Free Form Stenciling Basics

Royal Design Studio first introduced the concept of Free Form stenciling back in 1994 with our original Stencils and Strokes collection to give stencil artist new options for creating unique and creative designs with a hand painted look. 

Free form stencils involve individual elements, or groups of elements, that are hand placed and stenciled by the artist, and later connected and completed with simple liner and strokework.

These stencils are what is known as theorem or bridgeless stencils.  Rather than a single overlay stencil that uses bridges (areas of uncut mylar) to separate the design elements, theorem stencils employ multiple overlays that are done one at a time.  The elements of the design lay in like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and when all overlays are complete, you are left with something that looks whole and, with proper shading, dimensional and hand painted.

Free form stencils are designed with variety and versatility in mind. All of the elements are realistically sized and can be used alone or together in a wide variety of combinations.  Individual elements and your own creativity will allow you to crate your own unique designs, random borders, focal points, and simple accents.  Additional structural elements such as trellises, latticework, and containers provide a foundation from which the floral elements grow.

To begin: Many of the stencil sets come with perforation marks cut in to the mylar. Carefully cut along these lines to separate the various elements.

If  there are multiple overlays necessary to complete a particular flower or leaf, each overlay for a specific element will be included on the same piece of mylar, side by side.  In most cases, these overlays can be stenciled in any order because the individual elements do not overlap but lay in right next to each other.

Designing with free form stencils: The beauty of free form stenciling is that you are free to easily design for a particular space or requirement without having to break apart and piece a large, awkward, multiple-overlay stencil.
Having to create a design from scratch may not be something that you are familiar with, so we have provided you with some tools and suggestions!!
You might want to start by creating a quick thumbnail sketch. For a wall, draw in all architectural elements such as doors, windows, etc. so that you can plan you design to go around them and to help accentuate them.

For ease, I always tape all of the elements that I will be using in my design on the wall within easy reach.  The stencils can be flipped over for even more variety.  You can stencil on either the shiny OR matte side of the stencil, and if you are using acrylic paints which dry almost instantly, there is no need to clean the stencils before turning over.

Having stenciled proofs of the elements or groupings to tape on the wall and design with is very helpful.  Even better is to stencil proofs on the frosted side of mylar or acetate (acetate is easily found in art supply stores).  This translucent material allows you to layer the sheets and ban be turned over to see the opposite effect.

Having a structural element (such as a trellis) as a starting point for designing is also helpful, because it provides a continuous element on which flowers and vines can then be spaced out upon and grow off of.

For focal points, I recommend designing just as flower arrangers do. Start with your largest elements first, and then use smaller elements and vines as fillers.   Always work in the direction of growth, from the base (or center) out.  Be aware of balancing color throughout the design.  The key is to create both harmony and variety!

Our Classic Video, Stencils and Strokes shows you how to use our free form botanical designs from the Stencils and Strokes collection. It includes detailed demonstrations on designing, arranging, and adding hand-painted touches.

Our Extraordinary Stenciling video offers further demonstrations that focus on working with our versatile Free Form Fruits pattern.

Stenciling with Textures features our most popular technique "The Taste of Tuscany". You will see how to create this Old World effect using free form Grape Clusters and the Grape Ivy Vine in combination with faux finishes and texture.

1 Comment

maureen parsons
maureen parsons

September 03, 2013

Very interesting,all new to me,but would like to try something. The stencilled backsplash with the writing I would like to try.Have wanted something,and nothing appealed to me (tile.,etc),

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.