Tutorial: Making a Stencil

Mar 1st, 2010

UPDATE: If you are here at All Things Thrifty for the first time, WELCOME!! 

Since I wrote this post about making a stencil I have found that making stencils are MUCH easier with my Silhouette Machine. So, if you would like to see an easy way to make a stencil with a Silhouette check out that post! 

UPDATE:Also, if you would like some FREE stencil designs, check out that post also!

A few weeks ago, I came across this amazing image fromWhitewall and Co. I instantly fell in love with their stencils, but the prices were a little too high for my thrifty core. So, I’ve let it “marinate” for a few weeks, and I have come up with a thrifty solution! Are you ready!?!?

Step 1: Go to Office Max or Staples and get some clear folders like the ones in this picture below. (These folders cost me 1.49 each and I used 2 of them). You will also need a narrow sharpie marker, clear tape, and an exact-o-knife.
Step 2: Cut the folders and tape them together. If you notice on the Whitewall and Co. website, most of their stencils are 24 inches x 24 inches.
Tape the two folders together to create a large enough area for your stencil.
Step 3: Find an image that you like for your stencil and have it printed large enough to trace. I found this one online, and then I stretched it to mimic the Whitewall image above. I wanted to duplicate a similar look. I took it to the local printing store and they blew it up for me for 99 cents.
Step 4: Trace your image on to your plastic folders with your narrow sharpie. Just place the image below your plastic folder and you’ll be able to trace it quickly.
This is what it will look like once you have the image traced.

Step 5: With an exact-o-knife, cut out the image. This took me a few days. You have to be extremely careful when you are cutting out the image because if you go too fast, then you will cut through the intricate details and ruin your stencil. I have to admit…this part was frustrating. Side note: I found out AFTER I was done with this portion that Robert’s Crafts has STENCIL CUTTER tools. It is a heated tool that melts the plastic material as you cut. I MIGHT have splurged and bought me one. (WITH A 50% off coupon of course!) So, stencils will be much easier to make in the future. I think the tool came to $17.00 after the coupon.
Here is when the FUN begins! Here is the “before” picture of the wall that this stencil was designed for. Don’t mind my son watching iCarly. ;)
Step 6: IMPORTANT: Tape the stencil in place AND spray the back of the stencil with spray adhesive so that it sticks to the wall. Make sure you measure your wall before you begin to ensure that your stencil is in the right place.

I used stencil paint because it is much easier to use. It is drier than normal paint, and it is much easier to work with because it doesn’t run beneath the stencil.

Step 7: With a horizontal motion using a stencil brush and stencil paint, start stenciling your paint on.

What a hottie! I have to admit, once the creative part is over, my hubby usually steps in to help me finish my projects. He has painted most of this wall.
Getting closer!
One challenge that we ran into was that Robert’s Crafts ran out of orange stencil paint, and they are discontinuing the brand that I bought. So, unfortunately the wall isn’t quite done yet. So, stay tuned for the big reveal in a few days. (I had to send my brother to the Robert’s Crafts in Provo hunting for some more paint). I couldn’t wait to show you…I’m impatient.

UPDATE 3/14/10: Thank you to my brother Courtney for going to Robert’s Crafts and mailing me more orange stencil paint! Here she is all complete!

TOTAL COST for stencil: $4.00 ($3.00 for folders and $1.00 to enlarge image).Total cost for stencil paint: $12.00 ($2.00 each using 6 bottles of stencil paint). All together this stencil wall cost $16.00. Now that’s THRIFTY!


  1. great tutorial! Thanks and it looks great.

  2. that's a really great idea! thanks for sharing!

  3. Amazing! and orange! woo hoo! go you! can't wait to see the finished wall!

  4. Ahhh! You make it look so easy!

    That paint sure does look easy to work with. I usually have runs when I attempt stencilling, lucky I try them out on paper first…then I give up but I think I will try this again, thanks for the tutotial.

    Love the look!
    LL Nat :~)

  5. ** Adrian ** says:

    W O W !!! It looks amazing!!! That is a very ambitious project! I am so impressed with your talents!! FANTASTIC JOB!!

  6. This looks so fun! MUCH better than wall paper. I didn't know there was such a thing as a stencil cutting tool – thanks for sharing that info.

  7. Eeeeeeekkkk!!! I love your stencil! So graphic and lovely! Lovin' the bold choice of the orange color as well!

  8. Wow!
    Clear binder folders, of course! I had been thinking about the best plastic material to make stencils out of… looks great, what a project!

  9. So funny…I am actually dong a stencil in my kitchen…i will have to send you pics when i am done!

  10. Hi I love your design, I was wondering Robert's Craft, is it a online store, I need to get a stencil cutter…pleas help…thanks

  11. Great project! Just wanted to share that stencil mylar is the bees knees for stencil cutting…the exacto goes through it like butter..I've tried the folders too..and they are very thick, rigid and can snap..ick.

    Love your blog!! thanks for sharing…

  12. I LOVE this. What a great idea to make your own stencil and thanks for the tips on the stencil cutter and stencil paint – I had no idea! I love the orange pattern you have created on your wall – it looks really good!

  13. Genius. Pure genius.

  14. Incredible idea! Wonderful execution!

  15. gina @ TheTicklePinkThrift and BMB says:

    Oh I love it! can't wait to try this in my bathroom. great job once again!

  16. It turned out great! Thanks for the tutorial!

  17. Yay- this is fabulous! Thanks so much for this, I'll be linking.

  18. Stephanie Lee says:

    AMAZING stencil job!! SO flippin' inspiring, I tell you!
    My SIL turned me on to your blog and I've been addicted ever since (not that long, but still…). I've come out of lurking to let you know for future reference Golden or Liquitex heavy bodies acrylic paints work AMAZING for stencling. (NOT the fluid acrylics) and even though they might be more expensive per shot than the stencil paints, they'll go much further. They are thick and dry and super pigmented so you get nice, rich color. I'm just sayin'..

    Awesome job. Totally amazing. I'm looking at the wall behind my bed thinkin' it might be a good canidate. :)

  19. Stephanie Lee says:

    Oh, and I have one of those stencil cutters and it's worth every penny if you're going to make your own. EVERY PENNY! Like buttah.

  20. Your tutorial is wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

  21. Thanks so much for this – I need to start stenciling

  22. The Yoder's Four says:

    LOVE THIS!!!!!

  23. 1scrapnmomma says:

    What will you think of next! AWESOME!

  24. Gorgeous! And the patience!

  25. That's a great idea! So….I may have misread this, but is your stencil color permanently orange then? I like the color! I'm just wondering if you can buy different stencil colors….?

  26. Nice idea! I can't believe you picked such an intricate pattern. You must have had a claw-hand by the time you finished cutting that out :)

  27. oh this is brilliant! Now I just need to convince my husband to let me do this in our home!

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Great idea! Looks like a lot of work though… good on you for sticking through it.

  30. Wow, this looks amazing! I could totally do that… now the juices are flowing! :)

  31. Oh my goodness… that is fantastic! What patience you must have to have cut such a detailed pattern out!! Don't you love having a husband who helps with your fun projects? I have one like that too! :)

  32. Love your thrifty idea…. your ORANGE color is so stunning! Come show it off at my thrifty party:)


  33. Wow! I've been wanting to do something like this in my house. Seeing your wall is inspiring! Now to figure out where some stencling would look good in my place. ;)

  34. This was such a helpful post. I have always thought about trying this but seeing how is actually done and your experienced hints have given me new confidence. I work with painted furniture and sometimes a stencil is what I need but i want my pieces to be a reflection of my work not someone else. I will be sure to book mark this. Thanks so much for sharing.

  35. Absolutely love how it turned out!!! Stunning!!!

  36. Anonymous says:

    I have done these large wall stencils and ALOT of stenciling over the years. A great tip-use those sponge rollers that are rounded on the ends and for smooth finishes. They are not very large. They wouldn't work with stencil paint because you pour the paint on a plate or small roller tray, use just a little. The trick with paint is to have the roller nearly dry.Load the paint onto the roller then roll it on the plate. This prevents the paint from bleeding underneath.It makes stenciling soooooo much faster.

    I use a level to check that every stencil is straight when doing a large wall with large prints.
    Your stencil looks great.

  37. 1scrapnmomma says:

    I think this is fantastic, and I am in the process of doing my own stenicil now!!

  38. Hey Brooke,
    It's Tami, from Pine valley town homes… Just a tip for your painting section… and using Polyurethane, you said that you don't use it very often. Neither do I, but if i do need to seal up a piece of furniture (like my bar stools, that have glaze on them, it rubs off when they are wiped down over time or when they get heavy use) I like to use Polyacrylic. It is not as temperamental. Polyacrylic will not bubble, you do not have to prepare your brush with mineral spirits as you do with Polyurethane. It also does not turn yellow like polyurethane does, and it does not put off an odor like polyurethane, its great, and dries fast! Very cute website, you guys have some great ideas! Too bad Dan won't let us paint here… j/k!!!

  39. It's the Little Things... says:

    Just found your blog this week and love it! Can you tell me where you got the rug in this picture? I'm looking for one to go under our dining room table, but am having a hard time finding one in our budget that isn't too traditional or cheesy. :p
    Thanks so much!

  40. So amazing! I LOVE how you show that there is always a cheaper way!!! Awesome job.

  41. That looks awesome! Im gonna try this for sure!

  42. I just bought a stencil cutting tool (the heated thing…I hope) and it was $16 before my coupon, so I hope it's as good as your more expensive one…

  43. I just found your blog and I'm in LOVE. I love the stencil wall! I am racking my brain now of where I can do one in my house :) I have to ask about the picture above your fireplace? Is that a canvas and whats around it? I LOVE it!!! Must know the details of it :) Thanks!

  44. What a clever idea, I think it's great.

  45. That is a great idea for making a stencil! Love it! I'm totally going to do that sometime.

  46. Try the dollar tree for cutting mats–they're 2 for $1 and can probably handle your stencils. I bought myself a hot knife at Michael's. I think it was $30 without a coupon (why didn't I use a coupon???) It's a wood-burning pen, hot knife, hot stamp, and you can burn the edges of scrapbooking stuff with all the different attachments. The hot knife is like an Xacto blade that's hot. It cuts through plastic and foam core like butter! I use it all the time.

  47. GENIUS! I want to stencil my TV wall too…you have inspired me! My husband thanks you too, you saved his wallet.

  48. That orange is awesome. You're awesome. I am SOO doing this while the hubs is at work!!!!

  49. I shared this on my new blog! Thanks for creating such a simple easy to follow tutorial. The wall looks AMAZING! http://www.mydiynest.blogspot.com

  50. This is purely AWESOME :-) I always thought of making multiple copies of my stencil and feared of them not being same, as manual cutting takes all you patience. I love the idea of using clear folders (would save from getting ruined till the painting is finished) Thanks for sharing and your wall looks really hot in fiery orange color ;-)

  51. Beth Larrabee says:

    Looks fantastic!

  52. Hi. First of all, I love your blog and will happily continue to read it and discover more amazing ways to remodel my house.

    Second, I had a suggestion for an easier/cheaper stencil material. I brough two plastic cutting mats at a dollar store for one dollar. They're about 12 by 18 or so.

  53. Oh my goodness, I Love it!! Great job!!

  54. I'll be featuring this post on http://www.TrashToTreasureDecorating.com on 12/7/2011. What a great tutorial!


  55. This came out great! I am still in the stencil debating phase…haven't decided if I am going to do one or not :)

  56. Fabulous tutorial-Thanks!

  57. thats a great tut! I've made stencils for clothing in this same fashion. an fyi: i know its a bit pricier but most craft stores sell pieces of plastic in sheets of various sizes up to 20×20 i believe saves you from having to buy folders and tape them. but again they cost a little bit more.

  58. This is fantastic!!! I wanted to figure out a way to put my daughter's name on her nursery wall and I didn't want to freehand it and have mistakes, so I think I'm going to stenciling route now thanks to you!!! Lets me do an extra touch to her name, too, rather than buying something.

    I may do this as an accent in other rooms, too! Love it!

  59. It was wizards of waverly place….but anyways…im totes doing this in my room:)

  60. Where did you find such cheap 3-ring binders? I've looked all over the internet and can only find then for $5+.

  61. Awesome! Thanks I learned a lot and I like the way your wall came out!

  62. All I can say is WOW! I just ran across your blog. It is wonderful!

  63. AMAZING! You have the most inspiring tips and tutorials I have ever seen as well as ideas that I have never seen anywhere else (and that's saying a lot because I scour the web immensely and read and watch every tutorial that I can)! You're blog is pure genius :).

  64. AMAZING! You have the most inspiring tips and tutorials I have ever seen as well as ideas that I have never seen anywhere else (and that's saying a lot because I scour the web immensely and read and watch every tutorial that I can)! You're blog is pure genius :).

  65. This was a blast to read!! I have been looking for stencils, and when I find them I am so disappointed with the price that I end up not even attempting them. Thanks for your resourcefulness and effort (hubby too!) I am going to make myself a ton of stencils (for art journaling)and have so much fun doing it! Thank you!!

  66. Your wall looks REALLY fantastic! I can't wait till we own again so I can stencil a wall…so fun!

  67. Hi

    I know that this stencil project has been here since 2010 but it is such an informative and inspiring post that I just had to feature it on my blog The Crafters Corner BVI. You can view the post here: http://thecrafterscornerbvi.blogspot.com/2012/09/how-to-make-stencil.html

    Keep up the great work with your awesome tutorials.


  68. IHeartLabbies says:

    Thank you so much for the awesome ideas and tutorial!!!

  69. Michelle says:

    I am wondering if you can cut this out on a Cricut?

  70. Jennifer Serna says:

    Are stencil paint and stencil brush key in this project? I’ve been inspired by your site and I’ve taken on several projects. However-My stencil wall project has not been coming along so great. I’ve tried 3 times and the paint just bleeds ruining the design. It looks like a blob of paint once I lift the stencil. I’ve tried a small brush, roller, and my hubby’s sock with no luck. Should I try stencil paint and a stencil brush ?

    • I’ve used several different products and the stencil brush and paint worked the best. If you use a foam roller just be sure to roll off most of the paint before you use it on the stencil. It has to be pretty dry or it will bleed.

  71. Hi! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Many thanks

  72. Beverly L says:

    You’re post inspired me! I didn’t make my own stencil as I was able to find one I loved on eBay and it was quite reasonable. I did use the Liquitex heavy body acrylic as someone else mentioned and a stencil brush and it worked beautifully. I tried to use regular wall paint and I found it bled through too much, but the Liquitex works great! Thanks for the inspiration!

  73. Love the tutorial! Where can I find stencil paint or Liquitex like someone else mentioned? I googled it and can only find acrylic paint. Are they the same thing?

    Thanks! :)

  74. sarah perry says:

    One question: Do you have smooth or textured walls? We have textured walls and I have not been successful with stenciling (it leaks through). Am I doing something wrong?

    • Sarah,
      I have textured walls. I have to be extra careful about the amount of paint I have on my roller. It has to be pretty dry when you stencil. AND, to be completely honest, I touch up a lot after I get done. It needs lots of touch up to make it look crisp.

  75. OMG, I’ve been looking all over for a stencil “how to”. Most online stores are $30+ and I definitely don’t want to spend that kind of money. I’m glad I came across your site/blog because this is a wonderful idea!! Thanks so much! :)

  76. MrsReyes says:

    You are absolutely a life savior. I have been looking for a stencil and they are super expensive but now with your guidance I will be able to make my own at a low cost. Thanks, you are amazing!!!!!!!

  77. Thanks – I was looking into a Cricut – but thought – I really only want something to make my own stencils, so I don’t need an expensive machine. I want to make sayings and words, so it can’t be that hard – Thanks again – I can do this!


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