How to stencil onto wood with perfect results

how to paint using a stencil

How To Make A Fabulous Stencil Art On Wood


If you are like me and love to browse in flea markets and thrift stores for cheap home decor, you most likely ended up with a lot of plain wood pieces.

They only need a little love, a creative design, and paint.

Painting with a stencil onto wood is fun. You can create a very unique home decor in no time. BUT, have you ever noticed that it takes time and trials to learn a new DIY skill?

That is especially true when you are working with stencils and different paint on wood or wooden furniture. You want to know which tools and materials are the best for your project.

I have good news for you! I went through many trials, made a couple of mistakes, so you don’t have to.


Go ahead, read on, and get my best tips on how to stencil on wood.

Please note that this article contains affiliate links.  Please see my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.


Get Stencils for wood

how to use a stencil

So, where can you purchase letter stencils or any other kind?

Etsy is always my stop when I’m looking for unique crafts and decor items. Sellers are crafters just like you and me, and I like to support them.

– Michales, Joanns, Hobby-Lobby are perfect for those of you who want to touch and see the product before you buy.

– Amazon. I got 2 sets of stencils from here. Mandalas for my rock painting projects and letter stencils for wood signs, and I will use both to walk you through all of the steps in this post.

Cricut. Make your own stencil with the machine and the company’s wide variety of vinyl papers.


Stencil paint for wood


Let’s talk about paint options!


I never pay attention to what type of paint to use. Whatever I have at home. Don’t be like Andrea, and choose the one that works for your craft.

– Stencil Creme has a velvety, creamy formula.  This kind of paint is perfect for stenciling on walls and furniture. It dries quickly and works on a variety of surfaces you want to stencil on.

People also like to use them because it doesn’t bleed under the stencil.  BUT we are talking about making a small wood sign, and I don’t think it’s necessary to spend the money on this paint for today’s project.

Acrylic craft paint and latex paint works well with stencils. You can create a beautiful crisp letter and art with these kinds of paints. I used Rust-Oleum white latex paint for this project.

It dries and adheres to wood, and wooden furniture perfectly. I always have acrylic paint at home and use them for most of my craft projects, like creating crazy pumpkin faces. Acrylic paints are budget-friendly, and your kids love to use them too!

Chalk paint. Many of us love chalk paint for a vintage look or farmhouse decoration. They are perfect for painting terracotta pots, crates, wood signs, and mason jars.

It covers quickly and dries fast. They tend to dry out soon, so you might want to pour out a small amount into a small plastic cup and close the original holder of the chalk paint.


Best brush for stenciling

best brush for stencil painting

Foam brushes have excellent absorption and distribute the paint evenly. Its foam cells absorb paint and reduce drips until you apply it on wood or other surfaces.

Stencil brushes have a round shape and so easy to use with the dry brush technic.

Round stencil sponge brush. These are great. It is a combination of foam and regular stencil brushes. It has a flat top and a rounded shape. Which makes it perfect for applying paint with the tapping, pouncing motion. Since I had some old makeup sponge at home, I decided to use it as my round stencil sponge. 

All 3 works perfectly for your stencil crafts, so it is genuinely based on your preference. Whichever you’ll choose, make sure to apply a small amount of paint on the brush or sponge. If you picked up a lot of paint, tap it off on a paper or cloth before painting on the project.


How to stencil on wood without bleeding

how to stencil paint on wood

At my first couple of intent to work with stencils, I failed miserably. Expecting a perfect crisp design under my stencil, I ended up with smudged letters and a lot of paint bleeding.

After a while, I was not looking forward to lifting up the stencil when I finished with the project.

Here are my favorite technics to prevent bleeding on your wood when you stencil.

Use a repositionable stencil adhesive spray. Spray a light layer on the back of the stencil. Now you can position it to where you want your design. When you work with letters, consider centering and straightening the stencil before you place it on the wood.

The adhesive spray is strong enough to hold the stencil in place while you work, but you won’t have a problem removing it later easily. Working with this adhesive will seal the edges of the stencil; therefore, it prevents paint bleeding. Win-win in my book.

Use a contact vinyl paper. Ohhh, you lucky ones out there who have a Cricut machine. You can design your own stencil and cut it out with your Cricut. Then you place the stencil on the wood. Press it down to make sure it’s adhered throughout the surface.

Use Matte Mod Podge. For my project in this post, I used only Mod Podge, and it’s terrific. My design is crisp and avoided paint bleeding.

You need to apply a light coat of matte Mod Podge to your sign. It will prevent the paint from sneaking under the stencil. Make sure you coat in all directions when applying your Mod Podge. Drying it overnight if you can, but a couple of hours would be sufficient too.

– DRY brushing technic. No matter what kind of brush or sponge you decide to use for working with a stencil, you want to make sure when you load your brush with paint, tap off most of it again.

A cloth or paper will work fine. This way, you will have crisp lines.

Do you remember how you paint a wall? You move the brush back and forth, rubbing the paint with that motion. This will allow the paint to leak under the stencil. Ditch the back and forth motion on the surface. Instead, you want to bounce or dab the brush up and down motion.

You might see that the paint likes to stick to the stencil more than it sticks to your wood, but no worries, it’s normal. I usually work in a 2-3 inch area with a makeup sponge at a time, and it works great.


How to fix stencil bleed on wood


When you peel back the stencil and suuuurpise, you see sneaky paint seeped underneath, take a piece of damp paper towel wipe the excess.

Sometimes the problem is tiny. Wrapping a damp paper towel around the end of a butter knife is your best tool for fixing small paint bleeding spots. You can wipe off the excess paint with the tip, and the edge of the design will be crisp.


How to paint with stencils instructions


Yeey. Now we got to the fun part. You chose your brush, paint, stencil, and wood for the project. Hopefully, you read my advice and got the mode podge too.

Let’s create a beautiful stencil art together!


Step 1: Apply the stencil to your wood

how to apply a stencil on wood

  • Position the stencil where you want the letters or art to be on the wood.
  • Tape the stencil to your project to keep it in place. Or use contact paper or adhesive spray, as we discussed a little bit earlier.


Step 2: Mod Podge your stencil on the wood

apply Matte mod podge

This step is essential to prevent the paint from bleeding under the stencil. It seals the edges.

  • Using a brush, apply a coat of matte Mod Podge to your sign. You can use your fingertip too.
  • Try to apply it evenly. Not too thick but not too thin either.
  • Let it dry about an hour or until it is completely dry.


Step 3: Paint your design.

how to paint with a stencil

  • When the Mod Podge is dry, grab your brush or sponge and get to painting.
  • Pick up the paint with your brush and tap it off on a paper or cloth. The dry brush will still have enough paint to work with.
  • Apply the paint with a pouncing motion. Which means to bounce the paintbrush up and down rather than brush it side to side.
  • You will probably need to bounce a couple of times in one spot before you have the desired coverage of paint on your project. It is especially true if you are using white paint over reclaimed wood.
  • I used a makeup sponge to get a more even texture.
  • After one layer dries, you can add more layers if you prefer a crispier fuller look.
  • Let it dry. It will take about 2 hours, but usually, I leave my stencil project to dry overnight.


Step 4: Remove the stencil

diy stencil painting

Good Morning! It’s time to peel off the stencil from the wood project.

  • If you used contact paper or adhesive, you want to remove the stencil in the opposite direction of the wood grains. This movement will help to avoid unwanted paint from lifting.
  • If you used the plastic stencil as I did, just carefully remove tapes and peel the stencil lifting up one corner and work your way away from that corner.
  • Sometimes a little accident happens, and you might lift up some paint with the stencil. You can use a small straight pin and dip it in the paint then patch up your work.


Step 5: Seal art

This is optional. I cover my wood projects with a polyurethane spray to protect it from the humid weather we have.

It is a good idea to seal your wood sign and art if you know it will be used outdoors.


How to stencil onto wood experience

painting with stencils

With a couple of hacks, you can create professional-looking signs and stencil art in no time.

Useful tips to make perfect decoration:

  • You can get crisp stencil lines using Mod Podge to seal the edges of your stencil.
  • Chose a good brush for dry-brushing “dabbing” technic.
  • Wait for the Mod Podge, adhesive, and paint to dry before you move on to the next step.
  • Remove stencil when the paint is dry.
  • If you use your decoration outdoors consider to seal it.


I had fun and hope you will too when creating a unique wood decoration for your home.


Do you want more inspiration for your next painting craft project?


Don’t forget to PIN it and come back later for instructions. Do you have questions or stenciling tips? Leave a comment, please.

how to stencil on wood with acrylic paint


Do you wanna DIY more?


  1. Heidi Deboo Moretti

    I need to do more DIY, I love it! Thanks for the stencil tips!

    • Andrea

      You’re welcome, Heidi. I sure you’ll make a beautiful stencil sign.

  2. Sammie

    Love this! Not a crafty/ diy talented person, so this article is super helpful! Thanks for showing the different brushes, mod podge etc samples!

    • Andrea

      I hope with these tips you’ll pick up a brush and stencil a unique wood sign on the weekend. Happy DIY-ing.

  3. Ashlee

    I love a good DIY project! These are really great tips for using a stencil on wood.

    • Andrea

      Thank you, Ashlee. I hope you make a new stencil sign soon.

  4. Kait | Slumber & Scones

    This is such a fun idea! I have been trying to do more DIY projects around my house, and I love how simple this is. Your guidance is so thorough as well.

    • Andrea

      Kait, it is fun and you can make a personalized sign for Father’s day. It’s coming up soon. Happy DIY-ing.

  5. Vicki E Wilson

    This was really good! I feel confident now. Thank you.

    • Sara

      This might be a stupid question but wasn’t clear in instructions above. When applying mod podge on letters did you apply only around edge of letter or just coated entire letter inside and around edges?

      • Andrea

        Sarah, there is no stupid question. 😉
        So I applied on the entire project using the side to side brush strokes. This way I made sure that the edges will be sealed completely and the whole letter actually will have the same base for the paint.


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