How to Use Stencils

Waves Stencil From the Simple Vintage Seas Collection by Simple Stories Plus Various Mixed Media Craft Supplies:Distress Oxide Reinkers,'s Pops of Color, Brilliance Reiner, Distress Mica Spray by Tim Holtz for Ranger Industries, and Nuvo Spatulas

Waves Stencil From the Simple Vintage Seas Collection by Simple Stories Plus Various Mixed Media Craft Supplies:Distress Oxide Reinkers,’s Pops of Color, Brilliance Reiner, Distress Mica Spray by Tim Holtz for Ranger Industries, and Nuvo Spatulas

Wondering how to use stencils? Perhaps you’re curious about what kind of mediums work best with stencils — sprays? stencil butter? stencil paste? acrylic paint? You’re invited to check out my tips and advice on how to use stencils, below.

Your first step: grab a stencil you want to use plus some ink blending tools, a spatula, sponge brushes, or a stipple brush.

Then you have to decide what medium you want to use with your stencil. I like using the following media:

  • Reinkers from any ink brand, but my favorite is Distress Oxide by Tim Holtz for Ranger Industries.
  • Cheap acrylic paint from any brand you happen to have.
  • Nuvo Embellishment Mousse.
  • Pops of Color by That link takes you to the Sky Blue Gloss color, which I love, but you can use any color and finish on the Pops of Color. I love all the finishes I’ve tried including the Pearl, Glitter and Gloss.
  • Distress Mica Stain Spray — This link takes you to the Christmas set, which I happen to have and highly recommend, but you can use any of the lovely colors in this collection with your stencils.
  • Stencil Butter.
  • Stencil Paste.

All of these media give you different results:

  • Use acrylic paint if you’re on a tight budget or if there are unique colors you need to match when you make your project.
  • Use a reinker if you happen to have one in a color you want to pair up with your stencil design.
  • Use Pops of Color if you want a hard, plastic-y, stiff stenciled image or if you are new to stenciling; I think Pops of Color is one of the easiest media to stencil with.
  • Use Nuvo Embellishment Mousse if you want a rich, lustrous shimmery surface on your stenciled image; you can also achieve a truly gorgeous shimmery effect with Pops of Color in the Pearl finish.
  • The Distress Mica sprays also result in a gorgeous, shimmery finish — and I like Mica a LOT, because it is so beautiful, and unlike Titanium Dioxide, which may be carcinogenic, Mica is believed to be harmless. However, save any sprays for when you have more experience working with stencils, because it can be a bit of a challenge to get sprays exactly where you want them; they can make a real mess.

If you happen to have reinkers in your craft supply stash, I invite you to grab one along with your stencils and tools and try this idea:

Use the reinker to drop a few drops of ink onto one of the ink blending tools. If you want a watery effect, or if you want a lighter tonal of the ink color, or if you just want to make your ink go a little further, you can also dribble or spritz a tiny bit of water onto the ink blending tool — but that’s optional. Definitely don’t overdo it with the water, though.

If you try this method, it’s wise to blot onto a piece of scratch paper first. If you skip that step, you are almost guaranteed to end up with ink underneath your stencil.

If you do accidentally get ink underneath your project, it isn’t a big deal. Just fussy cut around your stenciled image and adhere it to your project where you want it; this way, you will simply cut off the extra smudges, and no one will be the wiser that they were ever there. But that tip doesn’t work for every project, because there are also cases when you will need a clean image. When you need a super clean, non-smudgy stenciled image, your chances are better at achieving that after you’ve stamped multiple images and the ink on your blending tool is starting to dry out a bit, but isn’t so dry that you can’t keep stenciling.

I have a stencil that I like to use for making journaling blocks, and smudges on that one drive me bonkers; I use the same method but wait until I’ve stenciled a lot of other images. Then when I’m close to running out of ink on the ink blending tool, I go ahead and do the journaling blocks. That makes for a faint image, which is fine in that case, because it’s just lines that I use for making sure my journaling doesn’t end up wonky. It doesn’t need to be particularly visible on the finished project.

If you use this method, it’s wise to allocate a block of time to just stenciling, and do a whole bunch of stenciled images at once in the same color, so you can make the most of your ink and not waste bunches of ink. Doing that can also really speed up your scrapping / card making sessions later, because you will already have a bunch of images stenciled and dry and you can just use them without having to stop and stencil a bunch of stuff.

You could also try the same thing using sponge brushes from the hardware store. My favorite sponge brushes for this have a bell-shaped sponge, but any of them can give interesting effects. With sponge brushes, if you’re careful to thoroughly wash them before your ink or other media dry, you can reuse them bunches of times.

In one of the photos above, you can see a picture of Nuvo’s spatulas, which are also useful tools for stenciling.

I recommend trying several different media using different tools to see which stenciling techniques you enjoy most.

One other important tip: Tape your paper to the table, and then tape your stencil to your paper using washi tape or another gentle tape that is easy to remove later.

One more thing: Clean up your tools and stencils as soon as possible after use so your supplies don’t get stained and ruined.

Thanks so much for your interest in our tutorials!! Happy stenciling.

Related Resources:

Posted By: Amy Solovay

This page was last updated on 4-24-2023.

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