CHOOSING STENCILS, PAINTS AND BRUSHES: If you are a beginning stenciler, it is important to know how to choose the proper size and type of stencil for the project you are planning. The two main areas to consider prior to purchase are: 1. What type of stencil. 2. What type of paint to use. STENCILS: Transparent Mylar stencils are the most popular because they are so easy to use, flexible and cleanable. If you want to save time and are not experienced, choose a stencil that is pre-cut. Use a few basic stencils before attempting to cut your own for the first time. With some stencils, all the design elements appear on a single sheet, so this involves masking out various areas and using a very small brush if multi-colors are used. For ease and speed in multi-color wall applications, choose a stencil with a separate sheet (overlay) for each color. Most multi-overlay stencils have printed regis- tration (realignment) markings and some even have vertical and horizontal centering lines to make application easier. Select a design size that is in balance and relation to the area where it is to be placed. For example a 1” border would not be appropriate for a frieze in a room. PAINTS: These paints produce professional results on walls, wood, metal and canvas. Remember to properly prepare your surface for wood and metal. The following are my choice of stencil paints: Water-based acrylic paints, oil based stencil crayons, oil based dry brush stencil creme. Water based fabric paints and all of the above can be used sucessfully on fabric. Textile medium would need to be added to acrylic paint in order to set the design for washability. For the oil crayons and stencil cremes, you need to let them dry then set with a fairly warm iron for 20 seconds or so. BRUSHES: 1. It is important to select quality brushes, one for each color. 2. Match the opening size of the cut-out area on the stencil to the size of brush used. Large openings - large brush for speed and ease. 3. Proper brush cleaning techniques must be carefully followed in order to assure quality work. 4. Sponges, small rollers, or various fabric wrapped on the index finger can also be used as an application tool. Air brushes and aerosol spray paints are used by some custom stencilers.
Preparation of Wall Surface: Ensure that the walls are in good condition. If repainting, latex or oil based eggshell or satin finish paint is recommended. Avoid semi- gloss or gloss finishes. The paint simply will not stick. Where to Stencil: Stencil all horizontals first (frieze, chairrail, kickplate and above windows and doors). Add vertical sections next and central motifs last. Frieze should be placed approximately 1” below the ceiling line or crown moulding. Chairrail stenciling can appear 1/2 to 3/4” above or below a chairrail moulding. It can also be used to create a chair- rail effect by stenciling 32 - 36” from the floor. Practice: Do the design on paper first to test colors and technique. Tape this proof to the wall in the room and live with it for a few days to determine if the style and colors blend with your decor. This proof will also be handy for measuring the design to the wall and fitting it to the corners. You can determine the amount of spacing you want between repeats from this as well so do several repeats on your sheet. Spacing For A Continuous Border: To determine exact spacing, measure the total width of each wall and convert to inches (#1). Then measure the width of the stencil plus the amount of space you want between repeats if any (#2). Divide #1 by #2. If you come up with some extra inches, you need to adjust the spacing until this number is even. An alternate method is to allow the extra spacing in the corners - if it isn’t alot. Now, if you are stenciling all around the room, and all walls are the same size, you can measure the total width of all combined walls and divide by the width of the stencil (plus spacing). If the walls are different sizes, I would recommend you measure each wall separately. Some Alternate Ways to Stencil: I don’t like continuous borders, to me they look too much like wall- paper border. I like my designs to be kind of off centered and not all the same. I like to stencil designs in each corner of a window or over a doorway and flowing down each side. I try to free-form the designs as much as possible to fit the space I’m working in. Most stencils can be added to by using parts of the stencil over again or doing just 2 or 3 repeats together. Sometimes a design of a stencil makes it hard to free-form design, they are made to be a border and that’s that. Alot of stencil companies now make their designs more suited to this style of stenciling as well as doing mural type scenes. Stencils can be turned over and reversed. Clean off the front before doing this or else use acrylics if you plan to reverse them. Oils will leave smudges if not cleaned first.
The Art of Stenciling: 1. Tape or adhesive? Low tack masking tape is the best tape to use. You can attach several pieces of regular masking tape to your clothing to remove some of the adhesion. Some people like the spray adhesive but I don’t because it’s horrible to remove. I also use opaque 3M Magic tape - it seems a little less sticky than scotch tape. 2. Registration marks: Most stencils have little cutouts if there are more than one overlay. When you place the first overlay on the wall, mark these holes with a soft lead pencil. Each overlay there- after will match perfectly when you line up the holes. Erase the pencil after. Another trick is to place a small piece of tape on the wall so the pencil goes onto that instead of having to remove the mark from the wall. 3. Using Paint Sticks or Crayons: These are easy to use for a beginner and give a soft shaded look to your stenciling. Each crayon will have a “skin” that needs to be removed and disposed of carefully so that it doesn’t come back to haunt you in some unfortunate way (like being ground into the carpet). These are oil-based so are difficult to remove from hands, clothing or other undesirable areas. Rub the crayon onto a plastic or paper plate and swirl the desired size of stencil brush into the paint. Not necessary to offload the paint as it works nicely into the bristles and you won’t have a problem with too much paint on the brush. You can build up depth of color with these, it does take longer but the effects are beautiful. I find that I usually swirl the first paint color into the cutout area then for shading deeper colors, I use a pouncing motion. 4. Dry Brush Stencil Creme: These are oil-based and similar to crayons only they come in little plastic pots. Great for beginners as run-unders are virtually nil and you can achieve soft shading with little effort. There is a skin or covering which needs to be removed like the crayons (note my remarks there). Dab the brush into the pot and swirl onto a plastic plate to work it into the bristles. Blending and mixing of colors are easy with these. Again, I usually swirl the first color into the cutout area then pounce the darker shading colors on top to create depth. These take about 2 days to dry, so caution should be used when stenciling so that you don’t smudge. 5. Acrylic Paints: These provide great results but require alot of practice and exper- ience before you will feel comfortable using them. You can layer more colors with acrylics than oils because they dry extremely fast. Use the craft paints that come in little plastic containers, also purchase the extender. Shake well and pour about a quarter size onto your plastic plate and thin with abit of extender just till consistency of cream. Evenly load just the tip of the brush and offload most of the paint onto a few layers of paper toweling by swirling it around a few times. Begin applying the paint to the cutout area by swirling the color building up more around the edges. You can alternatively pounce the brush if that feels better to you. I do both. Start with a light touch and build up shading by adding more color to the outside edges. You can’t take color away with acrylics, but you can add more so keep a light touch. Very easy to get run-unders if you have too much paint on your brush so make sure you offload enough. There hardly needs to be any paint left on the brush and you will still be able to give nice coloring to the project. 6. What else will I need? You will need lots of paper toweling for offloading acrylic paint and cleanup. A chalk pencil or soft lead pencil for the registration marks. A kneaded eraser for getting rid of pencil marks and smudges. Low tack tape. Q-tips moistened with thinner for oil smudges, and rubbing alcohol for acrylic glitches and smudges. Popsicle sticks for mixing acrylics. Small plastic plates or paper plates. Measuring tape and a bubble level for marking horizontal lines. An old cookie sheet for keeping everything on. Place several paper towels, paint medium, brushes and extra Q-tips on it and secure it to the paint tray of a ladder with a c-clamp or masking tape. A work apron is valuable as well to hold several brushes or extra tape. Paint thinner for oil and rubbing alcohol for acrylic clean-ups. A plastic stencil bristle cleaner is invaluable for cleaning the brushes when you are done. Some Additional Hints: 1. Flowers: Choose several variations of a color to get proper shading. A flower could have 3-4 shades from white to crimson combined for each blossom. For a large flower, try to make the center either darker or lighter than the outside petals. This will give your design some depth rather than one flat color. 2. Leaves: Try to make some look like the sun is shining on them and others are in shadow. Use darker green on the edge of a leaf which is coming from behind another flower or leaf. Keep the center lighter to give it roundness and look like light is shining on it. Not all leaves are exactly the same color or green, some could have abit of yellow or red shading or maybe the tip is gone brown. This adds alot of dimension and they will be more interesting. 3. Stems: Some are green and some are brown and some have other variations of color. Look to nature and see what color stems are for particular flowers. I will quite often dip my brush in a couple of greens and then brown as well so that the stems appear mottled. The more variation the more interesting they will be. CLEAN-UP: For Oil-Based Paints: Brushes: If you aren’t finished, you can wrap the brushes in plastic and freeze until you need them again. For final cleaning, immerse in enough paint thinner to wet the bristles. Use an old coffee container and work out the paint on the side until most is removed. Then use Murphy’s oil soap slightly thinned with water and a stencil bristle cleaner and clean the remaining paint from the brushes. There are several brush cleaners on the market that work very well but are more expensive. Rinse well and allow to dry by laying flat on a towel. Stencils: Carefully remove all masking or other tape. On a flat surface protected with newspaper or paper towels, wipe the stencil clean with a soft rag or toweling dipped in paint thinner. Clean slowly and carefully. Then place in a large sink full of warm water and a squirt Murphy’s Oil soap. Swish around for abit then rinse well and hang to dry or place on a large towel to dry. For Acrylics: Brushes: If washing immediately after stenciling, you can sit in warm soapy water and work out most of the paint. Then using the plastic bristle cleaner, use Murphy’s oil soap or a stencil brush cleaner and water to get the remainder out. Rinse well and allow to dry by laying flat. The pigment will be hard to get completely out of the brushes and won’t harm the next time you use it. If the acrylics have been allowed to dry, let them sit in a jar with rubbing alcohol in for abit then proceed as above. Don't allow bristle brushes to sit in any liquid for extended periods of time or you will ruin them. Stencils: Carefully remove all masking tape from the stencils. Pour a sink full of soapy warm water and allow the stencils to sit in that for a few minutes. The acrylic paint should lift right off the stencil without too much trouble. Rinse well and lay flat to dry or hang them to dry. If the paint is stubborn use some rubbing alcohol on a paper towel and carefully rub the paint to remove. Then wash in soapy water and rinse and dry. HAPPY STENCILING!
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