off all the paint. Bleh.
Using the wrong paint is a stenciling mistake…
Determined not to spend a ton of money on this project, I decided to raid my kids’ acrylic paints to stencil.
The Home Depot workers said this was okay! And if you can’t trust them…who can you trust?
Then the unthinkable happened.
I stenciled using the acrylic paints and when I went to remove the stencil, all the paint peeled off. What?!???
Turns out I had used a high gloss Rust-Oleum to paint the table first. The acrylic paint (not the gloss enamel variety) was never gonna stick to that high gloss paint.
Apple Barrel acrylic paints are great for stenciling
The whole experience was like oil and water.
So you can’t just consider stencil paint. You have to consider the base layer of paint on your piece or wall.
If you are using bare wood, this won’t be an issue for you. You can use the matte acrylic paints. And Mod Podge works very well on bare wood. But for wood with a base layer you’ll need to fork out for the high gloss acrylic paint.
But….acrylic paints are messy and difficult to work with for first-timers.
A better option for you might be dry brush stencil paint. This paint has a creamy consistency that allows you to avoid drips and bleeding. It’s easy to apply and moves smoothly on the surface.
While the dry brush stencil paint comes in a wonderful assortment of colors, it’s not recommended for glossy surfaces.
Whereas gloss enamel acrylic paints are formulated for use on slick surfaces. My end table has a smooth surface so I went with the high gloss acrylic paints this time round. Make sure you are using the gloss enamel acrylic paints, matte acrylic paint won’t stick.
Is not priming a stenciling mistake?
Do you need to prime? After all, it’s an extra step.
And it’s extra time. And extra cost. Short answer: it depends.
My goal was a shiny table so I used white shiny semi-gloss Rust-oleum. When I added the acrylic stencil paint on top of the Rust-oleum I quickly discovered it wasn’t going to stick.
Time consuming bummer.
So I ended up using the shiny Rust-oleum on the entire table and used a second coat of paint + primer Rust-oleum just the top.
It did give the surface a more matte finished looked but since it allowed the acrylic paint to stick I was happy.
A worthy sacrifice. And I find I can never have enough white Rust-oleum in the house. Never.
When to pull that stencil off for the big reveal!
Pulling the stencil off is harder than pulling teeth. Pure agony. Timing is everything.
My mistake was waiting to long to rip that stencil off. In fact, that accounted for 3 out of my 6 flops.
The first time, I waited hours to peel off that stencil and it peeled all the paint off, too. Yikes.
The next time, I still waited an hour and that was still too long. Paint peeled right off.
The root of the problem was that I was attempting to use multiple colors on the stencil, not just one.
By the time I was finished with my third color, the first had already dried.
And of course, I wanted to put on two coats of paint.
I confess, I started to apply the second coat before the first coat was 100% dry (I didn’t wait hours.)
And I only waited about 15 minutes to rip that stencil off after applying the second coat of the third shade of green.
So the paint must have been slightly damp when I ripped it off. But I did not touch it to ascertain this for fear of smudging it.
Start at one corner and rip it off like a Band-Aid.
But the 15 minute rule worked…and that’s key.
Sealer is a must as a final step to avoid a big stenciling mistake!
I waffled whether to spend the $7 on acrylic sealant but I’m glad I did. It really did help to seal the paint and prevent peeling for the long haul.
Fast-drying, Aleene’s acrylic paint seller worked well! Putting on three thin layers was best providing a protective, clear and matte finish.
Skipping this step is a stenciling mistake as your stencil is more likely to peel off. This is especially true if you are stenciling a piece of furniture.
Think about this: The first time someone drinks a cup of hot coffee on your table without a coaster.
I shudder at the thought. Besides, event the coaster might scratch that paint off.
Just buy the sealant and use it for lots of projects. Don’t try to seal on a windy day outside. You’ll waste less product on a no-wind day.
Not applying thin layers in a stenciling mistake….
Whether it’s base paint/primer, paint or the sealant, thin layers work best.
You know it and I know but we all need this healthy reminder!
Chunky layers tend to pull off. Kind of like when you apply makeup too thickly to your face. It peels off…does it not? And thick layers never look good.
I ended up doing one layer of the Rust-oleum paint + primer paint, two thin layers of the acrylic paint and three layers of very thinly spread sealant.
That’s a whopping six layers. Imagine if they were thick?
Thin. Thin. Thin. It’s not a rush to the finishing line. Better to get it right the first time than make a stenciling mistake.
Moreover, never overload the brush with paint. If you put too much paint on, it tends to seep under the edges of the stencil. A light hand is key.
Have a cloth nearby to wipe any excess paint on before applying. Two thin layers are much better than one thick one.
Wait for the first layer to dry before applying the second layer.
After all, doing the project six times took a lot more effort than finally discovering how to stencil the first time.
One last tip that should “stick” with you
Try to avoid getting paint on the stencil. I know, it’s tough avoiding this stenciling mistake.
You especially want to avoid paint in the cut-out portions of the stencil. All those cracks and crevices. When the paint dries, it’s nearly impossible to get off.
Therefore, when you go to use that stencil again, you’ll have lost all those clean edges. And we always want clean edges whether stenciling a piece of furniture or doing a whole accent wall.
After you’ve ripped the stencil off your project, you’ll want to wash it immediately.
But first, always wipe the stencil with a paper towel immediately after stenciling. Then wash the stencil with a little dish soap over lukewarm water.
And bleh. You need to wash those brushes immediately, too or you’ll ruin them. It’s always a good idea to reform the bristles by smoothing them out and laying them to dry on a few paper towels.
When dry store stencils flat in the package they came in or in large envelopes of file folders.
Then both your stencils and your brushes will be rearing to go for the next project at hand!