Film Articles & Info
How to Keep Paint from Bleeding Under a Stencil
adhere your stencil to to the wall surface
There are three predominant reasons why paint will bleed under a stencil.
1. Gaps between the edge of the stencil and the surface of your wall.
2. Excessively runny paint or too much paint is applied to the stencil
with your brush or roller.
3. Brush technique is too aggressive .
overload your brush with paint
In order to achieve nice crisp clean edges on you stenciled image, the
stencil film needs to be firmly tacked onto the surface of your wall,
canvas, or fabric. That means there should be no gaps between of the stencil
window and your painted surface. This goes for walls, canvas and fabrics.
I have have seen a number of stenciling tutorials where the stencil is
secured against a surface with nothing but sticky tape. This as a sure-fire
recipe for getting paint behind the stencil film.
Every part of the stencil window (the shape in the stencil that paint
goes through) really, really needs to be firmly stuck to the surface that
you are painting on. Furthermore, your painting surface need to be reasonably
smooth and free of lumps and cracks.
It is much easier to attach a stencil to a smooth, flat surface than
an uneven or textured one. A superior way to attach your stencil to a
wall or canvas is to spray the back of the stencil with contact adhesive.
After spraying the adhesive, allow it to go tacky. This takes around
two minutes or so depending on the temperature of your local environment.
Don't try attaching the stencil on to your surface while the glue is
still wet. Doing so, will make the stencil difficult to remove and even
worse, leave bits of glue on the wall.
Now, when the stencil is nice and tacky, place it in position on your
wall and pat it down "gently but firmly" with a piece of folded
up paper towel or clean rag. Make sure that all of the edges of the stencil
windows are all completely in contact with you painting surface.
That's it, simple and achievable. One small but relevant point I should
make is.. that you don't have to re-spray the stencil with glue for every
impression you make. One spray should last for three or four impressions.
If the tacky-ness starts to diminish, and it will after a while, give
the stencil a bit more adhesive.
Secondly, it is important to understand that you risk bleeding if you
your stencil brush or roller is excessively load with paint. This is not
rocket science yet many folks tend to overlook this one when they first
enter the world of stenciling.
Overloading your brush or roller with paint is the next most common
way to get bleeding. If you are using the pasty, buttery acrylic paint
that come in tubes , you will be less likely to get paint under the stencil
If you are going to use thin watery paint, you will have a slightly
higher risk of getting bleeding. But all bleeding can be avoided if you
don't overload you brushes.
I use buttery tube paints for not all but most of my stencil projects.
Squeeze some paint out of the tube onto one corner or part of the plastic
spatula ( available from hardware stores and art suppliers).
Just a small blob will suffice. work the ends of your brush into the
paint then dab the brush onto clean part the spatula. Doing so will help
distribute the paint over the bristle ends and will also remove excessive
You are now ready to apply the paint through your stencil. For those
who are using thinner paints such as latex or emulsion paints.
Pour some paint into a paper plate and do the same as above., Work some
paint onto the bristle ends then dab your brush onto the clean portion
of the paper plate. Ready to go.
Paint rollers are more difficult to use for stenciling but are often
essential if you stencils are large or have large windows.
The same technique applies to rollers as for stencil brushes. load your
roller with paint so that there is paint over the whole roller then run
your roller on the sloping part of you paint tray to even out and reduce
the amount of paint on the fibres.
If you are using good quality acrylic paint that is high in pigments,
you don't need as much paint on your brushes to get good coverage. Its
as simple as that.
mindful of your brush technique
Now for the last point, and this has to do with you actual brush technique.
In order to get a neat and crisp impression that has no gaps in the paint
and no bleeding, you need to dab on you paint gently. By gently I mean
a light touch to your strokes.
Its a bit like tapping lightly so the ends of the bristles don't bend
under pressure. Short, quick and light tapping with your brush, OK?. Its
not to say that you can't use strokes in your brushwork.
But, if you are going to use some strokes, make sure that you stroke
away from the stencils edge, towards the middle of the window and not
towards the edges.
If you are mindful of the three points I have made, you will get little
or no bleeding. There will however always be a little bleeding, no matter
how careful you are.
So.. keep a little bit of paint that is the same color as your wall or
background. You will be using this to do some touching up after you have
I do not recommend that you attempt to wipe off wet paint that has bled
under your stencil. This is one way to make a mess. Wait until the paint
has dried then go over the bleed marks with a small artist brush and your
The more you stencil the better you will get at determining just how
much paint to use, how much pressure you need to apply it, and how well
the stencil film is attached to your surface.
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