Stenciling with Acrylics

Posted August 09 2011

My personal preference for a stencil medium is acrylic paints. They are the most desirable choice for stenciling because of their drying speed, ability to be either opaque or translucent and extended color selection.

The key to achieving soft dimensional look to the stenciling shown on this website and throughout our catalog is to add a small amount of the medium, Folk Art Extender to the paint.
Adding Folk Art Extender at a ratio of about 4 drops per teaspoon of acrylic paint (to the consistency of melted ice cream) completely changes the viscosity of the paint. It becomes slightly more translucent, easier to blend and shade with, and keeps the paint from drying out on the brush and building up on the stencil. The fact that the Extender keeps the paint from binding and hardening quickly also makes cleanup easier!

To Begin

step one - stenciling with acrylics
Mix a small amount of paint with Extender using the above ratio in a small plastic cup. Stir well. Load just the tip of the brush by dipping just the tip straight into the paint. With brush loading and stenciling it is important to always hold the brush perpendicular to the surface.
 

Offload Well

stenciling with acrylics step 2
Remove the excess paint by rubbing in a very hard circular motion on good quality paper towels (I always recommend Bounty). In order to stencil with a dry-brush method, you must have a very dry brush. Most of the paint should be left on the paper towel. A good rule of thumb is to leave circles of paint on the paper towels that are more than twice the diameter of the brush. Repeat this 2 or 3 times and you will see that your paint circles become lighter. Now you are ready to stencil.
 

The Stenciling Technique

stenciling with acrylics step 3
Begin stenciling by first concentrating paint around the outer edges of the cutout areas, constantly moving the brush in small firm circles as you continue around. The majority of the stencil brush should be on the mylar at this point. I call this hugging the edge.
Gradually blend the color in towards the center of the exposed area by using a lighter pressure and a dryer brush. The fade out of color from the edge to the center should be gradual, not abrupt. This will take some practice as you learn to adjust and control your pressure and placement of the brush.
Each time you reload the brush you must go through the same process of off-loading the paint well onto paper towels. This, along with adjustments in the amount of pressure you are putting on the brush, will allow you to easily control the depth of color and maintain a consistent print.
NOTE: If you do not remove enough paint from the brush, the tendency is to compensate by not pressing very hard as you stencil. The result is a blotchy print with visible brushstroke rather than a soft, smooth, powdery effect.
 
Our video Stenciling Foundations features Melanie Royals offering detailed painting demonstrations on all the different types of stenciling techniques that are used throughout this website. You'll find it to be informative and enjoyable and an invaluable resource!