How to Stencil without Bleeding Under? 10 Pro Tips for Stencil Painting Success!

by Patricia Rawlinson on November 14, 2020

10 PRO TIPS... to prevent bleeding/ leaking under Stencils

The #1 most common problem Stencilers and Crafters have is: How to stencil on wood without bleeding?

These techniques work for Canvas and walls and when painting floor tiles. 

I'm Patricia Rawlinson I own StudioR12 Stencils  and a "Painting Party Studio" BoardRoom46 (currently unable to host workshops... Covid ) When our workshops are possible we show 50 - 100 folks a week how to stencil with out the paint leaking under the stencil. I have been painting and publishing designs for over 20 years and have taught nationally all over the country and have several YouTube channels that teach painting!

I am here to help! I'll show you the BEST stenciling techniques!


1.  Use QUALITY PAINT & Shake it up

This may sound silly but if your paint is runny and thin, it's automatically gonna try to move around, a lot of the cheap craft paints can have a lot of water in them, when I'm painting in my studio I use DecorArt Americana. For our samples and work I use a bulk acrylic paint. We actually match our bulk colors with DecoArt so crafters can duplicate the colors. (We will be adding this list to our sample listings and YouTube video descriptions in the future)

* Note: When you shake your paint try to resist tapping on your hand to mix it up, this can cause damage to your hands and make painting painful. 

2. Use the Correct Brush: 

I have seen it all...  and I've seen it bad!

The fastest way to stop bleeding under stencils is to use a great Stencil Brush!

Our Dome Stencil Brushes are made with a very dense bristle head, and are shaped into a dome shape. The bristles are not too fine... which means they don't flop around all over the place. and the tightly packed bristles help the brush keep it's spring (if you've ever used a cheap broom that just flopped around and wouldn't move dirt, then you know how this feels) 

Other stencil brushes are cut flat.. if you smash it on the table imitating the stipple/ stencil move, these types of brushes automatically swoop outwards... if you have paint on these brushes it's going to shove it right under the stencil. 

Our brushes are Dome cut, which means no pushing paint under the stencil. (One caveat.... if you over load your brush you can still get paint underneath) Also our Dome Stencil Brushes allow a swirling technique that I'll talk about later in point # 5.

*Note: No matter what brush you use you have to use a dry brush, if you change colors and wash the brush you have to get a new brush or wait for it to dry.  If you paint a lot I recommend 25 assorted sized Dome brushes, I use the biggest sizes most and the smaller ones less. Nothing is more frustrating than not have enough of the right supplies when you sit down to paint. 

3. How you load the Dome Brush to prevent bleeding: Basic Video Here

  • At the edge of your paint, tip the brush and pull out from the edge pressing down.
  • Use a flat folded paper towel and press wipe off the paint (This seems like a waste but it's a bigger waste to bleed under)
  • Next, swirl wipe in circles to remove excess
  • (ALWAYS WIPE... when you reload as well)

4. How to apply the paint to prevent Bleeding under the stencil:

  • ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS.... Start softly
  • The first touch on the surface with paint is the most wet and the most loaded.
  • Use soft pressure and then increase as the paint is used up.

 5. Stenciling is a layers Game: Apply thin layers

  • Applying the paint softly allows for soft thin paint layers on your wood, fabric, wall or other DIY projects and the paint dries quickly!
  • Soft layers makes the paint quick drying and let's you paint the second layer quickly.
  • Soft layering the colors make the paint less bulky once the stencil is removed, making it appear prettier and look less crafty and more artsy.

6. Your stencil must lay flat - Cut Your stencil up: 

  • If your template/ stencil is bigger than your space or your surface, it can drape over edges and cause big gaps under the cut out areas.
  • If you don't want to cut the stencils then tape it flat using painters tape. (Cutting stencils up does nothing bad to it, except making layout more difficult)

 7. Paint the first layer the same color as your base layer: 

Swirling or stippling the basecoat color kinda makes a seal under the edges of your stencil (as long as the stencil lays flat)

8. The thickness of the mylar material matters: 

Too thin, say 3 mil. and the material will flop all over the place leaving gaps and movement. Too thick 10 mil. and you create huge ridges and you project can look cheap. StudioR12 Stencils are made with 7 mil. and are cloudy so you can see thru them (superior to dark colored stencil material)

9. Warm Ups: Practice on something other than yours surface for a minute before going at the project. 

Say you are escaping for a bit of paint therapy and the kids or co-works were driving you batty today.... well you might be tending towards some aggression instead of tender soft layers! lol....  doing a little trial run can help you see your painting mood and compensate, by drying the brush more or using swirl instead of stipple. 

10: Use paint adhesion tape or spray: 

This is my least favorite, but it works! I hate the mess it leaves on the backs of the stencils and it makes storing stencils difficult. 

This Stencil Adhesive really does stick the stencil down and is a great solution for detailed stencils of really BIG opening stencils that can move on you.


Learn Some coping techniques: How to fix stencil bleed on wood.

If you tend to be a more freestyle painter, you might need to learn some clean up and coping techniques:

Peeking under the stencils as you go can help you see your progress, using a damp paper towel to clean up messes right away or Using a sideload brush after stencils to repair the messy lines are equally fair as the previous techniques. 

 Link to Video... Where I broke some of these rule and show you how to fix them 



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