Incorporate flora, fauna -- even cartoon characters -- into a decor by stenciling designs onto furniture and walls. Stencils were created as an alternative to more expensive wallpaper, but their popularity has grown so that today stenciling is often a preferred technique.
Use either oilbase or waterbase paint, but either should be a creamy consistency -- not so thick as to clog the brush but not thin enough to run behind the stencil. Matte and satin finishes look best. Also consider specialty stencil crayons that work much like paints.
Stencil brushes have short, stiff bristles and come in a variety of sizes. You will need several brushes, one for each color used. This keeps colors from becoming muddy and also speeds things up because you won't have to clean your brush between colors.
Match the size of the brush to the size of the area to be painted: The brush should be about half the size of the area to be painted. If the whole stencil will be 1 color, a bigger brush is fine because it will allow you to work more quickly. You may want to experiment with other applicators, such as sponges or spray paint, to get different looks.
There are 2 basic techniques you can use with a stencil brush. Each gives a slightly different look, and you might find one easier to do than the others.
- Stippling: Hold brush perpendicular to surface, and tap up and down with brush to apply color. The effect is that of lots of little dots created by the bristles. With stippling, the stencil is less likely to move around so you're less likely to get paint under the edges.
- Swirling: This technique is generally used with stencil crèmes, not acrylic paints. To create a smooth finish, hold brush perpendicular to surface, letting it rest just on the surface. Swirl brush in small circles to color in area. Don't push paint under edges of stencil. With swirling, there will be some buildup of paint around the edges.
When working with just 1 color, start on outside edges of opening and work toward center. This creates a shadowed edge and highlighted center, adding depth without additional colors. Darken the color by applying more pressure to brush, not more paint.
When using more than 1 color, start with the lightest color first to fill in space and create highlight. Then use darker color worked from outside edge into center. You can also dry-brush a darker color to create a shadow effect on the very edges.
While stenciling is not difficult, it does require knowledge of a few basic techniques. Take the time to practice before painting on the real surface. This is also the time to test the colors you've chosen and to experiment with shading. Once you're confident in your growing skills, move on to your project.
- Mark position of stencil design on wall with chalk. Use plumb line or yardstick to make sure stencil is level and centered as desired.
- Using stencil as a template, make registration marks by positioning stencil on wall and marking each corner placement with chalk.
- To apply more than 1 color, use masking or painter's tape to cover all the areas you don't want to paint first.
- Use masking tape to secure stencil to surface. Align corners with registration marks.
- Using as little paint as possible, dip stencil brush or sponge into paint, and stipple or swirl paint onto surface, working from middle of stencil to the outside. Be careful not to use too much paint, as it may seep underneath stencil.
- When paint is dry, remove stencil and wipe away excess paint from stencil pattern with a clean, damp cloth. Continue by repositioning and stenciling designs in same color before stenciling additional colors of the design.
Making Your Own Stencils
Sometimes you just can't find the stencil you want. Now what? Almost any kind of clear plastic will make a good stencil because it won't absorb paint and you can see through it to trace a design. Another option, though not as durable as plastic, is cardstock and poster board. Trace design on plastic or cardstock, then cut it out with a sharp craft knife. Try to cut in one continuous line; the piece should just fall out when you're done. Test out your stencil to see how closely it creates the image you want. When you're satisfied, start stenciling!
In the next section, we'll discuss various flooring options for kids' rooms.
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