Contact Paper Stencil

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DIY Home Decor, Stencils

This is a tutorial on how to use contact paper as a stencil for more flimsy materials that need to be washed like canvas or fabric.

So for all of my readers who love to stencil, I just want to address the question of why contact paper?

Well, there are times when I need something sticky but not too sticky so I can move it around.

Plus, contact paper is cheaper and disposable.

Stencil vinyl vs contact paper

I find when I am stenciling on more flimsy materials like a canvas or fabric pillowcase, I need something that I can readjust and doesn’t get all tangled up like vinyl. I also need it to be sticky so that it stays in places and doesn’t cause too much paint bleeding.

I also find for bigger designs, I always get the vinyl stencil all tangled up.

Can you use contact paper as a stencil for paint projects?

Many people think contact paper cannot be used for paint projects because it soaks through.

Well, I have a really easy solution. Don’t apply so much paint that it soaks through.

I find contact paper works particularly well with fabric paint because it tends to be more viscous and stays on top of the contact paper.

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Materials for Contact Paper on Canvas/Fabric/Upholstery Projects

Contact paper – If you don’t have any leftover from lining your drawers, you can always order more online.

Exacto knife – You need something to cut out the design.

Fabric paint – I find the 3D paints work really well for this project. There is a lot to choose from on Amazon.

Sponge – Any kind of sponge works, I like using makeup sponges for smaller designs.

Optional items…

Cutting Machine – I use a Cricut. Check out my recommendations for Cricut machines and accessories for beginners for more info.

Stencil friendly design – If you are interested in the designs I used for this project, they are free and available in my resource library.

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    Cutting contact paper with the Cricut

    If you are using a cutting machine, I would recommend using the vinyl setting and applying less pressure.

    I find the vinyl setting tends to cut through the sheet which isn’t a big deal for this project because it is a stencil but on the lesser setting, you minimize cutting through.

    How to use contact paper for stenciling with paint

    I find just peeling back the main piece of the stencil as I am applying it to the fabric works best.

    So peel a little bit, stick it on the pillowcase, then peel back the rest.

    I then do some readjustments.

    After I have arranged the main piece as I like it, I manually place the floating pieces. This is where not having a super intricate design with lots of floating pieces is helpful.

    I then take the sponge, apply some paint and smear it around so it’s not one big glob.

    Then I use a stamping motion to paint the cutouts. It helps to do some pre-stamps elsewhere to make sure the paint is not in one big glob on the sponge. This minimizes bleeding underneath the stencil.

    (a quick side note: depending on your material, you may want to place a sheet of paper underneath/in between the layers so the paint doesn’t soak through)


    It takes about a couple of hours for the paint to dry. Then I just peel off the stencil.

    If you are worried about excess paint bleeding, I would consider smearing on a layer of Mod Podge for Fabric on the cutout areas before applying the paint.

    Related Articles:

    How to Stencil on Fabric

    Throw Pillow HTV Design

    How to Stencil with Freezer Paper

    Vinyl Letter Stencils for wood signs

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