Laurel's Adventures in Home Repair   


How to Make Your Own Stencils for Your Paint Projects

November 3 - 17, 2014


Sometimes finding the right sized stencil for a paint project, with the image you want, takes hours of searching on the web.  In my case, it is rare that I find exactly what I want.

I wanted stencils for a large sized gecko or lizard that measures over 12" long.  I did find small lizards/geckos but not the large images I wanted.  The price also ran between $15 - $20 per stencil.

I decided to make my own. I then went online to find the images I wanted.

The lizards that I found are shown on the left.  This collection of lizards were found on various websites so I could not find the name of the original artist to apologies.

I liked these lizards because they had a nice southwest theme to them, which is what I was looking for.

The next thing to do is to decide what to make the stencil out of.

When I was cleaning out some of my old cartographic supplies (I used to be a cartographer many years ago), I came across a box of K & M Stabilene Opaque Film, 17" x 22", .007" thick.


You can try Google-ing this film, but it appears to not be made anymore.  It is a shame because it is has an awesome surface for doing pencil or ink drawings.

This material is also very stable in hot or cold conditions.  Thus, it's name, Stabilene.  Cartographers used the semi transparent version of the film when making separations in the old map making process. The film was also available with coatings on it to scribe lines (roads, rivers, borders, etc.)

Where to Get Stencil Materials

Since this is a "how-to" page, it does not help you to mention a stencil material that has gone the way of the dinosaurs.  So I looked online for a similar material that you could use. 

Dick Blick has a product called Grafix Drafting Film. It has a polyester base, which is stable and comes in rolls and flat sheets with two thicknesses, .003 and .005.  You will probably want to go with the .005 thickness.  You can use a pencil or ink with this.

You can also visit a craft store and just ask for the materials to make stencils.  They might have acetate sheets.  A word about acetate...not stable.  Use this material for a stencil you will toss after using.  If you want to save your stencil, go with a polyester based material.

Transfer Your Image to your Stencil Material

Since most of the newer materials, that can be used for stencils, are semi-transparent or transparent, you can just print out the image and put it under the material and trace it.  If you have a lot of straight lines, use a straight edge.

If you want a really large image and you can't draw.  Enlarge your image on the computer, print it out in tiles on the paper and cut and tape the larger image together.  If you are not able to do this, a copy store can make an image larger for you.

In my case, I am blessed with some artistic abilities so I just looked at the images on my computer and drew them by hand onto my material.  I did use pencil and did a lot of erasing until I got the image right.  I drew the outline first, then colored in the areas I would be cutting out.

Very important when doing your design for a stencil.  You cannot cut out everything. In my case, I had to make modifications of the original design, so I was not cutting everything out.  Look closely at the end results below to see what I mean.  I needed to extend design elements to the edge of the lizard's body and not cut them out.

Drew the image with pencil.
Shaded in areas to be cut out.

Drawing completed.
All areas to be cut out are now shaded in.

It took me about an hour to make each drawing.  On the other two lizard drawings I made, I did not do all of the shading as shown above.  I would just lightly crosshatch the areas I would cut out.
Cut Out Your Design

I looked at several websites on stencil designs and many mentioned cutting out your design with a box cutter.  I guess if you have a large design with a bunch of straight edges, this would do the trick. For an intricate design, stick with a pair of small sharp scissors or a sharp X-Acto knife.  I emphasis sharp here.  Toss the dull blade and put a new one in.

If you are using anything other than scissors, put something underneath your stencil material before cutting to protect your surface.  Kitchen cutting boards work, a corrugated cardboard box, etc.

I have used the Fiskar Snips & Shears scissors for years for detailed cutting.  For each section, I did have to stab through the material to start a cut.  I was working with .007" thick material so it was a little tuff in the tight spots.

 Fiskar Snips & Shears

It took me around 1-1/2 hours to cut out each design.  I streamed a few TV shows online while I was cutting.
The finished stencils are shown to the right and below.  I placed a dark surface underneath the stencil so you could see the end result.

I did a total of three lizards so that I can a vary the pattern when I paint my surface.

Note that I did not copy the original artwork exactly.  I copied the shape and then added my own design to the body parts. 

I had originally planned to apply spray paint but because of the intricate details, I will probably be better off dabbing paint on with a sponge.

Spray paint would work, but I would need to stick the stencil on to the surface with a tacky glue spray to hold it in place.  This would leave some adhesive on my surface after moving the stencil, which I do not want.  I will be using the stencils outside and blowing dust would eventually stick on the adhesive residue.

Finished Lizard Stencil 1

Finished Lizard Stencil 2

Finished Lizard Stencil 3

You are probably wondering what I will be using these stencils for.  Well this was a rainy day project for me.  My rock wall repair job (see this here...) was interrupted by a day of rain .  I had played around with the idea in my head about making my own stencils and wanted to see if it would work.

The first place I tried out my stencils was on my stucco wall. 

Before I used the stencil on the wall, I tried it out on a sample sheet painted with the same paint that is on the stucco wall.

Painted test sheet with stucco wall paint

Attached stencil and dabbed paint
 on with a small brush

Lifted away stencil on sample piece

Rust-Oleum Hammered Brown

There was a little bleeding on the sample I made.  So I expected this to happen when I applied it to the wall.  Not a problem.  I had the stucco paint to do the touch-ups. 

I used the Rust-Oleum Hammered Brown Paint because I had it laying around.

This paint creates a nice shimmery color.  If you make it thick enough, it almost looks like the finish on shiny ceramic.

It is a thin paint when fresh, when it starts to dry out, it gets really tacky.

Next I painted two of the lizards on the wall.  I will add one or two more later. 


Two lizards painted on wall.  Will add a couple more later

Completed bench with lizards stenciled on surface

I purchased a 2 x 4's Basics Flip-Top Table Bench kit to add a seat against this wall.  See the bench web page here...for more details

I painted the wood with Sherwin Williams Resilience in Protégé Bronze SW 6153 in a satin finish 

I used acrylic paint to add a couple of lizards to the bench to go along with the lizards on the wall.

There are two ways to paint a stencil across 2 x 4's on a bench. 
1)  Paint a board one at a time and shift the stencil up or down the boards.  Use this method if the boards are already assembled with the gap between each board.  I used this method for the Venetian Gold lizard.  I made marks on the stencil so I would know where to line-up the next board.  This takes longer because you have to wait for the paint to dry before reattaching the stencil to do the next board. However, this acrylic paint dries quickly.

Lizard stenciled on with Venetian Gold

DecoArt Dazzling Metallics - Venetian Gold

2)  Before attaching the 2 x 4's to the bench, put the boards together on a flat surface making sure the ends of your boards are flush with each other.  Attach the stencil and paint.  This is the faster method since you only have to lay down the stencil once.  This is how I painted the Moss Pearl lizard below.

Lizard stenciled on with Moss Pearl

DecoArt Dazzling Metallics - Moss Pearl

The acrylic paint I used on the bench was DecoArt Dazzling Metallics. 

I like the metallic paints because they have a different look on the surface, under different light conditions. 

When using this paint on a stencil, it is best to apply it on a flat surface to avoid paint running underneath the edges. 

Also, with the stencil down, apply the paint thinly with an almost dry brush. Just enough so the image is on the surface.  Then remove the stencil and apply more paint to the image until you have the thickness of paint you want.

A note regarding this area.  I also installed a roll-up shade screen.  This was to help to keep sun off this area and to provide some privacy from the neighbors who can see this area from their kitchen window.

November 17, 2014

 Completed stenciling job

The Projects
Backsplash in Kitchen
Bench - 2 x 4 Basics Flip-Top Bench Table
Brick Replacement and Brick Accent Painting
Casper Mattress
Ceiling Tiles
Closet Built from Scratch
Column Wraps for 4" x 8" Posts
Concrete Slabs
Curb Appealing Street Numbers
Cut Paper Artwork - Kitchen
Door Knobs and Cabinet Pulls
Dry rotted wood beam repair and paint
Doggy door installed on wrought iron screen door - Repair of door
Duct Work
End Table / Cabinet - Vintage / Industrial Look
Faux Brick and Tile
- Stucco wall patio and backyard stairs
    using concrete patch

- Painted tile pool deck (Oklahoma)
File Cabinet - Vintage / Industrial Look
Fire Place Hearth Shelves
Furniture Assembly
Garage Closet - Oklahoma
Garage Facelift - Closet, etc
Gate From Hell
GoNanas - Failed Order Attempt
Horrible Man Cave (rec room) Total Renovation
House Entrance Renovation
How to fix holes in a wrought iron screen door and replace screen
How to Make Your Own Door
- Crawl Space Door
How to Winterize a Swamp (Evaporative) Cooler
Kitchen Counter Tops - Faux Granite
Kitchen Facelift
Kitchen Light Facelift
Laundry Room Cupboards
Main Bathroom Repair / Remodel
Master Bathroom Shower Area Stripped to the Studs
Mirror Frames
Oklahoma Home Facelift -- Aluminum Siding and Paint
OMG!  The sink was leaking the whole time we were away?
Raising the Roof - Garage Roof Replacement
Rock Wall Repair
Rolling Cabinet - Vintage /  Industrial Look
Shark Apex UpLight Corded Lift-Away Vacuum - Review
Siding - Exterior
Signage for Pine Ridge Estates
Solar Lighting Journey
Stair Door
Stairs to the Lower Level
Stencils - How to Make Your Own Stencils for Paint Projects
Storage Shed / Closet
Storm Shelter (Elgin, OK 2021)
Storm Shelter (Lawton, OK 2014)
Stucco Wall Repair and Paint
Swamp (Evaporative) Cooler Maintenance
Treadmill Table - Vintage Style
Tuff Shed
Wrought Iron Facelift Outside
Weather Stripping (doors)
Why is My Swamp (Evaporative) Cooler Blowing Hot Air?
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