Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
You’ve just spent a half an hour stenciling a design onto a gorgeous piece of stained wood with a vinyl stencil.
Finally finished, you pull up the stencil to reveal… PAINT BLEEDS.
Augh! So annoying!
But never fear, I’m here to teach you my method for getting crisp, clear lines, every single time.
First, you need to understand that bleeds will happen, no matter what.
The trick for crisp lines when stenciling is to get your bleeds to be a color that will actually blend in with the background of your wood.
If you’ve painted your wood background, no problem, just use your background paint color.
If you’ve stained your wood, just use a paint color that’s pretty close to your stain color. In this tutorial, I’m using just cheap $.50 Apple Barrel paint.
- Your piece of wood/sign with your background prepainted or stained and fully dry
- Vinyl stencil (Wash – Dry – Fold design available here)
- Painter’s tape (I prefer Frog Tape)
- Craft Paint (I’m using cheap acrylic Apple Barrel type paint)
- The color(s) for your lettering/design
- The color that matches (ish) the background color of your sign
- Makeup Sponges (I get a pack at the dollar store)
- Weeding tools (specifically, tweezers, a pin, and scissors)
Step 1: Position Your Stencil
I’ve got my stencil positioned and rubbed down as well as I can. Burnish that baby as hard as you can!
If you have problems centering your stencil (this can be tough on bigger signs) you can check out my guide on how to perfectly center vinyl stencils onto signs.
I didn’t in the photo, but if your stencil doesn’t cover all the edges, you’ll want to cover it with masking tape. I like Frog tape the best – it seems to have a smoother texture that adheres better than the blue painter’s tape.
For this project I’m using some leftover Oracal 651 but I do prefer to use Oramask 851 stencil vinyl.
Step 2: Seal The Stencil
First, grab your paint that matches (closely) the color of your background. In my case, I used the wet rag method to “stain” my board with regular craft paint, and then I’m using that same color to seal with.
(yes, a tutorial on the wet rag method will be coming soon!)
First, I want you to VERY CAREFULLY and VERY LIGHTLY sponge on some of your background paint.
See how lightly I mean? SUPER light.
This makes it so that when the stencil bleeds a bit, it will bleed that color that blends in with the background, NOT your final stencil color.
I like to do 2-3 VERY light coats of this color, allowing the paint to barely set between coats. When paint is “set” it isn’t shiny anymore, but is not completely dry.
Note: many people use Mod Podge for this step. I generally do not recommend this, because Mod Podge often will pull up paint with it when you remove the stencil (so, it’s like the opposite of the bleeds).
That is not a good way to get crisp lines when stenciling with vinyl!
Step 3: Stencil Your Design
Now, you can take a new sponge, and with your actual lettering color (in my case, the white), start sponging on more very very light coats of paint.
Again, you’ll want to wait until each coat of paint is barely set but not fully dry before coating it again.
I generally do quite a few of these (sometimes up to 10). Because I do them so lightly, usually by the time I am finished with one coat, the other end of the sign is already dry enough for me to start with another coat.
Step 4: Remove Your Stencil
At this point, when your paint is set but again still not completely dry, you will want to begin removing your stencil.
You don’t want to wait for the paint to completely dry because it is more likely to come up with the stencil if you do.
Start at one corner and go very slowly to make sure you don’t mar your paint. Go against the grain as much as you can (so, sideways to it) to avoid the chance of wood splinters coming up from under the vinyl.
I use a pin to loosen up tiny bits and then grab the rest with my tweezers (My fav is the gooseneck tweezers in the weeding kit from US Cutter).
Your stencil lines will be sharp,crisp and beautiful, with a gorgeous contrast.
Note: You may also find it helpful to have scissors handy to cut off bits of your stencil as you go, depending on how large and unwieldy your stencil is.
Step 5 – Admire Your Crisp Stencil Lines
Voila! You have just mastered the art of getting crisp lines when stenciling with vinyl and your project looks FAAAAABULOUS!!
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