Tips for Modern Stenciled Walls

February 4, 2011

Thank so very much to everyone for your kind words on my closet makeover from yesterday !  Also for anyone who didn’t catch my segment on The Nate Berkus Show, you can watch it here

If you read a lot of home décor blogs like I do, one thing is clear.  Pattern on walls and ceilings is all the rage right now, and rightfully so!  Wallpaper is big baby big, but wallpaper is also costly and time consuming to install.  (Been there, done that with my grasscloth.)

In the last year, there’s been a resurgence of stenciled walls and ceilings,  especially because of the fresher more modern patterns available.  (One of my sponsors Cutting Edge Stencils has some fabulous choices!)  Stenciling is the inexpensive and stylish alternative to wallpaper.  With time, patience, and good techniques, a stenciled wall makes a stunning backdrop.   

Sooooo . . . I invited a few of the fabulous bloggers behind some of amazing projects I’ve seen to share a few of their tips on successful stenciling.   

swirl snip

Michelle from Three Men and a Lady created this amazing statement on her bathroom ceiling with a stencil:

michelle stencil ceiling


Stenciling tips from Three Men and a Lady:

1. Use a laser leveler to ensure the placement the first time is straight and even.  You will base every other placement off your first measurement.

2. Don’t use re-positionable spray adhesive on the back of your stencil unless it is an EXTREMELY light coat and low tack treatment.  I used spray adhesive on my first placement.  Although it worked great, when I went to pull the stencil off, not only did it pull the paint off the wall with it but it also left glue tack on the wall so I had to repair, clean and re-paint the wall then start over.

3. Use a low tack tape (I like Frog tape) sparingly on the edges of the stencil to adhere to the wall.  I recommend using a sea sponge instead of a paint roller so not to bleed under the edges of the stencil.  Dab lightly in the paint then dab all over the stencil.  Once semi-dry you can go back and do another coat dabbing lightly. The key is light coats to avoid bleeding.

swirl snip

Janell from Isabella and Max Rooms is a stenciling queen!  Janell has tackled both walls and small decorative objects too (like this tray). 

janell stencils


Hear what Janell has to say:

1.  If this is the first time you will stencil a wall, select a smaller area to cover and use a larger motif style stencil that doesn’t require a lot of cutting in to wall edges, baseboards and ceilings.

2.  Apply the paint with a dry brush method. To do this simply tap the stencil brush, which has been dipped in paint, onto a paper towel before stippling on the wall. This will greatly diminish the amount of paint that seeps underneath the stencil.

3.  Use a color to paint the stencil that is not a great deal lighter or darker than the wall color. This will assist in getting good coverage and a more evening painted stencil design.


Courtney from Living Life Out Loud stenciled this trellis wall in his living room:

Wall Stencil

Courtney recommends this:

1) Use the right tools:  I use small high density foam rollers for an all over repeating pattern.  They are the perfect size they roll a uniform and even layer of paint, something that is important if you are trying to achieve a "painted wallpaper" look.
2) Less is More: One of the areas that people trip themselves up with is using too much paint.  I roll my foam roller in paint, then promptly roll off the excess paint onto a mound of paper towels.  You want the roller dry.  It seems counter intuitive but a "dry brush" or "dry roller" technique greatly minimizes drips and other mishaps.  You can always reapply the paint if you want a deeper finish to your stencil but it’s A LOT harder to remove paint once you started a stencil.
3) Measure. Plan. Repeat:  Math will prove to be your friend when stenciling.  Look at the design in relation to the wall and map out how you want the design displayed.  I measure from the center to see how the design will fall, then mark off where my stencil will be placed.  It helps me see if I need to adjust my starting point especially if I am taking a design around a corner.  It helps to plan your design in advance! 

4) Test: I keep an old canvas in the garage.  When it comes time for a paint project, I pull it out; prime it and use it as a test board.  This process has saved me countless times when determining color combinations and paint schemes.

swirl snip

Ronda of Batchelors Way stenciled the walls of her shared master closet:

ronda closet


Ronda’s best tip is “use a small amount of paint and a little goes a long way!”  You can read Ronda’s full tutorial here.

swirl snip

Jesse from Good Girl Gone Glad created this beautiful pattern behind her media center.

jesses wall

Jesse says:

1. Start in the center of the wall and go from ceiling to floor, then worked from one side to the next.  This made it easy to keep my pattern straight. 

2.  I used a flat paint on the wall color and then a gloss for the stencil pattern.  It creates more interest and provides a great sheen in the evening when we turn on the lamps !

swirl snip

Stacy from Not JUST a Housewife stenciled her entire master bedroom ceiling.  Wow!


Stacy recommends the following:

#1. If your stencil doesn’t line up perfectly, don’t stress! As long as it isn’t too far off it won’t show in the end.  Just don’t re-roll over the markers that don’t line up.

#2. Don’t apply too much pressure to your stencil. It is tempting to do this to get paint into all the nooks and crannies but I found that rolling in all different directions will eventually get all the places with out pushing too hard.

#3. Use spray adhesive. You can stencil 4 or 5 times before you have to spray again. It really helps make it crisp and clean. Spray lightly and you won’t have a problem with residue on your wall (or ceiling).


swirl snip

Most recently, I stenciled the walls of my personal closet space with this clematis stencil from Cutting Edge Stencils and two shades of metallic craft paint. 

cg stencil


My best tips for using a free form stencil?  1) Use painter’s tape to hold your stencil in place.  2)  Use a dry stippling brush (‘dry’ meaning dab most of your paint off).  3.  Apply your paint from the outside edges in to avoid paint pooling in the ridges. 

stencil brush

Works for me! 

Thank you Michelle, Janell, Courtney, Ronda, Jesse, and Stacy for sharing your best tips today!  Are you inspired to add a stenciled wall treatment to your home anytime soon?

Have a lovely weekend friends! 




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