A Beginners Guide on How To Stencil Step-by-Step

A Beginners Guide on How To Stencil Step-by-Step

Posted by Kim on 2nd Mar 2018

This is an easy guide to follow for your first stencil project. I will share with you the tips & tricks I have learnt as I have gone along.


  1. Stencil (x2 if you are painting a large area)
  2. Sample board (old piece of cardboard, or a wall you can test on)
  3. Acrylic paint
  4. Dense foam roller (available at most hardware stores)
  5. Paint tray (the mini ones that come with the rollers are handy)
  6. Masking tape or blue painters tape (available at a hardware store)
  7. Level (to make sure your stencil is lined up level at the start of your project - VERY IMPORTANT!)
  8. Old newspaper or paper towel to dry off excess paint from the roller 
  9. Damp cloth - for wiping off spills and paint that may have bled under the stencil
  10. Step Ladder - may or may not be needed, depending on what & where you are stencilling

Let's Get Started!

If you are a first time stenciller, you may want to do a small test run first on that sample board, or a garage wall before you get to working on the real thing. 

For the walls you will be working on, make sure they have been wiped down to remove any dust. I was amazed at how much dust residue was on my walls once I started wiping them down! And you don't even notice this until you wipe them. If there are any cracks or holes in the walls from screws or nails, fill them with polyfiller, sand & allow to dry.

Make sure the surface you are panting onto is dry, if you have done a base coat then allow it to dry for 24 hours before stencilling your design.

You can stencil onto most surfaces, flat plastered walls, furniture, wood, textured plaster, paper, fabric, wallpaper.

Okay, to begin, line up your stencil and MAKE SURE IT IS LEVEL. I started in a top ceiling corner and lined the stencil up with the ceiling. Use your level to make sure the stencil is straight, as someetimes (often) the walls are not 100% perfect in homes. IF your walls are out, you will need to do some of your own adjusting here & decide whether you line the stencil up with the walls/ceiling or to go with the straight line from your level. It's always tricky deciding which one to go for, but unfortunately if you walls are not level there will be an area somewhere that the stencil design does not line up perfectly. But, do not worry too much about this, as once your design is painted, your eye does not pick up small imperfctions from a distance. 

Stick the stencil onto the wall with some of your masking or blue painters tape. Make sure not to cover any of the pattern openings where you need to paint. Just tape the edges of the stencil. I cover the entire edge of the stencil to prevent "roll-overs" happening by accident.

Add a small amount of paint to your paint tray & get your foam roller ready. Load your foam roller with the paint by rolling over the paint a few times, until the roller is covered. 

Now, this is a VERY IMPORTANT step, blot off most of the paint onto a piece old old newspaper or paper towel. You want to have a roller that is almost dry so that when you roll over the stencil the paint does not bleed under the stencil. It is better to have less paint on your roller than too much.

Now roll over your stencil with your roller using light to medium pressure. Go over the areas where the cut outs are and be sure not to go over the edges. I tape the whole edge side of the stencil to prevent this happening, as often I found I would go too far and have paint where it shouldn't be! 

You can check how your work is progressing by carefully taking off some of the stencil and having a peek. Are you applying enough pressure? Is your paint dark enough? If not, you can roll over the areas a few more times. Remember if you are using a light colour over a dark colour you may need to do a few coats to achieve a result you are happy with & that doesnt look 'washed out'. Just leave the stencil in place and do a few coats, leaving a few minutes in between coats, allowing the paint to dry.

If you are happy, carefully replace the stencil & continue until you have done the whole area.

Carefully remove your stencil, line it up again using the registration markers & continue until your whole area is complete.


Corners are the trickiest part, either bend your stencil & hold in place while you paint or you can cut your additional stencil (if you have purchased more than 1) to fit easily into your corner. Remember to mask off the adjacent wall to not get any paint on it!

If you are doing a large wall, after many coats you may notice that the paint build up on the stencil starts to compromise the design. (you will notice that your lines are not so crisp and clean anymore) This is the time to switch to your 2nd bought stencil (recommended) OR you can wash off your original stencil before going further. I soaked my stencil in a bath of warm water for a few minutes, then I peeled off the paint from the stencil. This may take some time, but is well worth it to have lovely clean crisp lines. 

If you need to break while you are still busy stencilling, wrap your paint tray with some clear plastic wrap & your roller too. This will prevent the paint from drying out and you can carry on later where you stopped.

If at a later stage you want to try a different design on your wall, simply paint 2 base coats over your painted design and start with a new one :-)

Remember to wash off your roller so that you can use it for your next project.

As for the paint tray, I scrape any residue back into the paint tin and then let the paint dry overnight in the tray. Next morning just peel off the dry paint! It's way easier than washing & washing to get rid of the paint. And it saves water too!

Here is a photo step-by-step representation of me painting my sample boards for my shop. It is the same process whether you are painting walls, furniture, wood panels, or any other surface.


I hope you find this guide useful and create your own beautiful painted spaces in your home!