How to Stencil a Wall

A kid's room with triangles stenciled on the wall.

Stenciling is a great way to add a secondary color and pattern to a wall. Although the process seems pretty straightforward, there are several things you need to know to get the perfect pattern. Here are seven simple steps on how to properly stencil a wall.

Step 1 - Wall Prep

A room prepped for paint.

Prepare the wall by placing a cloth over any furniture to protect it from paint splatter. Make sure the surface of the wall is clean and dry for a smooth finish. If you plan on painting the wall a different color, do so before applying the stencil. You also need to have the stencil and know what color you are using to accent the wall before proceeding to the next step.

Step 2 - Determine Pattern Layout

The starting point for the stencil will largely be determined by the shape of the wall. If the wall is square and free of windows or doorways, then it is recommended to start in the center and work your way out. If you are stenciling around a doorway, then you may want to begin in a corner. But you will need to play with the position until you find the perfect spot.

Step 3 - Holding Stencil in Place

Once you figure out the starting point, you can secure the stencil in place. You can purchase special adhesive spray to keep the stencil in place or use painter's tape. The adhesive spray works well because you don’t have to worry about ripping up the paint. But as long as the stencil does not move during the painting process, it will be fine. Double-check to make sure the stencil is straight before marking the registration points on the stencil.

Step 4 - Painting Stencil

With the stencil firmly in place, you can start painting. It is best to use a foam-tipped brush for stencil work instead of a bristled paint brush. If you have to use a traditional brush, use as little paint as possible and dab the paint onto the wall instead of brushing. This is called stippling and helps prevent the paint from getting under the stencil and ruining the pattern. You should also use this method with foam brushes. You can use a spare paper towel to dab off excess paint if you accidentally get too much on the brush.

Step 5 - Getting a Clean Pattern

Holding the stencil down with your hand while you paint will also help create straighter lines. After you've covered the entire stencil, mark the registration points with a pencil. Then shift the stencil to the next location, overlapping one set of the registration marks. This will ensure that the pattern is straight across the span of the wall. If you want to double-check your work you can always use a level to make sure everything is laid out evenly.

Step 6 - Repeat the Process

A man stenciling a wall.

Keep repeating this process until the entire wall is covered in the stencil pattern. When you reach the corner of the wall, you may have to bend the stencil to get it entirely flush. This step can be a bit tricky so you may want to save the corners for last. If you are working around doorways or windows, use the closest stencil mark to keep the pattern going. Once an entire row is finished, you can go back and erase the pencil marks.

Step 7 - Wrapping Up

Stenciling an entire wall takes a lot of time, so take a few breaks and give your hands a rest if needed. Once you are done, allow the paint to fully dry before doing any touch-ups. If you notice a section that needs to be completely redone, simply paint over it with the original background color and try again with the stencil. Stenciling is a lot of work, but you will be surprised with the results if you stick with it.