5 Tips for Using Art Stencils

I have a new addiction: art stencils. I’ve been playing with a variety of stencils in my art journal and watching stenciling tutorials, and I’ve learned a few tricks and tips I want to share.


art stencil watercolor effect
On this journal page, I stamped, then sprayed alcohol
inks over stencils
. After the ink on the stencil was dry,
I washed over the stencil with a wet brush, creating this watercolor effect by mistake. But I love it as a background.

Use a sponge

. A cosmetic sponge or a natural sponge both allow you to control the amount of paint you apply to the stencil. Additionally, because you can pounce up and down on the stencil, you have less chance of getting paint under the stencil.

Spray away. Spray inks and paints make stenciling quick and easy. Just be sure to mask off areas you don’t want the spray to reach. Experiment with spraying close to stencil and farther away, giving the nozzle a short pump for more spotty results and depressing it fully for a finer mist.

Layer. Layering stencils will give you fast, beautiful backgrounds. You can apply one stencil, let it dry, and then apply another stencil over it, or apply your medium through two stencils at once. Be aware that if you layer with wet complementary colors, you could make mud, so choose colors wisely and let the layers dry in between.

Waste not. I like to use a brown paper bag or Kraft paper packaging as my drop cloth. Then I use the over-sprayed areas as background papers or cut out shapes for collage. Also, be sure to keep a piece of watercolor paper, Kraft paper, or fabric nearby for blotting the excess paint or ink from your stencil, like a stamp.


art stencil backgrounds mcknight holbrook
Kari McKnight Holbrook is an expert at layering
stencils to make backgrounds.

Embrace “mistakes.”

Sometimes you use too much water and the color seeps under the stencil. Or you swipe a color over a stencil you had used with alcohol inks and the colors run. Guess what? The results can be some of your most interesting work.

I learned most of my stenciling tips from experimentation and watching two stencil art divas: Linda Blinn and Kari McKnight Holbrook. You can learn from them, too, plus get two popular and versatile stencils in our Ultimate Stenciling Kit, available for a limited time.

P.S. Do you have a favorite stenciling trick? Please share it below.


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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