Our new 'How To Stencil' series of posts will help you decorate many different surfaces successfully. Every few years we update the instruction leaflet that we send with our mail order stencils. The updates reflect new and current product. The guidelines that we give are as detailed as any in our books. Our intention is that they help the reader to stencil surfaces with various media and not just items bought from The Stencil Library.
Our tips and hints are based on years of experience working with stencils. In the interest of introducing more readers to the useful and versatile stencil tool I will slice our new instruction leaflet into bite size portions, add some photographs and a sprinkling of captions and serve them up in our 'how to stencil' section of this blog; look for them in the side-bar.
Many of our stencils are delivered in a cardboard postal tube. They are made from a translucent, washable and reusable stencil film. The stencil may need to relax and unfurl before starting work especially after a long journey. For immediate use, place the wrapping paper underneath it and roll the stencil carefully in the opposite direction to flatten it a little.
It is beneficial to have a stencil rehearsal on paper before starting a new project. The act of applying colour through a stencil is easy, but the most successful schemes are planned so set aside time to experiment.
Measuring. Stencilled borders, all-over patterns and motifs all benefit from starting from a straight line to work from or use an existing architectural feature such as the top or bottom of a wall, dado rail, the edge of a floor, or the selvedge of fabric. Chalk, water soluble pencil and low tack tape are all useful for marking lines; levels and plumb lines will help you to create them. Let us show you how to create a line using a simple method of marking walls which requires the help of a partner and some home made tools. To mark a straight line along a wall, mark two points of reference at the desired height on both ends of the wall.
Take a length of string longer than the wall and rub it over a stick of coloured chalk. Choose a colour that will show on the wall. Place the string over both reference points and pull it tightly. Ease the taut string away from the wall and let go; It will snap back into place leaving a line of chalk along the surface. Lay the edge of the stencil along this line to ensure that the first row will be straight. Any other rows will evolve from this one. If the measuring line is to be vertical, tie a key or weight to the chalked string. Gravity ensures that the plumb line will hang straight. Simply press it against the wall and ping the string as before.
To find the centre of a square or rectangular wall the chalked string is stretched and pinged diagonally between the corners in turn, creating an ‘X’. Where the two chalked lines cross is the centre of that space.
We recommend using coloured, blackboard chalk as it is easy to remove. The two pictures above appear in our 'how to stencil' chapter of The Stencilled Home. Stencilwerks in the USA are selling the hard backed version of this book at less than half the publishers price at the moment. The UK soft back edition is available from The Stencil Library and used copies of both can be found on Amazon.
How to hold the stencil in place: A very light misting of spray repositioning adhesive onto the back of the stencil should keep all elements of the design in position whilst paint is applied. We recommend Spray Mount™ by 3M for most projects and advise the addition of low tack tape to help secure large or heavy stencils. When spraying, follow the safety advice of the manufacturer. Hold the spray 25 to 30 centimetres (10-12 inches) from the back of the stencil and apply a light, even layer to it. Wait a few seconds before pressing the stencil into position. The stencil should feel slightly tacky but not sticky. It should peel away from the surface with ease. Over application of spray adhesive can damage both stencil and surfaces, however the tack can be lessened by pressing on the sticky surface with paper towel until the tack is reduced. There is no need to re-apply tape or spray adhesive until there is insufficient tack to hold the stencil. Low tack tape is strong enough to keep a stencil in place but should not damage delicate surfaces. Tape is also beneficial to help mark registration points onto when repeating a stencil....but that will be explained in our next section.
TIP: Using the correct stencilling technique rather than an excess of adhesive will prevent paint from leaking under stencils.
Both our books 'Stencil It' and 'The Stencilled Home' provide lots of information about stencil techniques and we will share more in a series of forthcoming posts. We have a DVD called The Stencilled Home and I recommend a short clip that our publishers shot for YouTube to help you learn to stencil successfully. Everyone who works at The Stencil Library uses our stencils and are happy to try and help with queries relating to stencil projects.
Next post in this series will be...getting a clean, crisp imprint with liquid paint and our stencils.