How to Stencil on Canvas

This is a tutorial on how to use stencils on canvas with free SVG and printable stencils for canvas art to practice along with the tutorial.

I’m ok at drawing but my creativity far outpaces my actual artistic skills. I have a feeling a lot of people are in my camp. I have aspirations to create all this wall art for our house but my earlier attempts didn’t work out so well.

Those couple of hours in art class in elementary school just wasn’t quite enough practice.

I decided to do something about this the other day and channeled my creativity towards designing a couple of pieces in Adobe Illustrator but then used the help of a stencil to paint it on a canvas.

Yes, I do a little bit like I’m cheating but from what I can tell on the internet, stenciling is an artform!

If you’re ok with getting some guidance (via a stencil) in your artwork, join me for this fun stenciling project…

how to stencil on canvas

I have two projects here that require slightly different techniques in stenciling because of the nature of the designs.

The floral monogram has 2 layers of colors which I did in sequence once one color dried. It also has a letter in the middle. The combination of the multi colored look and lettering makes the stenciling sequence a little different.

In the abstract floral piece, I also painted it with 2 colors but they are layered. I first painted the canvas background a flat color and then stenciled a metallic silver on top after the base layer dried.

Getting the stencil right took a few tries but I think I figured out the optimal way to use vinyl stencils on canvas.

I decided after this that depending on the design, sometimes it’s easier to just do a reverse stenciling job. If the design has a bunch of little pieces, it’s sometimes easier to paint the design color first, layer on the design, and then paint over the whole canvas. Here’s my tutorial on how to do this type of reverse stenciling on canvas.

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Materials for stenciling on canvas

Canvas – I bought a pack of blank canvas boards that fit into those really check standard black frames that you can get everywhere. There are tons of options available on Amazon including this one that I used.

Paint – I used acrylic paint for this project. It is super affordable and can be wiped off with some alcohol if you mess up. I bought this assorted set of acrylic paint from Amazon. I also love Folk Art’s acrylic chalk paint and metallic acrylics as well which is what I used in the abstract floral piece.

Vinyl – Any vinyl works. I just grabbed a sheet from an assorted set I also got from Amazon. There is also dedicated stencil vinyl which is a little thicker and easier to work with but it’s not a necessity if you already have regular vinyl around.

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

Design Template – Both the printable stencils for canvas art and SVG format templates of the floral wreath monogram and abstract flowers set are available for free in my resource library. There are many other stencil project designs in there as well.

How to stencil acrylic paint on canvas

I used my Cricut for this project because of how intricate the design is. I’m not sure if it is just my machine or if it happens to everyone but whenever I cut non-Cricut brand vinyl, it always cuts through the whole sheet.

I usually use the vinyl setting but put it on less pressure.

While I could optimize for material, I like to attach all the pieces so I can see the end results which helps later on in the project.

stencil on canvas

I’ve also used dedicated stencil vinyl for stenciling projects. It usually doesn’t have many issues cutting because it is thicker but I wanted something stickier for this project because the nature of the canvas makes any sticker surface less effective so I started off with regular permanent vinyl that stuck in place better while painting more intricate parts.

How to stencil letters on canvas

For a design like this, I find it easiest to first cut the design as one piece so I know where everything goes and then cut up my stencil by hand into small manageable chunks.

This not only makes it easier to transfer the vinyl so it doesn’t get all tangled up, but it also helps position the design symmetrically relative to everything else.

stencil painting on canvas

I’ve purposely designed the monogram wreath such that it can be cut up into pieces. I just peel off the stencil and stick it on the canvas.

I find it is difficult to use transfer paper with vinyl on canvas so it is easiest if you just start with a more manageable design.

Best way to stencil on canvas with acrylic

After cutting up and applying my stencil in chunks. I work with the acrylic paint one chunk at a time.

This particular project is 8″x11″ so the actual design was small. I just used a q-tip to dab on the paint

printable stencils for canvas

It is important to remove the stencil when the paint is still relatively wet especially when using acrylic paint. Acrylic paint is like plastic and still peel off in chunks if left to dry with the stencil.

This is another reason why I like to cut up the design into sections so I can work each one to completion and peel off the stencil part while the paint is still well.

If you don’t like the look of stenciled letters, you can also dab in the paint afterward with a small brush. I made this “J” monogram wreath for my daughter’s room which doesn’t need any special stencil treatment but the set of letters for this project in my resource library does have cutouts on the letters.

Layering stencils for painting on canvas

There are other techniques to incorporate multiple colors in a stenciled designs. Here, I have an abstract floral designs with two different colors; one for the flower and another for the background. The color I decided to use for the flower was pigmented enough to no show through the background color so I could just apply the paint in layers.

If your color choice requires you to color the main subject without a background layer of paint, check out my Hot mess reverse canvas tutorial for more details on that technique.

The abstract flower was much easier. I first painted the background layer and let it dry for a few hours. After it was dry to the touch, I just placed the outline of the flower down first and then transferred the stamen pieces individually.

If for some reason the stencil picks up the background paint or you’re missing a piece of the stencil, don’t forget you can always make touch up adjustments freehand with a brush.

printable stencils for canvas

Alternatively, if you are interested in how to make any font into a stencil in Cricut Design Space, check out my tutorial on how to do this.

Related Articles:

Free Floral Stencils

Stenciling Letters on Wood Signs

Cricut Floral Vinyl Art

Stencil on Fabric with Throw Pillows

how to stencil on canvas
cricut stenciling project
stencil on canvas

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