Painting Stencils to Create Your Own Masterpiece

OK – So you've been painting stencils. Now you're finished and you sat back and admired it a little while. But you just can’t help thinking that it could use something else. But what?

Well, a stencil is defined as a template that produces an exact image at every use. Of course, in decorative painting that’s just not going to work.

Grapes and Leaves Stencil from

The idea is to end up with an image that looks hand painted. So, I put together a few of the techniques that I use to personalize a stenciling pattern. Then you'll find some stencil books with links to project ideas from each cover image and below that a video about Stencil Wall Murals. But first those tips on painting stencils.

Add some highlights where you might see light on your image. This will add some depth and dimension to your painting. Lighten a paint color by adding white paint and use a small bristle brush to run lines where you want highlights. Don’t add to much white because you just want a subtle effect.

Tiger Baby Stencil from

Don’t forget to blend shadowed areas with the lighter areas together where the lines meet to have a smoother finish. Pour a little of the two paint colors used and just start to work them together on the image. I like to use a small, round, soft bristle brush with the stippling or pouncing technique used to stencil and work along the line of differing colors until I reach the desired amount of blending.

If you would like to see the stippling technique there's a Stenciling Instructions video with basic techniques in action while painting stencils.

Be careful to leave those areas needing the separation with contrast. See the tiger. Notice how the shaded area at the bottom of each leg has been blended together with the upper, lighter section. But the individual legs are still separated with a crisp definition of color.

Elephant Steciled Eye from

I always like to add a white dot in the iris of eyes to bring out a more realistic effect. The nature of painting stencils is to produce an exact image multiple times. But chances are you want each image to have an individual hand painted effect so little tips like this go a long way.

By the way, there is a great Stenciling Tip Article with ideas and some illustrations about how to paint more life into eyes!

By the way, if you like the stencil examples used on this page then make sure you scroll down to find out how you can get them.

After completing the picture, you can lightly water down some of the paint colors that you have used to run a translucent shadow or top color where you want to add depth or light. Use an artist’s paintbrush to apply these translucent colors and a paper or cloth towel to blot the colors for a blending effect. Be careful because if you make the paint too watery it may take off some of the paint of the image.

Anchor Lines Stencil from

A good way to add texture, variation in depth (like curves) or just some interest is to use two or more colors in one opening (island). Just dab the brush or sponge in the different colors and maybe get the colors to fade from one side of the opening to the other. I recommend doing this while the stencil is still in place to keep a sharp edge. Notice the fading blue background of the Anchor Lines Travel Poster Stencil.

Again, practice and experiment! As you play around with painting stencils, you will discover many techniques for customizing your work.

More Hints and Tips:

If you have a paper stencil (like one of the free printable stencils listed in the right column) you can cover it with clear shelf liner before cutting out the openings (islands) so that your stencil will be good permanently. Just wipe off with a damp cloth after each use and store in a book.

For more tips about stencil preservation check out the Stencil Making page. We even have information on how to make a stencil for when you decide to become the designer.

Also, Invest in good paints. Using inexpensive paints that are thin will require too many coats. This will mean more work and more opportunity for paint smudging under the edges. Watery paints will also run if you are painting on a vertical surface like a wall (check out our wall stencils to download so that you can get your project started now).

If you run into a situation where two openings (islands) on a stencil are very close but require different colors use a sheet of paper or thin cardboard to cover one opening while applying paint to the other. This is called a mask.

Well, that’s about it for the painting stencils tips and techniques. I hope you picked up on some great ideas for your next decorative painting stencils project.

We are thrilled to introduce these downloadable and Printable Stencils. Instant gratification at its finest! You don't need a special printer - these designs are specially formatted to print straight from your home computer on standard letter sized paper. Once downloaded, you will have your complete stencil booklet with patterns and instructions. Just click, buy and print!

Each book will come to you as a down-loadable pdf file in your e-mail. Just check your e-mail after purchase for the link to connect to your file and print or save. It's that easy!

Click on any Book Cover Image for Project Ideas.

All designs can be adjusted to fit your project size. Instructions are included. Pages are 8.5” x 11”.

If you'd rather get your Stencil Books in Print, just click the blue button below each book.

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Fleur de lis Stencil Book from

Fleur de lis: Book of Stencils

This collection includes 22 designs. Ten are easy single overlay. Six have 2 overlays and six have 3 overlays.

This purchase is of a PDF file which has 63 pages.

Price: $9.95

Add to Cart

To get this Book in Print for just $19.95 click here:

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Oriental Designs Stencil Book from

Oriental Designs: A Book of Stencils

This collection includes 16 designs- Chinese Dragon, Bamboo, Oriental Figure with Coolie Hat, Ying Yang Koi Stencils, Bonsai Tree Stencil and 3 Cranes plus 10 Chinese Symbols (Eternity, Friendship, Happiness, Harmony, Long Life, Peace, Prosperity, Tranquility, Truth and Dragon.

This purchase is of a PDF file with 40 pages.

Price: $9.95

Add to Cart

To get this book in print for just $19.95 click here:

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Antique Door Hardware Stencil Book from

Antique Door Hardware: A Book of Stencils

This collection includes 5 designs- Lion Head Door Knocker, Key Bow, Lock Plate and Mail Box Plaque (with two word options). These images should add a little fun and even some humor to the doors in your home while they introduce a touch of the past.

This purchase is of a PDF file with 25 pages.

Price: $9.95

Add to Cart

To get this Book in Print for just $19.95 click here:

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Christmas Stencils Book from

Christmas: A Book of Stencils

This collection includes 9 designs. They are Santa Claus, a Reindeer, a Christmas Tree (with options for decorations), a Candle with Holly Accents, Bells with a Bow, a Gingerbread Boy and Girl, and a String of Lights.

This purchase is of a PDF file which has 42 pages.

Price: $9.95

Add to Cart

To get this Book in Print for just $19.95 click here:

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Old Fashioned Luggage Labels from

Old Fashioned Luggage Labels and Travel Posters

Paint some travel posters or decorate an old steamer trunk with these 15 designs. 5 are Hotel Advertisements, 5 are Transportation Ads and 5 are Destination Ads (like Paris and New York).

This purchase is of a PDF file with 102 pages.

Price: $9.95

Add to Cart

To get this Book in Print for just $32.95 click here:

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Zoo Babies Stencil Book from

Zoo Babies: Stencils for a Nursery

This collection includes 7 designs- an Elephant, a Giraffe, a Hippo, a Lion, a Monkey, a Tiger and a Zebra. This is a wonderful theme collection when you are planning on painting stencils for a nursery.

This purchase is of a PDF file with 40 pages.

Price: $9.95

Add to Cart

To get this book in print for just $19.95 click here:

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

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Hey! Don’t forget that I (and everyone else) want to see what you have done with your painting stencils. Just click on Stenciling Projects to get your masterpiece showcased here on this web site. Won’t that be exciting! Or if you have any questions or want to share information join in on the Stencil Blog. Well, I hope to hear from you soon.

Happy Stenciling,


Stencil Books from

If you'd rather get your Stencil Pattern Books in Print (like these) then visit our Printer's Book Shop for a large variety of stencil collections. These books are easy to follow and come with complete instructions. You'll find all of the stencil designs used as samples throughout this site.

To search for more information on painting stencils:


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Here is a quick video about painting stencils to create wall murals. For more information about this go to Stencil Wall Murals. Enjoy!

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Stencils used as examples on this web site are courtesy of Designs From Penny.

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Please share your ideas and any variations to this project you have!

You'll be amazed at how many Free Stencils we have to offer to you! Just to make it easy, here are the links to all the freebies.

By the way, if you are looking for Free Christmas Stencils or Free Halloween Stencils, there were too many to list here so go to Holiday Crafts!

Airbrush Stencils

Angel Stencil

Animal Stencils

Art Deco Stencil

Art Nouveau Stencil

Butterfly Stencils

Cat Stencils

Celtic Stencils

Cool Stencils

Cross Stencil

Dinosaur Stencil

Dog Stencil

Dolphin Stencil

Eagle Stencil

Flower Stencils

Graffiti Art Stencils

Grapevine Stencil

Guitar Stencil

Heart Stencil

Letter Stencils

Palm Tree Wall Stencils

Pineapple Stencil

Free Printable Stencils

Paisley Stencil

Quilting Stencil Patterns

Rose Stencil

Skull and Crossbones Stencil

Southwestern Stencils

Sports Stencils

Stencils Quilting

Teddy Bear Stencil

Toile Stencils

Tree Stencils

Tribal Stencil

Trompe l oeil

Tropical Flower Stencil

Valentine Stencils

I hope you truly enjoy these Free Stencils! Thank you so much for visiting and coming back soon for more Stenciling Ideas!

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In these times, we're always looking for a bargain. CreateForLess  has a good selection of plastic pallets for you to choose. Plus you'll find Delta Ceramacoat and DecoArt Paints, stencil brushes and applicators, a few pre-cut stencil designs, and many other items on your stencil supplies checklist.

Crafts & Supplies at!  carries a variety of high quality acrylic paints, great for stenciling. You'll find brands like Delta Ceramacoat, Folk Art, Americana and DecoArt. They also provide paint applicators and many other arts and crafts and stencil supplies.

If it's pre-cut stencil designs that you are looking for, then I may suggest Stencil Ease . They have decorative, alphabet and industrial designs or they can custom make one for you. You'll also find Americana Acrylic Paints and other stencil supplies.

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