How to stencil on wood

Updated April 17, 2017

Stencilling on wood is accessible to almost anyone and takes less talent than other art forms. Stencil a table top or other furniture to add interest to a room. With a few tips, you will find this creative endeavour an easy project to complete.

Stain, paint or leave the wood piece natural before stencilling. Make sure the surface is not slick. Lightly sand any surface covered in glossy paint or sealer to give it a scratchy top so the stencilling paint will adhere. Wipe off any sanding residue before beginning the stencil process.

Choose your stencil. You can find stencils in craft stores and online. Measure the stencil and your wood piece. Decide how the design will fit. Create markings with a light pencil on the wood piece for stencil placement.

Use painter's tape or masking tape to attach the stencil to the wood. Do not place tape where you will need to paint.

Place a small amount of acrylic paint (about a quarter size) onto a painter's pallet or other flat container.

Pick up a dab of paint on the edge of your stipple brush. Swirl it on a dry area of the pallet to work it into the tips of the brush. It should look slightly dry. Use a stippling motion (dabbing up and down) on the outer edges of the stencil pattern. You want the outside to be dark, with a fading effect as you move toward the centre.

Use the same process with the next colour of acrylic paint. Different parts of the stencil may require different colours. You may also use more than one colour on each area, giving the overall appearance of hand painting. Move your stencil around the wood surface as needed.

Set the project aside for an overnight period to allow the paint to set.

Brush on a clear polyurethane sealer over the entire stencilled area. Polyurethane sealer comes in a satin, glossy, semi-glossy and matt finish. This will protect your art work and give the wood piece a smooth finish. Let the sealer harden for a few days before using the object.


Use paper to do a tester with your stencil. If you've never stencilled before, this will give you a bit of experience and it will let you work on colouring before painting the wood object. Acrylic paints are water-based. This makes cleaning up easy. Wash your brushes and stencils in soapy water, dry them and store them for use in another project.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper
  • Stencil
  • Acrylic paints
  • Painter's tape
  • Clear polyurethane sealer
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About the Author

Karen Ellis has been a full-time writer since 2006. She is an expert crafter, with more than 30 years of experience in knitting, chrocheting, quilting, sewing, scrapbooking and other arts. She is an expert gardener, with lifelong experience. Ellis has taken many classes in these subjects and taught classes, as well.