How to stencil a design on a car

Updated February 21, 2017

Whether you're adding fire flames, a phrase or message or another kind of design to your car, you can create personalised artwork with a few supplies through stencilling. Stencilling works by transferring a cutout design to your car when paint or another substance is applied on top of it. For cars, Rod & Custom magazine recommends using an enamel spray paint, well-suited to layer on top of a car that already has its first coat of factory-created paint. Stencils are available at auto shops, craft stores and online.

Prepare the car by placing tire covers over your tires to protect them from paint splatter. (Optional)

Cover any details you don't want to get paint on with strips of masking tape, such as racing stripes or the edges around the vehicle doors.

Hold the spray can under warm water for 10 seconds, then shake it well. (Repeat for each can of colour you use.)

Tape the stencil to the car with masking tape. If you're using multiple stencils with the same colour of spray enamel paint, tape all of the stencils in place.

Stand three feet back from the vehicle and spray the enamel paint over the stencil, taking care not to go outside the outer edges. Let dry. Repeat with another coat for a solid, bright look if desired.

Unpeel the tape and stencils and move to the next section of the car, using the same colour paint or a different one.

Repeat to apply the stencil to the entire car and let dry.

Use a touch up paint pen to fill in any specks of the old car paint that show through or cover any small areas the stencil didn't reach, such as the door handle or headlamp rim.


Take your spray enamel paint for a test drive by spray painting an unused light bulb. The light bulb's curves and shine mimic the car; you can carry the light bulb inside or outside to see how the paint looks in different lighting scenarios. Make your own stencils by cutting designs in thick manila folders, then taping them together. Test the stencils out by spray painting them onto a sheet of brown roll paper or newspaper to ensure the final product suits your preferences.

Things You'll Need

  • (Optional) Tire covers
  • Masking tape
  • Stencil
  • Can(s) of spray enamel paint
  • Warm water
  • Touch up paint pen(s)
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About the Author

Fionia LeChat is a technical writer whose major skill sets include the MS Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher), Photoshop, Paint, desktop publishing, design and graphics. LeChat has a Master of Science in technical writing, a Master of Arts in public relations and communications and a Bachelor of Arts in writing/English.