Art Journal Techniques: Reduction Stenciling

Sure, I love every new art supply that comes down the pike. But I’m also a big fan of making the most of what you have around the house/studio. Not only because new art supplies are costly, but because working with what you have encourages experimentation, especially when you’re playing in your art journal.

For example, a while back I shared a technique I learned from Jacqueline Newbold for creating a pattern on watercolor travel journal pages using a stencil and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser® sponge.

art journal by dina wakley
Dina Wakley used reduction stenciling (upper right)
on the top layer of her art journal page to break
up the dark area.

Recently I learned a variation on that technique–along with many other art journal ideas–from Dina Wakley. She calls it reduction stenciling, and here is how it works:

You will need:

  • An art journal page
  • Stencils
  • Acrylic paints
  • Gesso or Titanium white acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Baby wipes
  • Plain cloth or rag (for wiping)


1. Paint a very thin coat of gesso or Titanium white over your art journal page. Don’t worry if you miss a spot here and there. Let dry.

2. Choose (or mix) a color of acrylic paint and paint a thin layer over the white layer.

3. Before the colored paint dries, take a baby wipe and squeeze out the excess moisture on a cloth to make sure it is not too wet. Then place the stencil over the painted page and rub the wipe over the openings. The wipe will remove some of the paint, leaving lighter mark in the shape of the stencil.

reduction stenciling on an art journal page
Dina Wakley uses a baby wipe and a stencil to
remove color from her art journal page during
her class at Art Journaling Live 2013.

Note: The baby wipe will not work if the paint is dry. However, you can use a cloth with a bit of rubbing alcohol to achieve the same effect on dry paint, Dina says.

4. Apply another thin layer of paint in a different color and use the wipe over a different stencil.

Tip: if you start to build up paint on your stencil, place it over an unpainted section of your journal page and rub through the stencil openings to get a different look.

So simple, yet so effective. Use this technique for backgrounds or to create highlights and subtle texture on your top layer.

This is just one of many journaling tips and ideas I gleaned by watching the recording of Dina’s Art Journaling Live 2013 class. She is so full of energy and enthusiasm, and the techniques just kept coming. It was just like being in the room with her.

P.S. What’s your favorite quick-and-easy art journaling technique? Leave your comment below and share with us!


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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