Image of Project Home DIY stencils

Troubleshooting to Perfect Your Stencil Technique

Using mesh stencils in your crafting isn't exactly difficult. But, it can take some troubleshooting to perfect your stencil technique! And some practice! 

Videos that show crafting with mesh stencils make the whole process look extremely easy. And it is....once you really understand how to work with them. I promise you, it's not hard. Just practice a little before you attempt to stencil for the first time on your beautiful Project Home DIY kit that you just spent time staining/painting/building. :-) Nothing can squash that zen feeling of creating a new project more than messing up your stencil application!

We wanted to share these tips with you to help perfect your stencil technique and keep that frustration away.

Problem: The paint is bleeding underneath the stencil, or you do not have crisp edges to your design.

The image above shows how the paint can bleed under a stencil. Follow the tips here to keep this from happening. 

Perfect Your Stencil Technique:

    • Make sure you first sand and clean the surface you are painting your stencil on. (learn more)
    • Do not use a wet brush.
    • Do not used watered down paint.
    • Make sure your stencil adheres well to your surface. If it moves around or lifts up at all, your paint will bleed.
    • Make sure there are no bubbles or wrinkles in your stencil.
    • If reusing your stencil, make sure the mesh has been properly cleaned.

Problem: The stencil is so sticky it's hard to pull up from the surface (especially on glass or metal). Or, you want to use your stencil on paper and you're afraid it will stick too much.

Perfect Your Stencil Technique:

--For wood or paper surfaces--

    • Use a small amount of clear, soft surface or furniture wax like the kind pictured here on your surface before stenciling.
    • Apply the wax using a microfiber applicator similar to this. Using a microfiber applicator will ensure even distribution of the wax and help create a smooth surface for you to work on.
    • The wax also allows the stencil to stick, but be removed easily. 
    • Don't use too much wax. It's good to apply the wax with one side of the microfiber applicator and then flip it over to wipe off any excess. You just want to have one thin, even layer of wax before applying your stencil.

--For metal or glass surfaces--

    • "Fuzz" your stencil just a bit on a microfiber towel. To do this, gently place the stencil down and pull up, do this one once or twice. You still want it to stick to the surface. But this will help it be easier to remove.

Problem: You remove your stencil and it appears that paint is 'missing' from your design.

Perfect Your Stencil Technique:

    • Work quickly. If the paint dries before you remove the stencil, it will pull up with the stencil.
    • Don't use too much wax on your surface. You want the paint to still adhere. 
    • Be sure you have properly cleaned your stencils and there is no dried paint on the mesh from previous use.

In the image above, the beard should be filled in. Where you see the background peeking through, paint dried and lifted up with the stencil.

Problem: You're using a large-size stencil and feel intimidated. You don't know where to start. Or you are having issues with the first part drying before you complete the rest of it.

Perfect Your Stencil Technique:

    • When creating with large stencils, use the 'pull and paint' method. If you're creating something larger like a wall sign or porch leaner or using a stencil that is large and has a lot of detail/different colors, it will naturally take you longer to apply the paint. If it takes too long, your paint can start to dry. 

    • To be able to keep working at the pace you want, think about doing the large and detailed stencil in 'sections'. To do this, adhere your stencil on the whole surface. Start at the top if it is a vertical project or left side if horizontal (Lefties--you should start on the right side). Begin adding your paint.

    • Once you complete a portion (maybe 1/4 of it or so) of the stencil, gently lift up the stencil and use a hair dryer to dry the paint a little bit on your surface. Be careful to not hit the stencil with the warm air. You do NOT want the paint to dry onto the mesh of the stencil. 

    • Once, the completed portion is dry to the touch, gently place that part of the stencil back down. You do not need to push it down onto the completed part of the design. Just let is sort of sit on top. And make sure the stencil is still adhered properly to the surface where you want to continue painting (so bleeding doesn't occur).

    • Repeat these steps until you have your large-scale stenciled design complete!

Problem: You go to reuse your stencil and it no longer sticks to the surface.

Perfect Your Stencil Technique:

    • Did you properly clean the stencil the last time you used it? Or is there dried paint on it?
    • Is there something (pet hair/fuzz/glitter/sanding dust etc) stuck to the back of it?
    • If this is happening, your stencil will need to be properly cleaned. Head over to our post on Cleaning Mesh Stencils for all our tips and advice on making your mesh stencils last longer.

If you've been having trouble using your Project Home DIY stencils, we hope these tips and troubleshooting have helped you to perfect your mesh stencil technique! If you find you're still having trouble, be sure to visit our VIP Facebook Community to ask for help! 


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