Cutting Edge StencilsCutting Edge StencilsCutting Edge StencilsCutting Edge StencilsCutting Edge StencilsCutting Edge StencilsCutting Edge StencilsCutting Edge Stencils

Right stencil tools for the right job!

Successful stenciling project starts with the right tools!

I am going to show you  my favorite stenciling tools and explain why do they work for me while other don’t.

There are many tools that are suitable for stenciling. You can use stencil brushes, foam rollers, sponges, pieces of foam, spray paint etc. Some of these tools are of good quality, some are not, and some are better to avoid. I’ll explain here how to select the better tools for stenciling and how to properly use them.

stencils and supplies

Stencil brushes.
These type of brushes are actually specially designed for stenciling. Stencil brush looks like a regular round brush, but unlike other brushes,  it has a flat top which makes it perfect for dabbing and swirling the paint over the stencil without getting the paint to seep underneath.  If you try stenciling with your regular watercolor artist brush, or a painter’s chip brush you’ll get a very messy result, due to the wrong shape of the brush. The flat top of the stencil brush is key, so please get the right type of brushes for your stencil project.

stencil brush

Now, how to choose a good stencil brush? These days there are so many brushes to choose from, it’s confusing! A good stencil brush is soft, flexible but densely packed, has natural bristles, minimal shedding (well, it seems that most new brushes seem to shed, unfortunately).  When you buy a new stencil brush, test how flexible it is. Bristles should not be too stiff.  Avoid stiff brushes,  especially those with synthetic bristles, they will be so hard to work with and will  create rough brush marks as you stencil. A good flexible stencil brush will give you beautiful soft shading  and blending of colors similar to the airbrush effect.  When you got your new stencil brush, it’s helpful to vigorously rub it with your thumb to get rid of most loose bristles before you start  stenciling.

the stencil brush

Use larger brushes for large stencil designs, and small brushes for shading and for smaller designs. In general, the size of your brush should relate to the size of the stencil openings, the bigger the openings – the bigger the brush. There are some really big stenciling brushes out there, perfect for large scale designs. Soon we’ll offer them for sale too.

Most stencil brushes have these glossy painted wooden handles.  I really don’t like them! I wish all of them had acrylic plastic handles! These wooden handles look great when new, but sooner or later will start to deteriorate and peel, especially if you like me  forget to clean your brushes  and let them sit in a cup of water for a couple days. The wood swells, paint cracks and chips, and next time you stencil  these annoying peeling paint chips will be falling all over your beautiful fresh stencil work…
Acrylic handles are great!  They don’t swell, don’t crack and peel, and you can forget your dirty brushes in the cup of water for as long as you want! :)

We offer these “soft comfort” stencil brushes with acrylic handles on our site, they have soft  flexible natural bristles,  translucent blue acrylic handles with soft rubber grip and are very reasonably priced.

stencil brush

How to correctly load the stencil brush with paint.
The main rule: not too much paint! Use very little paint for stenciling.
Start with  squeezing a small amount of craft acrylic paint onto a foam plate. Foam plates are the best for this, they are cheap, readily available and are just the right size. I don’t like using paint trays for stenciling, but this is a personal choice.

Now dip just the tip of your stencil brush into the paint.  Remember: not too much! Less paint is always better for stenciling. Now you’ll need to distribute the paint evenly through the bristles. This is easily done by painting a couple circles on the foam plate. Next – very important step! – rub off some excess paint onto a folded paper towel. This step insures that you have just the right amount of paint on your stencil brush.  Now you’re ready to stencil!

I like to hold a foam plate in my hand and tape a folded paper towels to the wall with blue tape when I work. This way I don’t have to run back and forth to my paint station. It’s especially useful when you work up on a ladder.

Stencil Rollers.
While stencil brushes are perfect for detailed stenciling, nothing beats a stencil roller when it comes to speed! If you’re doing a large design that doesn’t require too much shading and detail, definitely use a roller. With allover patterns such as damask stencils, a  foam roller is a must.   I can’t even imagine stenciling a damask room with a small brush!

The best roller for stenciling is a dense foam roller with rounded edges. No, you’ll not get good results with your regular fluffy paint roller! Don’t even try! It holds way too much paint and will make a huge mess if you use it on a stencil.  Even those foam rollers that are made of soft, not dense, yellow foam will hold too much paint and are not good for the stencil project. Your roller  foam should be fine, dense and firm, not soft. These rollers will hold the paint nicely and will dispense the right amount of it as you work.  Rounded edges are great because you’ll not going to get sharp roller marks all over your design.  We offer the perfect dense foam rollers on our site.

How to correctly load the stencil roller with paint.

Start with pouring some acrylic or latex paint on a foam plate or a paint tray. You don’t need much, about 2-3 tablespoons of paint is plenty to start with.

Load your foam roller by rolling it over the paint a few times until it absorbs most or all of it.  Press on the roller as you roll it over the paint, the goal is to absorb the paint into the roller, not to have it sit on the roller surface. Here’s where my favorite foam or plastic plates are the best: they have totally flat surface and it’s perfect for even absorption of paint. Most paint trays have some kind of textured pattern  on them, and because of this the paint ends up unevenly distributed within a foam roller.


When the roller absorbed enough paint,  blot off the excess paint on a folded paper towel by rolling it back and forth a couple times.  This is a very important step, not to be skipped! Always blot off some paint on paper towels before stenciling.


Properly loaded roller should have paint evenly absorbed into it without  dry patches on it (except the very ends). There should be no visible chunks of paint on a roller surface, it should look almost dry. Remember, it’s always better to have less paint on your roller, than too much paint.

About paint for stenciling:

My absolute favorite paint for  stenciling is craft acrylics. I prefer Folk Art acrylics because of their beautiful color range, opacity, and certain thickness that seems to be just perfect for stenciling. Some acrylic paint out there is too runny/watery,  and this is not desirable for stenciling.  Adding a drop of glazing medium to your paint will make blending of colors easier, also you can create amazing translucent effects with acrylics diluted with glazing medium.  I don’t recommend using high quality artist acrylics in tubes for stenciling. They tend to have lots of acrylic resin in them and will stick to the stencil too much  making cleaning a challenge.

These craft acrylics can be used even for a focal wall stenciling project! They often come in bigger 8oz bottles, and you may need only 2-3 bottles for your average wall. Acrylic paint doesn’t accumulate on the stencil as fast as any latex paint, so it means less stencil cleaning!

One of the best paints for large wall stencils and allover  stencils in our opinion is the Benjamin Moore paint called BEN.  This paint has just the right consistency for stenciling: not too thick and gummy and not too runny.  It comes in various sheen ( flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, etc.) and  can be mixed as any Ben Moore color.
You can use any latex paint too, your regular wall paint will work, but it may be less opaque or more gummy and will accumulate on the stencil pretty fast.

For fabric stenciling you can use  craft acrylics with added textile medium, or specialty fabric acrylic paint that have the medium already mixed into it.  I had great results with both types of paint, but regular acrylics come in much more shades and cost much less than fabric paint.

You can also use oil-based stencil crèmes, however I never developed a liking to them.  Some people like them a lot, they blend very well, and you’ll never get any paint bleed with them, but for me this was just too slow, and I never liked the smell of oil paint.

I personally would not recommend using spray paint for indoor stenciling project. Any spray paint is much harder to control, you’re very likely to get seepage under the stencil and get overspray if you’re not paying attention and didn’t use proper masking. It’s perfect for outdoor graffiti-style  stenciling where it seems to be a medium of choice.

In the next post we’ll talk about stenciling techniques and tips and tricks that go along with them! Stay tuned!

Janna Makaeva


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

  • Thank you so much for the detail in this blog!! I embarked on a stenciling project a few weeks ago, finally getting more time to tinker with it. I honestly thought the vast selection of brushes on the stencil isle were planted to make more money off of me lol, but i’ll go back and get the proper brushes. I’m having a bleed problem, so got some adhesive; it’s better, but with the right brush and forcing myself to be “more wasteful” with paint by clearing excess paint, I just might be able to do this! I haven’t found such an informative page in days! Thanks again :)

  • CESteam

    Thank you Cassie for your comment and between us, we don’t make any money selling Stencil Supplies but using the right tool can make the difference.
    Looking forward to see some pictures of your stenciled walls!! :)

  • Observation

    Thankyou so much for this! I’ve been looking everywhere for a guide like this one.

    I wanted to ask if you have ever used a squeegee before, and if you have, what do you think of them?

  • CESteam

    Hi, Unfortunately we do not have experience with a squeegee. -Michelle

  • Kit Daniel

    I am stenciling a border along the entire living/dining room. Would a glossy white acrylic paint work okay for this? The stencil is a lacy motif, so lots of detail. What do you think of the gloss?

  • CESteam

    Hi Kit Daniel ,
    Before trying to answer your question, What is the name of the stencils you are using?

  • Eliza

    Do I have to use special stencil paint or can I use the same paint I used for the wall?

  • Eliza

    By special stencil paint, I meant acrylics.


  • GoodDay!

    I’m thinking of replacing a bad painting in large frame with stencil art. What type of material would be best for stenciling? Canvas, matting, fabric or what?

  • CESteam

    Hi GoodDay!, A lo of our fans have had success with stenciling on canvas or canvas board. Of course, you could create wall art out of any of the items you mentioned. Best of luck with your project!

  • Earlvis Graced

    Hi everyone, just joined here. Am an Artist, am in love with arts but uniquely interested in wall decorative painting.
    I have a very important question.
    What are the necessary requirements for preparing and painting a base wall? And also what kind of paint is supposed to be used as base paint before stenciling with acrylics? Thanks a million.

  • CESteam

    Hi Earlvis, Welcome to stenciling! You may want to check out our detailed stenciling videos and our how-to stencil tutorial on our website. Here is a link that can walk you through the basics of stenciling http://www.cuttingedgestencils.com/basic-stenciling-instructions.html. If you’re more of a visual learner then please watch our videos http://www.cuttingedgestencils.com/how-to-stencil-videos.html. We hope you find this information helpful. Good luck with your stencil project!

  • famzy

    Hi I want to stencil my wall. I got damask stencil and really wana have that bronze metallic shine to my wall. My base wall is magnolia. I got this paint from b n q dulux made by me beautiful bronze and relaised its the wrong paint. Im so gutted. Can you please recommend me the right paint to use for my stencil where its the bronze colour. Really would appreciate it. Set back as I wanted to start today. ????
    Thank you

  • CESteam

    Hi Famzy,

    Martha Stewart makes a great metallic craft paint in Brushed Bronze http://www.plaidonline.com/martha-stewart-crafts-paint/146/product.htm. Good luck with your project!

  • Katie


    Thanks for all the info on stenciling!!! Im a newbee but wanted to stencil a horse design o a duvet cover for my son. It is basically a repeat pattern of a basic horse and I will do it in 4 different colours. I was looking at fabric paint but see here that you recommend acrylics! Would I need to seal acrylics on fabric for washing? Or would the fabric paints be better? Also what size brush. I also read that you should attach the stencil with a spray mount to avoid leakage…im assuming any glue will wash off? Has anyone tried this.

    Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again

  • CESteam

    As far as the paint goes, if you are using acrylic paint you want to use textile medium. Or you can just use the fabric paint and follow the setting instructions as different paints have different setting techniques. The brush size depends on the stencil you are using, unfortunately because the stencil you are going to be using is not ours I am unable to recommend a specific brush. You can definitely use spray adhesive, but make sure you use repositionable not permanent! :) Hope this helps!

  • Katie

    Thanks so much for your help. I would have bought a brush form you but you are all the way in America I think! Might be a long wait. But I will look at your advice on brushes to make a decision. Thanks again for taking the time to reply. Blessings. x

  • CESteam

    Hi Katie,

    We are located in the United States, we completely understand! Please note that we do have sales throughout the year which you are most welcome to take part of. To be in the know please sign up for our newsletter by visiting our main website: http://www.cuttingedgestencils.com :)

  • Cheer141

    Hi, I’ve never done this before so am unsure about where to begin. I’m about to decorate my house and have a couple of stencils that I would like to use. Is normal Matt wall paint ok to use as a base to put your stencils on? Also is the acrylic paint a special type of acrylics paint or is it the normal kind you can pick up at a arts and craft store?

  • CESteam

    Hi Cheer141,

    Thank you for your question ^_^ Latex based paint is regular house paint. We like to use Benjamin Moore and the preferred stenciling paint combinations are (wall – stencil): flat on flat, flat with eggshell, matte on matte, matte with eggshell, eggshell on eggshell, flat with semi-gloss, and eggshell with semi-gloss. The less sheen on the base the more absorbent of the paint used for stenciling it will be.

    Acrylic paint is the paint that you would find at your arts & craft store. They also come in different sheens so be sure to pick out the desired sheen.

    Because this will be your first stencil project be sure to take a look at the following videos:




    Of course if you have any other questions do feel free to contact us at any time :) Happy Stenciling!

  • Nice to see all the exact tools and different tips you teach.^Thanks dear for sharing such a great things..Love this blog,,

  • CESteam

    Hi Jefrine! Thank you for your kind words ^_^ Have a lovely day!

  • Lisa Guarino

    Good morning, i have a question, novice here ?
    I have a delicate celtic pattern for a bedroom wall, that i’ve tried twice but i just can’t seem to get it right. My questions are, should i use a smaller brush? the roller…major fail ??
    I’m going to use your suggestion of Folk Art, i’ve used them before & liked them. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks & have a great day ?
    Lisa ?

  • CESteam

    Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for contacting us. If the roller does not work, then the brush would be your best option! Unfortunately because the stencil is not ours, I can not guarantee results. But ideally we recommend the folk art acrylic paints for smaller stencils and projects like yours! Brushes allow for more control within the smaller spaces the smaller stencils provide. When stenciling, be sure to follow the tips on proper brush use in the description above and you should be ok! Too much paint, even on a brush, can cause bleed behind the stencil!

    I do hope this helps!

    Cutting Edge Stencils

  • Lisa Guarino

    Yes it did, thank you so much!!!

  • CESteam

    You are quite welcome!

  • This blog is very helpful for any graphic designer. I needed some clipping path related article. Can you post clipping path related article next time.

  • Emily

    So I bought one of your stencils and followed all the steps with a roller but it’s still bleeding behind. I tried using less paint and it just turns out gray instead of the black I want. Any suggestions?

  • Karen Lamb Webb

    What type of paint would I use to stencil on wood or pieces of luxury vinyl flooring?

  • CESteam

    Hi Emily,

    I am sorry you are running into these troubles. I would like to assist you with this, so please contact us at cusomerservice@cuttingedgestencils.com and I will be more than happy to help!

    Thank you

  • CESteam

    Hi Karen,

    If you are looking to stencil flooring, I would recommend going to your local hardware/paint store and asking their opinion. They may have a special paint they recommend (we would just recommend any latex based paint). They may also have some advice on prepping the floor along with sealing it.

    I hope this helps.

  • Lori Beairsto

    What type of paint would you recommend for stenciling an exterior concrete
    floor? Also, what thickness of stencil would be ideal?

  • ali

    Thanks for all the great information!

  • CESteam

    Glad you found it informative! =]

  • CESteam

    Hi Lori,

    I would recommend going to your local hardware store and asking them about the paint. They would definitely have more information for you.
    As far as the stencil thickness goes, ours are 12 mil, but they do range in thickness depending on the company. We do have one of the thicker stencils in the industry.

  • This is very useful tool…..Thanks for such a beautiful thing..!

  • This was an another informative post.Thanks for sharing with everyone

  • Luke Jones

    Hello, Can you use a hard rubber roller, like a brayer roller, or is it too hard to make contact with the paper through the stencil?

  • CESteam

    Hi Luke,
    I wish I could provide an answer for this question, but we have never used rubber rollers with our stencil. The stencils are not that thick so I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to do it. But unfortunately I do not have a definite answer on this. -Erika

  • Thanks for explaining stenciling tools. Now we can easily use brushes, rollers, sponges and spray paint for interactive design.

Home.About Us.Site Map .Entries (RSS) .Comments (RSS)