If you are wanting to create crisp painted lettering for your wood project, wall, or other home decor designs you definitely need to consider stencils for painting. No matter how you cut it they are the easiest and best solution available.

Until recently it was a challenge for me to use letter stencils for painting. I was concerned about crisp letters and consistent paint on the final project.

Whether you are looking at stencils for painting on wood, stencils for painting on canvas or even large wall stencils for painting this post contains an answer for you.

*This post is about stencils for painting and techniques used to get clear and crisp edges without bleeding.


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Stencils for painting will provide clean crisp lines with your letters and images. Using the methods and techniques mentioned below apply your stencil, and ensure you lightly paint the edges of your letters/images with a like color to your background. Prior to it drying, start applying your color in light coats. Remove stencil prior to being completely dry.

1. Stencils For Painting – Crisp Edges Aren’t that Difficult

There are many ways, to use a stencil, to apply your paint and get the best results. It was like a doorway opening up giving me a whole new way of thinking.

During my research, I discovered the two most prevalent methods of stenciling and how they worked. Both have their advantages and it really becomes your choice on what works best for you.

What Is Needed To Create Painted Letters or Images with Stencils

Below is an absolute list of items you will need to paint lettering on your home decor project.

If you would like more information on choosing a paint and background painting you can go to our other article entitled “TOP 3 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WOOD PAINT” for more information.

  • Surface Free From Debris And Dust – ensure completely free so the paint will adhere correctly
  • Your Stencil (Vinyl or Dura-lar) is your choice. If you would like more information on painting letters look at our article ULTIMATE GUIDE ON HOW TO PAINT LETTERS ON WOOD which describes in more detail how to paint letters utilizing a stencil.
  • Mat – Kitchen Drawer liner (Any color which fits your budget at a local dollar store) – To ensure your wood sign does not slip around
  • Tape – Painters tape or inexpensive tape which will pull off without damaging your wood sign
  • Paint – We recommend an Acrylic paint which does very well for this purpose
  • If You Want Two different colors of paint – (Or Multiple depending on your application) One color to match the background and one for the color of your lettering/image
  • *Mod-Podge – If you want to use this option and not the two-color option
  • Sponge Applicators/Small Brushes – A cheap solution is makeup Sponges or small brushes from your local dollar store
  • Weeding tools – You can buy tools for this or just use tweezers and a pin to remove the stencil

2. What Is The Two-Color Option – Letter Stencils for Painting?

This was interesting to me and generally not known to me until I researched the topic. Basically, you are sealing the stencil by lightly painting the lettering or image edges with a similar color to your background.

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You can get very creative with this and it seems like quite a simple way of achieving crisp stencil paint lines.

Applying Vinyl Stencil To Your Wall or Wood Sign

Placing the stencil on your wall or wood sign is critically important and will impact the look and final product. Ensure you have a clean surface free from dust and any dirt or debris.

Vinyl Stencil And Dura-Lar

  • Vinyl Stencil – I would recommend the Oracal 651 or 631 vinyl, however, there are other options.
    • The vinyl Oracal 651 or 631 has a peel and stick capability which makes it extremely easy to apply to the wall or wood and does not need to use a spray adhesive.
    • Ensure your wood sign is placed on a flat surface and the Kitchen drawer liner mat.
    • Peel the cornerback and completely peel back to approximately halfway across the vinyl stencil. Grabbing the two exposed edges place them on the wall or wood edge and firmly wipe across the wood sign.
    • Continue across the wall or wood until complete
    • Take a credit card or flat edge and wipe toward the side of the vinyl unpeeled.
    • Ensure bubbles as much as possible are removed and be careful not to crease or fold over the intricate parts of the stencil.
    • You want to ensure your vinyl is completely adhered to the wall or wood and as flat as possible to ensure the best stencil.
  • Dura-Lar – If you are wanting to utilize Dura-Lar the process is similar.

    Please note: The advantage of Dura-lar is you can utilize it again and again by cleaning the stencil after each use. The con to Dura-lar is the cost is more expensive.
    • Typically Dura-lar does not have an adhesive peeled backing. You will need to purchase a spray adhesive and spray on the back prior to placing your Dura-lar stencil.
    • Once you place your Dura-lar stencil on the wall or wood, you will need to tape the edges with your painter’s tape or whatever tape you are using.
    • Using a credit card or flat surface wipe across the stencil to ensure it is completely flat and not edges are not sticking up.

If you would like to see what products I’m using and purchase you can see my recommended products here – “Recommended Products

Two Color Application To Stencils For Painting

With the stencil applied to the wall or wood, we are ready to start applying paint. Take the color (Paint or Stain) which exactly matches the background or best match and start applying using a sponge or small paintbrush.

You want to do two or three light coats for the best effect. Don’t let your first paint completely dry. Typically, you can apply the second coat upon finishing the first coat. Ensure you put on a light coat.

Once you have the background color coat applied, begin applying the color coat you want the stencil to become. As mentioned before you want to make sure you are applying light coats.

Lastly, you will want to remove the vinyl or Dur-lar stencil prior to the paint completely dries. This is an important step to remember because the longer you wait the worst the stencil paint will be when you remove it.

Removal Of Image or Letter Stencil – Success!

With your paint not completely dry start to remove your stencil. Start at one corner and grab your weeding tools or pin. Slowly remove from the wall or by going against the grain of the wood pulling across the wood taking into account the small pieces and details which may not come off as easy.

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In fact, the vinyl may rip which is totally normal. Continue to remove the vinyl until completely gone. Then return and remove the detailed vinyl with your weeding tool taking extreme care as you remove it.

When you encounter a piece of vinyl or Dura-lar that not will come loose, such as around detailed pieces, utilize the tweezers and pin to remove with the same approach at the corner and remove slowly.

3. What Is The Mod Podge Method?

This method is identical to the vinyl stencil method except where you would paint the background color you would use Mod Podge. It really is a simple method to use and has a list of Pros over the Two Paint Method.

Advantages of Mod Podge

  • Don’t have to get a background color or stain to match the background. Unless you purchased or have extra
  • You can use it with vinyl or Dura-Lar stencil (Others as well such as Contact Paper)
  • Can be used on more primitive (Rough Surface) walls or wood which have not been sanded or pallet wood

Using the steps above the only difference is to apply Mod Podge where you paint your background color or stain. Additionally, you will want to wait till the Mod Podge completely dries instead of continuing with the paint that is somewhat dried.

I found this method to be more beneficial with rustic applications versus more clean wall or wood creations. Both methods have their advantages so you may want to keep both of them in your arsenal for completing your painted stencils without bleeding.

Related Questions

Where can I find more information on painting wood signs? – I have researched different types of paint you can use on wood signs and what is the best paint to use. You can find more info in this article – TOP 3 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WOOD PAINT

Are Vinyl and Dura-lar the only stencil options? – There are more options to use for stenciling. Some folks in my research use contact paper and wax paper to create stencils. These are creative and budget-friendly options for stenciling.

Can I use Aerosol Paint to paint my stencils versus painting? – You can paint with an Aerosol paint, preferably a primer versus paint as it adheres better and works with different types of wood better.

Just ensure you seal your stencil as mentioned in this article to ensure you get the crisp clear lines you want. Conversely, you can not seal the stencil to have more of a rustic look.

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