How to Stencil on Fabric & More

  • 01 of 06

    Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

    Stenciling is very inexpensive and requires few supplies. Photo © Guide

    What You'll Need

    • Your item(s) to be stenciled
    • Your chosen stencil(s)
    • Acrylic paint (You can buy fabric paint but acrylic paint is generally less expensive and we think it works just as well.)
    • Disposable plates
    • Flat-head stenciling brushes or sponges* - one per color
    • Paper or drop cloth to protect your work surface

    Decorator Hints

    Be sure you get sponges or brushes in the correct sizes for your stencil. Smaller stencil holes will require smaller brushes or sponges, and you can use large brushes or sponges to quickly fill in larger areas. We like sponges because they are disposable (making clean-up easy) and they are easy to cut and make smaller if needed.

    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    Step 2: Prepare Your Paint

    It's easy to mix a particular paint color right on the plate. Photo © Guide
    • Work with only one color and a small amount of paint at a time.
    • If you'll need to mix paint colors to achieve the color that you want, just mix the paint colors right on your disposable plate. Be sure to mix well before using!
    • Using your brush or sponge, spread the paint on your disposable plate to about 1/8-inch thickness.
    Continue to 3 of 6 below.
  • 03 of 06

    Step 3: Prepare Your Brush

    When stenciling, a little dab will do!. Photo © Guide
    • Dab your brush or sponge into the paint, and then blot your brush on the paintless side of your plate (or a separate plate) to remove excess paint from your brush.
    • You should have enough paint on your brush to easily stencil with, but not so much that the paint pushes from your brush to underneath the edges of your stencil. This ​takes a bit of practice, but not much! Stenciling is very easy for beginners, so don't worry. We'll do a practice next...
    Continue to 4 of 6 below.
  • 04 of 06

    Step 4: Take a Test Drive

    Since paint and stencils vary, I like to do a sample every time I stencil. Photo © Guide
    • If you've stenciled before, you may want to skip this step, but we still do it every time. We want to make sure my stencil, fabric, and paint will work as planned.
    • Place a fabric scrap (or if you are stenciling some other item, you use a piece of cardboard) on top of your protective drop cloth or paper. Place your stencil down on your fabric and hold with one hand.
    • Holding your brush in your other hand and keeping the flat, painting end of your brush parallel with your stencil, press straight down with a medium pressure.
    • With your brush, dab back and forth between your paint, the paintless side of your plate, and your stencil until the area to be stenciled is completely covered with your paint.
    • Remove your stencil from your item and evaluate your results. When you paint your item, which is next, now you will know how to make any needed adjustments.
    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Step 5: Stencil Away!

    Stenciling is easy to master so it makes a great project for beginners. Photo © Guide

    You've already completed a test run, so stenciling should go quickly and easily now. Here are a few final tips:

    • If you are stenciling with multiple colors, work with only one color at a time and allow each color to dry before moving on to the next.
    • Keep your stencil clean. You may need to clean it with a wet sponge or paper towel between each use.
    • Have enough stenciling brushes or sponges on hand for each paint color. Painting with a freshly cleaned, wet brush or sponge will thin your paint and make a mess of your stenciling.
    • If you are stenciling in layers (for example, putting flowers on top of flowers as you will see that we did in Step 6), start with the stencil or pattern that will be on your bottom layer, and allow to dry before applying the next, or top, layer of your pattern.
    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    Step 6: Admire Your Handiwork

    Another fun and frugal project, completed!. Photo © Guide

    Now that you've mastered stenciling, have fun! Once you start stenciling, it's pretty hard to stop - sort of like putting tattoos on things. Walls, beware.