Craft Stencils

by Katharine Godbey
Craft stencils allow painted designs to be created with ease.

Craft stencils allow painted designs to be created with ease. Images

Craft stencils are cut-out designs of varying detail from simple shapes to complicated designs. They are placed on a surface, such as cloth or furniture, and paint is applied. When the stencil is lifted the painted design it left behind on the surface. Craft stencils vary in pricing depending on their type and complexity. Crafting with stencils does not take many expensive supplies and with a little practice can help even the inexperienced to succeed in creating stenciled home accessories and clothing.

Craft Stencil History

The art of using craft stencils is formally called theorem painting. This art form was started in the early 19th century, allowing women to paint for their homes without needing advanced artist skills. Several sheets of stencils were used in sequence, each adding a portion of the painting until completed. Designs included still life paintings and designs that reflected daily life. Popularity of this art form has continued as an Early American style craft, but has also stretched out into other styles of crafting as the craft industry has grown.

Craft Stencil Types

There are a variety of craft stencil types. The most common type in craft supply stores is thin semi-transparent plastic varying from simple single sheets to complex plastic stencils using multiple sheets. Another type is brass stencils about the size of a playing card. They are used for stenciling small objects, including greeting cards, or used to emboss paper by gently pressing the paper over the stencil. When lifted the indention of stencil design remains in the paper.

Craft Stencil Supplies

Supplies needed to use craft stencils include tape, paint, brushes and water or turpentine for cleaning. Masking or painters tape holds the stencil in place. Paints vary from liquid water-based acrylic, oil-based sticks and oil-based tubs. Water-based allows for easy cleanup, but because of its wetness can take practice to avoid bleeding under the stencil. Oil-based paints are drier and apply very nicely similar to artist oil paints. They take longer to dry and require turpentine for cleanup. Stencil brushes are round with very stiff bristles and come in varying sizes for different-sized areas of the stencil design. It is helpful to keep blank paper to practice on before working on the actual project.

Craft Stencil Techniques

The most challenging technique to accomplish when using craft stencils is paint application. The brush must remain dry. Too much paint will make the design too saturated and it can bleed under the stencil. Also, the brush stroke is not in a back-and-forth motion, but instead is done with a light circular motion starting from the edge of the stencil and moving toward the center. Gradually, the intensity of paint increases at the edge, creating deeper shading and a more dimensional appearance.

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