Stencil Embossing

Posted August 07 2011

Stencil embossed bath cabinets

To see this technique in action, please see our video, Stenciling with Textures.

Dimensional stenciling (also known as relief stenciling and stencil embossing) is an easy way to take a simple, single-overlay stencil design and create something extraordinary by simply troweling a textural material through the cutout areas.  Embossed stenciling can be combined with techniques that enhance and accentuate the look such as antiquing/glazing, distressed metal leaf, and dry brush over-painting to add additional color.

Any heavy-bodied textural material is suitable for this technique.  
Some possibilities:
  • Aquastone and Palette Art (from the Aqua Finishing Solutions line), available through  Royal Design Studio.
  • Premixed Joint Compound (available at home hardware stores, MUST be well sealed when dry). Because of it's lack of durability in high traffic areas, this material is only recommend for areas which are "out of reach" such as ceiling lines.
  • Golden Heavy Molding Paste or Heavy Gesso (at art stores). Recommended for furniture and heavy traffic areas because of it's smoothness and durability.
Additional Supplies:  Repositionable Spray Adhesive, 4" plastic Joint Knife, Paper Towels, scrap paper.
Stencil embossing step 1
To begin: Holding can at least 12" away, lightly mist the back of the stencil with spray adhesive to ensure a tight seal around all the edges of the design.  Allow to set up for a minute before affixing to surface.

Stencil designs you may like for this project:
Stencil embossing step 2
You can create a shallow relief (the thickness of the stencil material), or build up the design, depending on how thickly you lay on the material.
Stencil embossing step 3
For light relief: Trowel on material lightly but be sure to gently work into all open design areas. Remove excess material from trowel and go back and scrape lightly of entire design to remove excess down to the level of the stencil.  Hold your trowel at an oblique (almost parallel) angle to the surface and use a light pressure.
Stencil embossing step 4
For heavy relief:  Trowel material on as before.  After you see that you have the design area filled in, trowel on another layer thickly so 
that it completely covers the stencil.  The thicker you pile on the material the heavier your relief. 
Stencil embossing step 5
You can remove stencil immediately (and carefully) by lifting from one corner.  If you have built up a heavy relief, you will most likely create little ridges around the edges of the design when you remove the stencil.  These can be sanded down when dry with fine sandpaper.
Stencil embossing step 6
For the best results and cleanest edges, use a gentle pressure with the trowel and clean the stencil between each use.  Do this by laying down on scrap paper and removing excess material with the trowel (you can reuse this on the next stencil!)  Wipe off any material that may have leaked onto the back of the stencil with a slightly damp paper towel.  Re-apply stencil adhesive periodically.
Clean up small errors after the relief has dried with sandpaper.  If you have a lot of material seep under the stencil, simply scrape off with trowel and start over.
When material had completely dry, sand down any ridges, prime and/or paint and finish with the technique of your choice.