This is a tutorial on how to paint with stencils on wood.
I made this deer family sign the other day and thought I’d share the process with everyone.
I made the stencil on my Cricut. The deer family SVG templates are free and available in my resource library.
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How to make wooden signs with stencils
Materials for Stenciling on Wood
Blank wood – I love getting the blank pallet signs from Amazon. They are super affordable and easy to use. Michaels also has a great selection of blank wood plaques and signs.
Sandpaper – For rough unfinished wood, I would consider getting some sandpaper.
Paint – I used Acrylic Paint from this assorted pack I got on Amazon
Sponge Brush – I tried both a brush and sponge brush and found the sponge brush to be much better at distributing the paint without getting excess build up. I like this assorted set of sponge brushes from Amazon.
Glue – I just used Elmers Glue to seal the edges of the cut out areas. I would have used Modge Podge if I had it around.
Vinyl – I use permanent or removable vinyl to make the stencil. There are awesome deals on Amazon for permanent vinyl.
Transfer Tape – For large and intricate design, transfer tape will be necessary to get all the stencil pieces onto the wood in the right position.
Stencil – My deer family stencil is free and available in my resource library. I used a Cricut to make mine. If you are interested in getting a Cricut, check out my recommendations for which model is best suited for beginners.
How to stencil with paint
Stenciling with paint on wood looks really great when done correctly. I personally prefer it to the look of HTV iron on wood. Paint on wood just looks a lot more natural than plastic.
I prefer to use removable or permanent vinyl. Adhesive backing is important for wood stencil painting because it minimizes bleeding of the paint.
Weed the cutout
I first take the cut stencil and weed the negative out.
Transfer vinyl stencil to transfer paper
I originally thought wood would be too uneven for the transfer tape to be effective. I was proven wrong. It works quite well for this and eliminates having to use a silkscreen or make a cutout in the actual design.
Be sure to scrape the vinyl transfer with some force onto the wood. I sometimes have to use the pointed corners to really get the edges of the vinyl for letters.
Stenciling letters and how to make wood signs with sayings in general
If you are interested in making a continuous stencil especially with the letters, you will have to make a cutout of each piece of the design that has a floating element. I’ve documented how to do this in this article about stencil making here.
This method also works well if you don’t have any transfer tape and want all the floating pieces to stay intact.
How to stencil on wood with acrylic paint
Acrylic paint is the perfect paint to use on wood. It is relatively inexpensive, it is viscous and therefore minimizes bleeding into the wood. It is semi-permanent and doesn’t smear after it has dried. They also come in a variety of really vivid colors.
I’ve tried other paints such as chalk paint, chalk marker and it really doesn’t work as well as acrylic. It either bleeds or smears easily.
How to paint acrylic on wood
After the stencil has been transferred to the wood, I like to start with the less detailed part of the design.
If you are working with a blush, try to start the brush stroke on the vinyl portion and work inwards towards the wood. This minimized paint gathering at the edge and seeping in.
A better brush to use is a sponge brush. I like using a stamping motion with painting with a sponge brush.
How to stop acrylic paint from bleeding
Most designs will inevitably have a more detailed portion that is harder to manage because you have simultaneously fill out the edges to capture the intricacies of the design but minimize paint usage to reduce bleeding.
I like to use a little glue to help in this part of the project. Any polyester polymer glue would work. This includes Elmer’s white glue, Tacky glue and Modge Podge.
I just tape a q-tip (a brush or sponge works too) and smear it on the cutout. While it is wet, I apply the paint.
How to paint unfinished wood crafts or specifically how to stencil on uneven surfaces
Sometimes blank wood or pallet signs come unfinished which makes it even more challenging to minimize bleeding of the paint.
I would first do a little test run on the other side of the wood to see if the glue sealant technique is enough to stop the bleeding.
If glue sealant is insufficient at stopping the paint from bleeding on the wood, I would consider sanding down the areas with more detailed designs with sandpaper. If it is just a small spot, even a nail file is sufficient.
Additional tips on how to stencil with paint
How to peel stencil – wet or dry peel is best?
If no glue was used to seal the stencil, I like to peel the stencil when it is dry to the touch. This reduces the chances you might smear wet paint.
If glue was used to seal parts of the design, I prefer to peel the stencil wet. I peel the stencil wet in this case in case the glue rips in chunks taping paint with it.
How to fix paint bleed on wood
If there’s a big glob of paint that you want to remove or at least minimize, you can always use a little rubbing alcohol and brush to strip some of the acrylic paint off.