Understanding the big picture may help you grasp each step.
Your stencil is basically a sticker, like the kind your kids get at the doctor. However, unlike those terrible Lightning McQueen stickers you find forever stuck to a headboard, this stencil (sticker) is removable! (Every mom's dream!)
Like our beloved Lightning McQueen stickers, your stencil is made up of two parts: The top (white) part is made of vinyl. This is where Lightning's picture would be. This has your design cut into it and is very thin/flimsy. It has a sticky backside, which is attached to the piece with a grid printed on a paper backing. You should be able to feel that there's a design cut into the vinyl part, but not through the paper.
Once we have our stencil ready, we'll use contact paper to help us transfer the stencil to our sign, in one piece.
We've got some work to do before we start painting. Please make sure you don't skip any steps.
STEP 1 : WEEDING
If you're a "picker" person, you're going to love this part!
Using your Weeding Tool (hook), remove all the letters from the white sticker part of your stencil. You might have to look closely to see where each letter is. Feeling it with your fingertips may help.
You do not need to keep the letters you remove. Remember, we're painting the font, not sticking stickers on our sign.
IMPORTANT: Be very careful not to throw away the insides of the "e", "a", "p", "o", and so on. Unless you want your "o" to look like a solid ball, rather than a doughnut (which we all love!), you'll want that little inside circle sticker. If you loose one, you might be able to borrow the "filling" from another letter as you paint later. Just remember doughnuts are good. Easy!
You'll know you're finished weeding when you can see your full design in blue, outlined by the white vinyl sticker. Don't forget to dot your "i's"!
STEP 2 : TRANSFER PAPER (CON-TACT PAPER)
If you're Type-A, you're going to have to follow the lead of your Type-B Friend in this section.
You should have a piece of Con-Tact Paper included in your kit, that we'll use to help us transfer our stencil onto our sign.
Peel the Con-Tact paper off of the paper backing. You can throw the paper backing away.
TIP: when peeling, start at a corner.
With the sticky side of the transfer paper DOWN (toward the stencil), cover the top of your stencil.
Type-A's, take a deep breath. You're going to get all hot-and-bothered over wrinkles, but IT'S FINE.
I REPEAT: Wrinkles are FINE! The stencil itself is not wrinkled, only the material (Con-Tact Paper) we're using to help us transfer our stencil to our sign. Deep breaths, people.
The transfer paper doesn't need to cover your entire stencil. As long as your design or words are covered, you're in good shape.
If your transfer paper hangs way over your stencil, it's helpful to trim it off.
STEP 3 : TRIM & MEASURE
Trimming your stencil isn't always necessary, but in some cases, it'll make the next few step much easier. Even if it's not necessary, I still like to trim a tiny bit off so I can use the scraps for the next step.
Here's how you'll know if you need to trim:
- If your stencil doesn't completely fit within your framed sign, you'll want to trim it down.
- Or if you'd like to have a straight edge, and don't already have one.
When you flip your stencil over, you'll notice a grid printed on the back. Holding the stencil up to a light (or window), you'll be able to see your design through the backside of the paper.
Pick a grid-line that doesn't get too close to your design, and cut along that straight line. It's very important that you don't cut too close to your font/design. Keep in mind that we'll be using a wedge to paint, and WILL paint out of the lines.
SAVE A SLIVER OF YOUR SCRAPS.
Ok, Type-A's, it's your turn to shine!
There's nothing worse than sitting on your couch, admiring your crafty-ness, when suddenly you realize YOUR FONT IS CROOKED!
As much as I don't particularly love this step, it is usually necessary.
If you've ordered a DIY Kit through Kelly, your design will be sized and centered to your sign. So unless you have a round sign, you may skip this step, in which case you'll still may want to measure.
So grab that ruler, and make sure you have the same distance on either side (left to right and top to bottom) of your sign, from farthest font to frame.
To make sure it's level, use bottom line (or word) as a reference point. Now measure from the bottom of the first letter to the frame. Now compare that to the bottom of the last letter to the frame. Make adjustments as necessary.
If your font is "swoopy", use the tip above, but make sure you compare two of the same letters. So if your sign says "sweet home" on the bottom, measure from the bottom of the first and last "e" (swEet homE) down to the frame.
Keep in mind that swoopy fonts are a little more forgiving to the eye. The nature of this type of font isn't perfect, so if you're slightly off, you won't notice it as quickly. (phew!)
Once your stencil is aligned, use an extra piece of vinyl (one that you may have trimmed off), to mark on your sign where the corners of your stencil should line up when you stick it to your board. Keep in mind that these "tabs" or "markers" should not be used to hold your stencil in place.
Are you still with me? We're almost to my favorite part: PAINTING!
Ok, moving on!
STEP 4 : STICK IT & REMOVE TRANSFER PAPER
Excuse my awesome facial expressions. lol
This is pretty simple. Flip your stencil upside down (grid-side up), and peel the grid-paper backing up from your white vinyl stencil, which is attached to the Con-Tact paper. (See left picture above)
Before throwing your grid-paper away, look at the blue side to make sure there aren't any white pieces stuck to it. Every little piece is important. Remember: doughnuts = goodness
Now you're ready to carefully flip your stencil back around (sticky-side down), and put your stencil on your board.
Keep in mind that your stencil is very static-y, and will try to cling to your board. I like to align the two corners with the greatest distance between them. This will give you better odds of keeping it level.
Starting at the corner, and working diagonally, slowly peel off the transfer paper, making sure none of the stencil comes with it. This can be tricky if you have a stained board. Your stencil may seem to not stick very well, which is totally normal, so just use your "free" hand (in the picture above, that would be my right hand) to help hold your stencil down.
Before tossing your transfer paper away, check for any pieces of your stencil that may have escaped.
TIP: To keep your stencil from peeling up with your transfer paper, the hand that is peeling should always be touching your board, rather than pulling up at 90*.
A note for those with a stained base: Your stencil won't be as stuck to your board as those with a painted base. Don't freak out. That's normal, and if you follow my instructions on using teeny amounts of paint, you have nothing to worry about. ;)
STEP 5 : PAINT
Tied for First Place with designing, PAINTING owns my heart.
IF YOU THINK YOU KNOW HOW TO PAINT, READ THIS SECTION ANYWAY. (Yes, I'm yelling at you.)
MY 2 BIGGEST TIPS:
- TEENY TINY AMOUNT OF PAINT
- SWIPER NO SWIPING! DAB. DO NOT SWIPE.
- START LIGHT, AND FINISH DARK (if you want the two toned look)
It's simple, right? Well, yes, BUT (and there's a BIG BUT, single T), there is a technique to it. Keep in mind that THIS IS WOOD we're painting, NOT CANVAS. Wood has grain, which can be slightly wavy. Although your stencil should keep most paint where is should be, if you use too much, it WILL seep under your stencil. And you'll be sad.
For those of you with stained boards, your stencil probably won't be as stuck to your board as those with a painted base, so it's especially important to use very little paint and not push down on your sponge super hard.
I CANNOT SAY IT ENOUGH: USE A TEENY TINY LITTLE BIT OF PAINT. TEENY. THE FIRST HALF OF YOUR SIGN SHOULD BE DRY BY THE TIME YOU FINISH YOUR FIRST (OR ONLY) COAT.
After dipping your sponge in the paint, wipe off all the paint on the side of the jar.
I REPEAT: wipe off all the paint. From every side of your sponge.
The corners of your sponge will tend to hold a lot of paint. After wiping all the paint off your sponge, dab the corners of your sponge on a blank section of your stencil.
If you swipe your sponge like a brush, rather then dabbing, again, your paint WILL seep under your stencil. Dab. Do not swipe.
You can do as many thin layers as you'd like. Just make sure the previous layer is dry before starting with the next coat. If it's tacky, you could pull the previous layer(s) off. It's a pain, and takes a lot of work to fix. Just trust me.
If you like the "vintage" look, and want different tones to show through, start with a lighter color with your first coat, then go over it with a darker color. It'll look blotchy and scary, but let me tell you: it'll turn out beautiful! It doesn't have to be evenly painted. (See picture below)
If you're not sure if you need another coat or not, peel up a corner and take a peek.
TOUCH UPS: (for later)
If your paint went where it shouldn't have, use a wet-wipe (or damp paper towel) to clean it up. I like to wrap it around my hook tool to get in the hard to reach areas. Always try this before covering it up with even more paint.
STEP 6 : THE GRAND FINALE
Ok, I lied, because THIS is my favorite part.
It's simple. And, oh, so satisfying!
Once your paint is dry (or pretty close), use your weeding tool to start PEELING.
You can ditch the tool, and peel that sucker off! No need to keep it from tearing.
Go back with your weeding tool to get all the centers of your letters out. You'll want to make sure your paint is totally dry before doing this.
AND FINALLY...SHOW IT OFF!
Snap a photo of your finished product and post it on my Facebook page:
OR email it to
I love seeing your finished products!
Thank you for trusting me to guide you through this fun process. I'd love to see you again!