How to Stencil on Wood without Bleeding

This is a tutorial on how to fix stencil bleed on wood.

I know it’s really popular to sell these wood signs on Etsy and other handmade markets. It is also a fun and easy way to decoration your own house with a personalized touch.

I find the look of vinyl on some wood surfaces to look a little strange. If it is a super smooth surface, you could get away with it. But for more textured woods and ones where you can see the grain, I have a small preference for paint over vinyl iron on.

I’ve also heard the painted signs sell better and warrant a higher price point than the HTV ones.

The trouble with paint on wood is it bleeds easily. I created this tutorial to provide a few pointers on how to minimize and possibly eliminate this paint bleed on your wood signs with just everyday materials.

I made this deer family sign design the other day and thought I’d share the process with everyone in case you want to practice along with the tutorial.

The deer family template is available in both SVG and printable formats for free in my resource library.

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    How to paint with stencils without bleeding

    First, let’s start with the right materials. I have the full list but it’s not necessary to use every item to make things work.

    I used permanent vinyl here as the stencil material because it is stickier and seals a bit better than stencil film. It is possible to use stencil fil as well. I have a separate tutorial (with free templates) on how to use Cricut stencil vinyl or also known as stencil film.

    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. You will not be sanding down the whole surface, just the areas where you will be applying the paint.

    Paint – I used Acrylic Paint from this assorted pack I got on Amazon. Acrylic paint comes in all viscosity. The set I used is more a paste which already reduces the likelihood for paint bleed significantly.

    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 too which is a thicker version of Elmers Glue.

    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.

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

    How to stencil on wood 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. The adhesive backing on the vinyl is important for wood stencil painting because it minimizes bleeding of the paint.

    Step 1: Weed the cutout

    I first take the cut stencil and weed the negative out.

    Step 2: Transfer vinyl stencil using 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 silkscreen.

    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 write on wood without bleeding

    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.

    Related Articles:

    How to Make a Stencil with the Cricut

    Letter Stencils for a Wood Signs

    How to Stencil Fabric

    Reverse Hot Mess Canvas with Stencils

    How to Stencil Chalkboard Signs

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    how to stencil on wood with acrylic paint
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