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Outlined & Outlawed- A Guide to Stencilling

While some people don’t see stencilling as the most refined way to decorate walls, when done well it is an art form in its own right, capable of creating the most amazing effects. Stencilling is a great way to add interest and movement to a space without the need for re-doing the entire surface of a wall. Using stencils is a cost effective way to achieve a new look and feel without having to repaint the whole room. They can also give a new lease of life to some tired old curtain fabric or roller blind.

The key to creating an elegant look with stencils is to use colours that blend well with the existing wall colour. Subtlety will add warmth and create beauty. It is understandable that many people are suspicious of the stencil, often used badly to room ruining effect. All too often stencils are overdone with far too many colours or shades that just do not match. They were also victims of massive overexposure on a certain popular 1990’s DIY themed T.V. show which was responsible for some of the most horrific changing of rooms ever shown on British television before the implemented watershed.
For children’s rooms or other areas where you prefer a more whimsical look, vivid colours or those with high contrast are the better choices. It really depends a great deal on the type of space you are decorating and the overall look you want to create.

Whichever effect you hope to achieve, one of the best tips to keep in mind is that it pays to make a practice board before going to the wall. This is true of most any paint treatment or technique, and stencilling is no exception. Start by painting a piece of scrap material in the same colour as your existing wall colour. When it has dried thoroughly, begin stencilling.

Try these tips:

  • Lightly mark the area where you intend to place the stencil to ensure that it is lined up straight.
  • Use a spray adhesive or a bit of painter’s tape to hold the stencil in place.
  • When applying paint, use stencilling brushes. Dip the brush into the paint and remove some of the excess by blotting.
  • Dab the paint on instead of using typical brush strokes.
  • Work from the outside edge of the design toward the centre. This will help you avoid pushing paint underneath the stencil and disturbing the outline.
  • Don’t hesitate to mix colours. Sticking to one colour will make the design look flat. Mixing colours will make it more dimensional and interesting.
  • Don’t become discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t turn out as you expected. Try again. It may take a little practice to get it just right.

Once you are able to achieve the look you want, follow the above steps on the wall. It is wise to wipe the area you intend to paint before beginning in order to remove any dust that could interfere with your stencilling.
After you have completed a section, let it sit for just a moment and then carefully pull away the stencil. Grasp one corner and gently pull it away in a diagonal, downward motion. Wipe any paint from the stencil and move on to the next marked off area, but take care not to touch the freshly painted section when applying the stencil or when painting the next section.
Once the technique is mastered, you are sure to be delighted by the beautiful looks you can create with stencilling.

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