Stencils — How To and How Not To!

Exploring mixed media has been quite an adventure. I’m astonished day by day at how many things there are to learn, how many new art supplies I can’t wait to buy, and how many different ways I can use what I have — right down to the last little scrap.

Ink 1

One thing I do have in my “mixed media craft bin” is a growing collection of stencils. I’ve had some very basic stencils for a long time — circles and squares. In the past I kept them with my drawing supplies, and I used them often for drawing exercises, such as the early ink texture exercises I worked on a few years ago.

Using stencils with an ink pen — or with a well-sharpened pencil — has always been easy. Put the stencil in place, hold it down, draw. Simple.

I naively thought using stencils in mixed-media projects would be equally simple. Wrong. I’ve quickly discovered that while it looks easy, it’s definitely a struggle for me.

That hasn’t kept me from buying new stencils though. Every time I see another mixed media tutorial with another lovely stencil, I’m off to Amazon to find it — or better yet, to find a nice collection of stencils.

I have lots of little stencils now. Stars, More little circles. Different little patterns that would work perfectly on the pages of my art journal, if only I knew how to use them correctly! I have stencils that are little pictures in themselves, like this pretty lady making a wish.

Stencil on Blue Scrapbook Paper

Oh, how I wish I could use stencils like this! Whenever I try, I end up with a mess. No lovely images. No perfect patterns. Just an awful mess.

I went searching online and found a video that — I hope — will prove helpful. I’ve watched it through, and one-by-one I want to try each of these 10 different stencils techniques. So far, my results have not been good, but I’m just getting started.

Here’s the video I’ve been watching:

This stenciled heart from an art journal page this morning is one of my better efforts.

Stencil Heart (2)

I’ve tried stenciling with both acrylics and watercolors, as well as with an “art crayon” — which is how I did this heart. I’ve tried applying the paint with a sponge and with a brush. So far, I have yet to find a method that consistently produces good results. As often as not, my paints are too watery, I think, or else they’re too thick. Yes, I can use a pen or pencil on my stencils. I suppose some stenciling could be done with one of my new acrylic paint pens. A lot of the stencils wouldn’t be suitable for that, though. Some have very finely-cut designs.

I’m sure many of you are art journalists who occasionally use stencils. Maybe you can pass a few tips on to me. I love the endless possibilities these stencils offer, so I hope I can learn to use them soon!



  1. My efforts with stencils have led me to believe that success comes with less paint and drier paint. Sponges work well, stencils under a screen are awesome. I’m doing it on fabric, though, so your mileage may vary!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I definitely need to use less paint and/or drier paint. Many of the tutorials I watch talk about “thick” acrylics. I’ve never thought about stencils on fabric. That must be really awesome!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to stencil walls for people, and the one thing that served me well was using very little paint. I’d dab my brush in paint, wipe off on paper toweling, and then lightly tap. You can always add more paint, but taking it off when you’re heavy handed is not easy!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I also love stencils, and you are so right, it’s not as simple with paint! I think it really has to do with the type of paint and the brush or whatever you use to apply, I’m gonna watch the video, thanks for sharing, tips and tricks are always good to know!

    Liked by 2 people

I'd Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s