Stencil Painting

Vinyl wall stickers have replaced some of the use of stencils, but stencil painting is still the way to get custom-made and unique wall decorations. You can match the colors to the existing colors in your room, and use them on any surface you like - walls, furniture and floors - as long as you use the right kind of paint. Scroll down for info and tips.

stencil- painted wall decorations

Stencil-painted wall decor

About using stencils

Before printing techniques were invented, all wall decorations were hand-painted, often with the help of stencils. Wallpaper and wall stickers have become serious competition for decorative stencil painting, but stencil painting is still performed in grafitti, industrial signing and lettering, and also to create elaborate faux antique rooms, or custom-made decorations.

Stencil painting really is painting with the help of a pre-designed tool. It provides form, and that's the only part of the work that's defined by the stencil. Some stencils are extra thick (sculptural stencils), others need to be painted in artistically, with several colors and thicker at the edges. If you can find your design as a wall paper mural or a wall sticker, you can save lots of time. But if you can't find your special design, or you want something special on the floor, stencil painting is the way to get it done.

Material tips for stencil painting

When you look from upclose, stencil-painted decorations can have a hand-crafted look. You can prevent this by using paint rollers or spray paint. Painting over with transparant glaze will also help (semi- or highgloss). On the other hand, if you like a "poor", authentic and handcrafted look, use pig-hair brushes and a matte-sheen paint. Pig-hair brushes leave ropey strokes.

Some designs go well with a poor look, or with special colors. Art deco and art nouveau designs go well with muted, earthy colors, and matte to semigloss paint. Antique-ish designs can be made more special by using both matte and highgloss paint, next to each other. You can even paint in stencils with only highgloss transparent finish (on a matte basecoat), the highgloss will make the paint a little darker. Check here for more on paint sheen.

  • Here at the stencil Library you'll find the biggest collection of classy interior decor stencils (classical and modern).
  • Here at, you'll also find industrial and camouflage stencils, and custom-made lettering stencils (instead of just an alphabet)
  • Before you start, make a design with colored pencils, only to get a clear idea of what things will look like in the end. Eventually, check this book about stencil-decorated rooms.

Stencil painting or wall stickers

If you're in for quick results, I'd recommend wallpaper or wall stickers. Wallpaper just saves a lot of handwork, and wall stickers are easily applied and removed. Wall stickers have a great 'finished' industrial look, too. Still, stencils have the following advantages:

  • your decorations will have exactly the right colors.
  • Stencil painting can be applied on floors as well (think of faux persian carpets! Floor borders!)
  • With sculptural stencils, you can create structure forms on the wall. They can have the same color as the background.
  • You can apply stencil painting to any surface, as long as you have the right kind of paint.
  • For a repeated pattern (in the right colors, on an existing wall color) you would need lots of wall stickers - or just one stencil.
  • You can arrange a pattern to fit exactly to a defined area, which indicates custom-made and unique handwork.

Stencil painting is an option if you're handy, have some spare time, want to match the colors to a piece of art or furniture, or if you really feel like creating a special piece of decorative art. Elaborate desings do need some time and skill, it borders to the job of a professional faux painter. But you can keep it simple - if you don't find your kind of wallpaper, choose two colors and one stencil to paint it with (or even: paint on matte paint with highgloss transparent laquer). Stencil-painted patterns can make a very convincing antique-look. Before wallpaper was invented, wall decorations were made with stencils. Stencil painting can also be done with authentic "green" paints, like milk- or egg tempera paint, which creates a good indoor climate, and an authentic hand-crafted look.

Some quick tips:

  • Clean the stencil's back after every single time you painted the stencil in. Some paint always gets to the back (with me it does, anyway)
  • Choose paint colors that suit the stencil type, as well as your interior - make a design and try it out on a cardboard box. If you don't want much color, just paint them in with transparent laquer of a different sheen.
  • You can either spray, use a roller, or paint it in with a stippling brush. Spraying and rollers avoid striping, but if you work carefully, you only see the difference from upclose.
    • Spraying is good for a graffiti look-and-feel
    • Rollers give clean results, maybe with little dimples on it
    • Bristle (pighair) gives ropey strokes. Can be avoided by stippling with a stippling brush.
  • If you're a perfectionist: don't judge your results before you take a few meters distance from the wall!
  • Stencil painting is good for a punky/grungy, shabby chic, or a faux antique or classical decor - in short: everything opposed to a high-gloss industrial look.
  • If you cut your own stencils: use stiff transparent pvc plastic sheets - very handy for taking over patterns. Scroll down for a video on how to cut stencils.

How to make your own stencils

With a good knife and a bit of time, you can make your own stencils. See-through stencil-film is handy, then you can lay the example under the film, and cut it out with a craft-knife. You can also glue a print on top of the stencil-film. Here's a youtube instruction video on how to cut stencils. You'll find the info in the first few minutes of the video. Here at you'll find a large collection of designs.

Fauxing stone by stencil painting

By stencil painting, you can turn your concrete floor into something more rustic, like cobblestones or brick. Walls too, of course. If you're interested, also check these pages on marble and brick painting.

At you'll also find stencils for army camouflage patterns, industrial signs and lettering.

Real or faux antique wall decorations

Stencil painting is highly suitable to make faux antique wall decorations. Before wall stickers and wallpaper was invented, every wall decoration was painted on with the help of stencils. At that time, painters were trained in painting marble, faux wood and trompe-l'oeuil. Painted wall decorations from before 1900 have a handmade, and a bit chalky look. Here at stencil Library you'll find all the designs you might need. There's also a book with photo's of rooms that were decorated with the help of stencils.

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