Tips for Stenciling on Wood
I made this video years ago… I think it was one of my first FB Lives!! I was so flustered, I blew through my tips for stenciling on wood and made all the mistakes I was warning about!!
I thought this old lesson would be a fun one to share. Let’s face it, hand lettering on a project you poured your heart into can be intimidating. If you decide you just aren’t ready for it, you have a few options for adding lettering to your artwork that make it a simple process.
Just a few weeks ago, I shared how to transfer a template to a canvas. This is the best way to have a guide for your lettering on the softer surface of canvas.
To apply lettering to harder surfaces like my pallet boards built for painting, I like to use a sticky stencil.
Wood isn’t a completely smooth surface which heightens the risk of paint bleeding and that added stickiness helps to lessen the chance of paint seeping underneath. They don’t shift at all when you are working!
If you decide you want to try a reusable stencil, I recommend using a repositionable spray adhesive to give you a similar result.
I have this Silhouette machine that I use to make my stencils. You can find some beautiful and unique SVG files on Etsy compatible with most vinyl cutting machines.
There are thousands of stencil SVG files! You can even find free ones to download.
If you don’t have a machine, there are so many premade stencils available on Etsy! You can even have them customized with your family name or monogram.
Tips For Preventing Bleeding When Stenciling On Wood
Back in the day, when I held in-person paint parties, I used to make stencils for everyone to use when we painted on pallet boards. I learned a lot of dos and don’ts. I want to share my tips for stenciling on wood and how to prevent and fix any bleeding that might happen.
Sand the Surface
It’s really hard to get perfect lines if the surface isn’t smooth because the stencil can’t lay flat against the wood. Paint is going to want to go into all those little grooves. So the smoother the better.
The wood box that I used in the example was made out of a reclaimed white picket fence. It is old and weathered with some pretty textured graining and grooves… This made it a little tricky.
If it doesn’t affect the look you are going for, consider sanding the wood to smooth out some texture. Even just a little bit will help. This wasn’t an option for me, because I loved the chippy white paint and heavy graining.
If you find yourself in this position, I have a fail-proof tip I will tell you in a few steps!
Place the Stencil
First, plan out where you want the stencil to go on your surface. I am just eyeballing it.
Instead of having it perfectly centered from top to bottom, it’s a good idea to always leave a little extra space at the bottom. If it’s centered exactly, it actually looks like it’s a little too low.
Peel off the backing paper and place your stencil. You want to make sure it is pressed really well, sealing all those bumps. I use a scraper, like this one, to make sure all those small edgest around the letters adhere completely.
Next, peel the top paper off, leaving the blue vinyl in place. If you notice any of the blue sheet pulling up, just put the paper back over that area and press it more with the scraper tool.
On rare occasions, you may need an X-Acto knife to cut the vinyl parts that the machine may have missed in tight corners.
No-Fail Tip for Stenciling on Wood
Ok, here is my tip for getting super crisp lines. After placing your stencil, apply a barrier coat of decoupage first. When sealing the edges of the stencil like this, it sort of fills those grooves. There is nowhere for your paint color to seep into!
Keep in mind the finish of the decoupage you are using. If your surface has a matte finish, use a matte decoupage.
Pounce On Paint with a Sponge
The BEST sponge to apply the paint when stenciling on wood is an inexpensive wedge makeup sponge! They just leave such a nice smooth finish.
It’s important to remember not to use a lot of paint. If you do, it will seep into all the tiny cracks. So, dip your sponge into the paint and then blot most of it off on the side of your plate.
When applying, do not wipe the sponge on the surface. Use a light dabbing motion. If you press too hard, you will force paint under the stencil—just use soft pouncing movements.
You may need two thin coats to get full opacity.
Remove the Stencil
When the paint is mostly dry, it’s time to remove the stencil. I keep these tools nearby to help me lift the corner of the sticker so I can grab it and get any of those small leftover pieces.
You can see in the video below, that the Bless This Nest stenciling I did on my Birds Nest painting came out much crisper. That is because the wood of the palette board was smoother than the reclaimed wood of my mason jar crate.
Don’t do what I did! Take your time. Assess the wood and prep it if needed. If you do decide to paint on a rougher surface, try the decoupage trick.
But sometimes, no matter what you do, bleeding can still occur.
If you find yourself in that situation, don’t panic! It’s just acrylic paint, and you know what that means!… Let it dry, and then paint over it.
I used a fine liner brush and some off-white paint to touch up a few areas (ok, a lot). Then, run fine sandpaper over it lightly to blend it in a little.
Stenciling On Wood Video Tutorial
Not everything has to be neat and perfect… at least they don’t always turn out to be. Sometimes the accidents turn into beautiful little messes too.
When all is said and done, I love my rustic mason jar crate even more now with my family name stenciled on it.
If you want to add stenciling to wood, try out these tips and let me know how it turned out!