How to stencil paint fabric – some tips

Painting fabric using a stencil is so much fun: it is easy and it offer virtually endless possibilities. I have posted several tutorials using this technique, like here or here. Today I would like to share some tips, the type of stuff I don’t have time to explain in too much details in the tutorials.

1 – The supplies

  • Fabric paint – it can be found in most are and craft shops. This type of paint usually require a time for drying before the final bonding process, generally done by ironing the painted motif.
  • Stencil brush – they are flat-headed and with firm short bristles. You can also use a classical brush, try and use one with bristles as short and firm as possible.
Examples of brushes
  • Paper – if you plan to use the stencil only once, it is ok to use plain paper. However, light cardboard is always a better option, particularly if you plan to save the stencil for a later use. Even better: make your stencil out of some clear plastic, as long as it is possible to cut with the paper knife without damage.
  • Pencil or printer – if you’re not into drawing, you can print the stencil motif. It is often a good idea whenever fonts are involved.
  • Paper knife – to cut out the stencil.
  • Cutting mat – very important if you don’t want to ruin your kitchen or dining table.

2 – Making the stencil

First you need to figure out how large the stencil should be. I suggest your draw a rectangle of the right size on paper and you start drafting/printing your stencil motif.

Once you have it, you can darken all the parts that will need to go during the cutting process. You can skip this step when you’re an expert, but for your first few times it will prevent you from cutting a part you shouldn’t have.

With the paper knife, remove all the black parts of your motif. One exception though: letters with loops (such as ‘a’, ‘o’ or ‘e’) should be treated with special care: for them you need to leave a dark spot on the stencil. You can see a couple of examples in the pictures below.

3 – Testing the paint

The paint may not react in the same way to every fabric and colour. Therefore it is important to make a test of the full process (from application to bonding). For instance  if the fabric fiber is a bit loose, it may take more paint to get a neat result. Or some pink may look reddish on a darker fabric.

4 – Applying the paint

Secure the stencil on the fabric with some adhesive tape. Pick a little bit of paint on your brush and start filling the holes, moving from top to bottom.

It is important not to put too much paint on the brush otherwise the paint may leak beyond the stencil edges. You can still apply the brush several times on the same spot until it is filled whereas you can’t remove paint once there is too much of it. You should also never work laterally but always move the brush from top to bottom for the same reason of risk of leak.

Carefully remove the tape making sure the stencil is not rubbing the fabric. Be careful though: never replace the stencil once it has been moved, you have little chance to replace it at the exact same place, and if you resume painting you may end up with a blurry motif.

Here you go. Did it seem clear enough or do you feel you need more explanations before you start painting your own fabric?

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