How to Stencil on Canvas


From pre-historic cave paintings to 18th and 19th century early American homes, stenciling has been used to decorate walls. Because of their ability to repeat uniform patterns, stencils are also used for a variety of applications such as creating Katagami fabrics in Japan and patterns on porcelain in China. Using them to stencil on canvas allows you to create artwork more easily and quickly than if done freehand, whether you are working with a simple one layer stencil or a detailed design with multi-overlay stencils.

Things You'll Need

  • Flat paint brush
  • Canvas
  • Non-gloss acrylic paint
  • Stencil
  • Masking tape
  • Dry solid stencil paint
  • Stencil brushes
  • Pencil
  • Paper towels
  • Using a flat paint brush, paint the canvas surface with 2 to 3 coats of non-gloss acrylic paint. Allow paint to dry thoroughly between coats and to cure for 48 hours or more. Ample drying will prevent the paint from being rubbed off easily during stenciling.

  • Position first overlay of stencil on the canvas. Secure it in place with small pieces of masking tape at the stencil’s corners and edges.

  • Load the first color of dry solid stencil paint onto one of your stencil brushes. Tap the brush onto a paper towel to remove excess paint. A dry-like brush will allow the paint to be applied gradually for a shaded effect.

  • Holding the brush with the bristles ends touching the canvas surface, paint gently in circles starting at the edges of the stencil cutouts and slowly to the center of the cutout. Go in reverse circles to deepen the color.

  • Repeat steps 3 and 4 with each color needed for the first overlay. Remove the overlay carefully and allow the stencil paint to dry before positioning the next overlay. Continue to paint with each overlay until the design is completed.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a different brush for each color of stencil paint.
  • Practice on paper before stenciling on the canvas.
  • If stenciling on a canvas bag, omit Step One and allow the stenciling to cure for 48 hours before using the bag.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images
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