How to Design Your Own Stencil

I realized I've stenciled a ton of stuff on this blog.  I've even done tutorials on how to make complex pattern repeats.  I've just never done a basic post on how to design and make a stencil.  It is such an easy thing to do, and it allows you to quickly add pattern to any flat paintable surface (even fabric).  I prefer it to wallpaper since its much less of a commitment, and all I have to do is paint over it if I change my mind.  So lets get started...

I've got a laundry room that has been begging to be finished, after all I did wallpaper the ceiling well over a year ago!  I have been living with white walls in there and had a vision of a red and blue design.  I had so many pattern ideas, and it was actually my indecisiveness that has held up this project.   When you make your own stencil you control EVERYTHING... the scale, color and layout.  You can design your own pattern, or access the many free pattern downloads available online .  You can use a single motif (which is what I did, and I recommend it for beginners) or make a continuous overall repeating pattern (click here for a tutorial on that).  Best part is that is costs just a fraction of wallpaper, and you can get the supplies you need a your local True Value!

To get started you will need:
-a pattern/design
-stencil material: sheets of clear mylar; also called transparency or clear overlay (often sold in art and office supply shops) 
-hobby knife  or snap-off knife and/or heated stencil cutter
-paint applicators (4" foam roller, stencil brushes)
-paint in the color(s) of your choice
-pencil with eraser
-large piece of cardboard to practice on

-cutting board/surface

1) First choose your design.  I actually designed a single paisley pattern, but you can use anything you like.  Get it to a scale you like and make a dot on the upper left hand corner.  This is going to be your registration mark and will come in very handy.  Now photocopy this image a few times.

2) Now it's time to figure out the size of the pattern repeat.  Since this entire process is customizable you can make your pattern lay out perfectly on your walls.

Here's the trick I use.  I take my photocopied images and tape them on the wall.  I arrange them in a layout I like.  It definitely helps you visualize what the end result will look like and you might decide you want the image to be a little larger or smaller.

When you are happy with the layout, measure the horizontal and vertical repeats.  Take a ruler or a tape measure and simply measure the distance from that little dots in the upper left hand corners. Make note of these numbers.

3) Next you are going to be tracing your image onto the clear mylar.  You can do just a single stencil, or stencil that has several repeats on it.  I wanted to have two motifs on my stencil to make the painting part go faster, so I taped my images down on the table using the same repeat measurements from the last step.  I laid the mylar over this and taped it down as well.  For a one color stencil simply trace your images using a fine Sharpie marker.  Be sure to trace the registration dots too.  

If you are only tracing one motif be sure to measure and mark your repeats off of the left hand corner dot.  Example: If your repeat was 8" horizontal and 10" vertical you will measure and mark 8" to the right of your first dot, and then 10" down from both of these.  You will be using these later to align your pattern on the wall. 

3a) This next step is if you are doing a two or more color stencil.  I was doing a red and blue stencil.  I made sure to colorize one of my photocopies first to get the color placement right.  Next I traced the areas that would be blue first. Then I laid a second piece of mylar over the previous one and traced all the areas that would be red.  In the end I have two separate stencils, but the registration marks and patterns line up perfectly. 

4) Time to cut your pattern out.  You can use a heated stencil cutter (best for curvy patterns) or an Exacto knife (best for straight lines).  I tend to use both.  You will need an area to cut on.  If you are using the heated stencil cutter I recommend a hard surface like a piece of glass or a smooth piece of ceramic tile.  You don't want to burn your table!  If you are only using a knife I recommend a rubber cutting board or mat.  Carefully cut out your stencil.  Be sure to cut out the registration marks.

5) Once you have your stencil cut do a few practice runs to get your color and look perfected.  You can use regular latex wall paint (which is what I did), artists acrylics or paint specifically made for stenciling.  I suggest testing out a few types to see what you are most comfortable with.  The same goes for applicators.  Stencil brushes are great for small details, while high density foam rollers work great for larger areas and make quick work of it.  Just know that a little paint goes a long way.  If you have a lot of paint bleeding under your stencil you are using too much.  Wipe your brush or roller off and keep practicing until you feel comfortable and get a hang of how much paint to use.  Whatever you do, DO NOT water down your paint.  It will be too runny and bleed easily.  You can use a latex glaze or gel medium to dilute your color if needed.

6) Now for the fun part, painting!  Make sure your walls are smooth and clean.  I don't recommend stenciling on textured walls.  I like to start in the upper left hand corner and work across and down.  Tape your stencil to the wall in a few places.  Use a pencil to mark your registration dots.

Now paint your stencil using a brush or roller (whatever felt more comfortable when you were practicing.)

7) After you finished your first repeat, remove the stencil from the wall.  If you had any bleeding you can quickly clean these areas while they are still wet.  Make sure the back of your stencil is clean.  I like to place mine face down on a piece of cardboard between repeats so it can dry and I can wipe any paint that bleeds through the back off.

Align the registration marks with your next section to the right or below. Repeat step 6 until you have finished your wall.  If you are using two colors you will now repeat step 6 and 7 with the next color.
Once you are finished erase your registration marks and touch up any smudges with your base wall color. And you are done!

Tips and tricks for corners or tight spots:
It is almost impossible to not have a spot that only requires a part of your pattern.  Sometimes you can bend the stencil to fit the area, and sometimes you might need to cut it.
-I like to paint the majority of my room and leave the tight spots for last.  It isn't a bad idea to make two stencils, one for main areas and one for cutting. If you find you have an area that requires the same piece over and over (like the bottom of the wall or corner) you can cut a new section just for that application.
-In cases like base boards, I like to use painters tape to cover the edge of the molding, and then I lay the stencil right over it and can apply the paint right up to the edge.  Just pull the tape when you're done and you will have a clean edge.
-I like to tape my stencil to a door opening so it can quickly dry on both sides.  
-If you totally botch a section, quickly try to wash it off.  If all else fails, use your base color and paint that section out. Once it dries redo it.

-Sometimes you might cut a pattern and realize it is too flimsy, or a section lifts up too easily.  Use very thin pieces of Scotch tape to make a connector to hold that section down and strengthen the stencil.

For more DIY ideas and tips, check out True Value on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest

 I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

Painted Faux Inlay Floor Border with Printable Template

(My client's upstairs/stairs are currently being stained, finished and painted as I write this.  
Once the holidays are over I will update this post with new photos showing the foyer and floor in all its finished glory.  Stay tuned and Happy Holidays!)

I am a huge fan of painted floors.  They can transform a space with a big splash of color and pattern or simply add character by simulating an inlaid design.  I personally would paint my entire hardwood living area if it were up to me, but that would entail removing ALL of my furniture and having to spend a few days sanding, painting and sealing.  My family is just not up for that large of a disruption.  Instead, an easier way to add some character to a floor is by painting a border around the room.  I have painted many floors in my life, and while painting an unfinished floor is best, there are several tricks you can use that will allow you to paint directly on your previously finished floor.  No floor sander needed!

I have a client that is in the midst of renovating their entire second floor. This includes refinishing the hardwood floors on that level.  They really love the look of dark wood floors, and chose to go with a rich chocolate tone.  They plan on carrying the dark stain down the staircase treads to the first floor.  The problem is the first floor is a much lighter clear-coated red oak.  As much as they would like to redo the first floor to match the upstairs, it is just not practical for them at this point in time.  We came up with a solution to blend the two floors together by adding a dark faux inlaid banding in the foyer area at the bottom of the stairs.  It is a simple procedure that you can do in a day and you can use any color your heart desires.  I've even made a printable template and did all the math for you!  

1) You need to start with clean floors, 
so wet mop and be sure NOT to use any wax products* on them.  
*If your floors have been previously waxed, the wax will need to be removed because the paint will not stick.  There are plenty of products designed to remove floor wax, but plain ammonia and a scrub brush work just fine too.  Apply liberally and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. The wax should scrub right off.

2) Once your surface is clean it is time to measure and tape the design.  The design I did is a symmetrical key style corner, and it can be used on an inside or outside corner.   You will need to start the design 6" from the wall if you have any outside corners to allow for it to lay out properly.  If you have only inside corners (ex: a perfect square or rectangular room) you can choose to bring it in a few inches closer.   I used a 6" wide sewing ruler as a guide and marked along the floor with pencil.  You can also cut a 6” wide cardboard strip to use as a template.  I then ran 36 mm Scotch Blue Painter's tape (for delicate surfaces around the room following my pencil marks (be sure to apply your tape on the side of the mark closer to the wall).  This is commonly referred to as 1 1/2” wide tape, but upon making the template I realized it’s actually a hair smaller than that.  I prefer this brand of tape to basic masking tape because I found it doesn't damage the existing floor finish and allows for crisp edges. 

3)  Next, add small pieces of 18mm painter's tape every of couple of feet along the edge of your first piece of tape.  This will act as a spacer/guide 
and is eventually going to be the area you will be painting.  

4) Using the 36mm tape again, apply another row of tape along the edges of the spacers. 

5) Remove the original spacers and move them in front of the second banding of 36mm tape. 

6) Repeat step 4. 

7) Remover spacers. You should now have three rows of 36mm tape running the perimeter of your room.  

8) Now for the tricky part… the corners.  I did mine the hard way with lots of math and it felt like a massive brain twister, but halfway through I realized this would be SO MUCH easier if I had just made a template.   I spared you the agony and made one for you.  Simply print and cut out.  I recommend printing it on card stock so you can easily trace it, and when printing be sure to click "do not scale" or “scale 100%” if prompted.  The file is sized to fit 8 1/2" x 11" paper.  (After you print, just double check that the black area of the design is 18mm wide- if so you are good to go!)  
Click here for the template.  
Cut out the black area of the design.

9) In each corner line the two edges of the template up with your existing tape lines (see my two fingers in the following picture).  

Trace the edges of the template, these will serve as guides as where to cut and add more tape. 

Add tape to create the inside edge of the design.  Cut away areas allowing the bare floor to be seen wherever the black design is. 

In the end you should have a design that matches the template.  
Repeat this for all corners.
(photo 12)

10) Now it is time to prep the floor for paint.  I tend to go a bit overboard, but you really want this to stick and not chip,  so a good prep job is key.  First, I burnish the edges of the tape so that they are well adhered to the floor and there are no gaps for paint to bleed into.  Use your thumbnail wrapped with a clean rag and rub down all edges. 

11) Use a fine grit sandpaper and lightly sand the area to be painted, taking care not to lift or rip the tape.  If you do, no worries… just cut out the damaged area and re-tape/ burnish.  Lightly sanding roughs up the existing smooth polyurethane surface and creates better adhesion.  Vacuum up any dust.

12) Lastly, I like to use a deglosser to remove any bits of wax or dirt I might have missed.  There are many brands on the market, but I prefer one that can be wiped on and off with no rinsing involved.  Simply rub on in a circular motion and wipe off with a clean rag taking care not to get any on the rest of your floor, as this will dull the surface.  

Once the area is dry you are ready to paint!

13)  You can use any good quality paint that will withstand high traffic.  If you have the option of using a paint specifically designed for the floor, even better.  The color is completely up to you.  I had my paint custom tinted at True Value to a deep chocolate brown to match the stain my client was using on her floors.  

Using a foam brush apply one thin coat, brushing in the direction of the grain to make sure it penetrates.  Once the first coat is dry, apply a second coat.  
Follow the dry times on your paint can. 

14) When both coats are fully dried apply one to two coats of polyurethane in a finish matching what you already have on your floors.  (In this case we used a satin finish.)  This will fully protect your hard work and give it a longer life.  

You can now pull the tape and admire your work.  

 One last tip… when pulling your tape, pull slowly at a 45 degree or less angle to your floor AWAY from your new paint.  This will prevent you from lifting any new paint up- a common mistake.

(My client's stairs are being stained chocolate brown shortly, so I will update this post with new "completed" space photos very soon!)

 I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

Epic Sharpie Fail

Well heeeeey there!  Its been a while, I know! I kinda fell off the blogging horse and have been having a tough time getting back up.  I wish I had a fantastic story, excuse or mid-life crisis to explain my absence but I don't.   Just life, work, kids... same old-same old...
I've been posting on Insta because its a quick fix, but I miss you guys and it's just not quite the same.
Anyway, I have tons to share with you guys, so let's just jump right in.  I feel like an epic fail is a great way to start because I don't want any of you making this mistake.

So back in the end of the summer I was working on the boys bathroom, contemplating wallpaper choices when one day I got a wild hair and went at the walls with a navy blue Sharpie. 
Dots........................... an endless sea of dots.  
It took all day, but I didn't care. 
I was full of the "manic idea crazies" and it was going to be great! 

And fun!

That was until I learned a horrifying fact.
Sharpies BLEED, like "cut you" bleed.
 And cry tears of sadness.
 I had no idea. 
I've never used them in a bathroom.
It turns out they don't like moisture and steam.
I should have used a paint pen.
So now ya know. 
And I'm off to the drawing board again with this room.

Be back soon, I mean it.

How To: Upgrade a Bookcase with Crown Molding

I've been busy getting my office pulled together!  Please join me over at True Value for an easy DIY tutorial showing how to add molding to basic bookshelves to create a more custom built-in look (and a peek at how things are shaping up).  Have a great weekend!

How to use a Paint Sprayer on Furniture

It's no secret that I can't resist painting something.  Whether it's reinventing a piece of furniture I already have or breathing new life into a found object, I just have to paint it!  We are currently in the midst of the boy's bathroom renovation and I found a vanity that fit perfectly in the small space and had the look I wanted.  It came pre-painted in a soft grey, which was actually very nice, but I wanted to go bolder and had already envisioned a soft navy blue for the vanity and woodwork. 

For small jobs a can of spray paint or a brush usually works just fine, but for this one I am breaking out the big guns... the paint sprayer.  The vanity had a lot of bead-board and recessed nooks that are hard to get into with a brush and are magnets for paint drips.  The reason I love this tool is that you can paint very evenly and it gives you a smooth professional finish.   Unlike regular spray paint, which has a strong odor and limited color selection, you can use a water based latex paint in any color available and even paint indoors.  

Let me give you a little background on the paint sprayer I'm using.  I recently upgraded my paint sprayer to the Wagner Flexio 590 from my old Wagner Flexio 570.  Both work great and are very similar and easy to clean.  You can paint everything from furniture to wall and ceilings (no compressor needed), but the 590 has an additional Detail Finish Nozzle for small areas and an improved X-Boost Power Dial that gives you 8 power settings as opposed to the 570's low or high setting.   If you already own a 570 and it's in good working order you can also buy the Detail Finish Nozzle separately and use it with it.  This was a big deal for me because I have had problems in the past with the 570 when I was painting a smaller piece with a lot of raised detail.  I tended to get too much paint in those areas and things got drippy looking fast no matter how much I fidgeted with its settings.  I had much more control with the Detail Finish Nozzle.

Before you get started you will need to prep your piece just like you would for any other paint job.  
-Lay out a drop cloth and protect any nearby surfaces from overspray.  The spray gun does give off a fine mist so be sure to cover floors and wear a mask.  

-Lightly sand and clean the surface to be painted.  Wipe off any dust with a tack cloth. 

-Remove any hardware or cover with tape.  
This is a little trick I use to stay organized when I have to remove screws and hardware… an old ice cube tray.  The compartments let me sort by cabinet or drawer.

Once your piece is taken apart, clean and lightly sanded you are ready to go!
It is now time to fill your paint gun.  I used Easy Care Ultra Premium in the color "Gage-B306".  This paint has a primer built in so it saved me a step and covered like a dream.  I filled my reservoir about halfway.  Just a little note here... if you are using the Detailed Finish Nozzle be sure to thin your paint with a little water.  They don't recommend latex paints or primer because they are heavier, but I found  by thinning it with just an ounce of water it worked just fine.
Be sure to familiarize your self with your spray gun.  With the Wagner Flexio 570 or 590 there are three main controls you need to know.  
-The Power Dial controls how much force is used to expel the paint.  The heavier the paint, the more power/ higher setting you'll need.  For thinner coatings like stains or lacers you will want it on a lower setting.
-The Material Flow Control allows you to adjust how much material is coming out.  You will need to practice first to get familiar with how thick you want your coating to be.  Too little and it barely coats, too much and it's thick and drippy.
-Finally, the Adjustment Ring located around the nozzle will control the direction and width of your paint. It offers a width horizontal swath for painting up and down motions and a vertical swath for painting in a side to side motion.  The Detail Finish Nozzle offers a narrower focused swath for doing circular motions or diagonals. 

Now it's time to test out the gun.  I used an old piece of plywood I had laying around to practice on.  I played around with the power and material flow controls until I had just the right amount I needed coming out.

If you find you are getting too much overspray or “spitting” make sure the black ring near your adjustment ring is tight.  Practice moving your arm back and forth keeping the gun the same distance from the surface to ensure an even coat.  Once you feel comfortable you can start on your piece. 
Since I had a lot of raised areas and detail I gave the entire piece one coat going in an up and down motion.  Once that dried I gave it a second coat in a side to side motion to fill any recessed areas I missed.  This of course was AFTER my impatient side won out and I attempted to do TWO coats at once.  The right side of my vanity ended up with a mess like this, TOO MUCH PAINT!
I would love to say I did this on purpose to show you how to fix a common mistake, but the truth is I’m just a little spastic and I thought I could actually pull two coats off.  To fix this get a clean brush and wipe off your excess.  Feather and brush the area out.  LET DRY!  If the brush strokes bother you, lightly sand.  Now get back to spraying and don’t attempt that again!

Once your piece has the coverage you desire you are finished!  
Clean up was a breeze.  I simply poured the remaining paint back into the can and rinsed out the reservoir.  I then filled the reservoir with water and ran it through the sprayer until it came out clean.  I rinsed the nozzle and uptake tube clean and I was done.  

Once all was dry I reassembled the door and drawers.  Here is the vanity after two coats…

and now placed in its new home.  I absolutely love the new color and how much it changed the look of this piece.  Now I just need to commit to a wallpaper and this bathroom is almost done!

 I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.


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