The Art of Stencilling

by Nell Frances

Stencilling is the art of transferring a single pattern or multiple designs onto the surface of an object, or the wall of a room, using paint. Stencilling is a popular and much-used medium when it comes to DIY renovation and home decorating.

The unlimited range of designs available and ease of application, make stencils a perfect option for revamping your home décor, especially in nursery rooms and children’s bedrooms, where you can unleash your imagination and creativity to produce a vibrant and effervescent effect that costs very little to create.

Stencilling adds a finishing touch to any room that potentially takes the room décor from ordinary to extraordinary!

Stencil designs are often used as borders in a nursery room, but nursery stencils can be patterned or grouped to highlight any area of your baby room. Alternatively, stencil designs can be very easily expanded into a full-scale wall mural, which look fabulous in a nursery or baby room, creating a unique and original environment for your child.

Stencils can be produced from a single sheet of cut-out designs, or built on with a number of superimposed layers, depending on your expertise. Stencil designs can be applied with a stippling brush, a sponge or with spray paint. Stencil designs can be produced in a complimentary color, using one or two colors from the color scheme within a room, or they can create a totally different effect in a room by using a contrasting color or two.

The most difficult element of stencilling is deciding what design to use for your project. Look for inspiration in the fabrics used in the room’s bedding and window treatments, focusing on a single pattern or shape. If the room is ‘themed’ a design choice may be obvious. Inspiration can also come from toys or books within the room. These details can be brought to life by highlighting or accenting with a repeated stencil design. Simple shapes such as stars, moons, fish, daisies or balloons are very easy to achieve and look striking when grouped together in differing sizes. Details such as air bubbles from the fish’s mouths, or ribbons tying the balloons together, can be easily added in by free-hand after the stencilling is complete.

Basic shape outlines are readily found in children's color books, which are a great place to start when looking for nursery stencil designs. The stencil designs can be enlarged or diminished using a photocopier. These design shapes can be transferred onto acetate sheets and cut out. When making your own stencils, be sure to leave a border of acetate sheeting at least 2 inches wide around the perimeter of your design, to prevent paint getting on the remainder of the object or wall you are decorating.

The secret to successful stencilling is making sure not to apply too much paint at once. The amount of color applied to your stencil design should be built up gradually. Whether applying the paint with a stippling brush, a sponge or a spray can, the trick is to only apply a small amount of color at a time. Your stippling brush or sponge should be wiped of excess paint, so that when dabbed lightly on the palm of your hand it leaves no color. If using spray paint, spray the can over the design with a swift, fluid motion, working in one direction only. E.g. left to right. More color can be added gradually to achieve the stencilling result you desire. It’s much more tedious to have to paint over or hide a stencilling disaster of runs caused by applying too much paint!

Stencilling is a great way to bring together design elements in your home, and is especially suited to the nursery, baby room projects and children’s rooms. It really can be that ultimate accessory that sets your decorating project apart from others. So for a creative and rewarding home decorating experience I recommend you start stencilling today!

Nell Frances is author of the Step-by-Step Guide to Baby Room Projects Ebook and brings over 20 years decorating experience to her articles. She's helped families decorate using miniscule budgets and zany ideas, to create baby rooms and child spaces that echo with squeals of delight! For all your Baby Room Decorating information and advice visit
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