How To Stencil A Piece of Furniture

How To Stencil A Piece of Furniture

If you have an old piece of furniture that you still love, but is looking a little tired, then stenciling is a great way to breathe new life into it.

IKEA step stool

For my project I used this tired old IKEA stepladder that was still very much in use, but was in desperate need of some love and decoration. Of course you can take these same principles and apply them to any piece of furniture you have that needs uplifting – from a cupboard to a bedside table and everything in between.

What you’ll need

• piece of furniture
• printed stencil design • scalpel
• cutting mat
• Contact adhesive
• water based paint
• stencil brush

painted step stool


Before you can start stenciling there is some preparation work that will need to be done. With the stepladder it needed some light sanding then cleaning and an undercoat of paint. If you are stenciling straight onto already painted furniture, then just give it a good clean with soapy water and make sure it is completely dry before you begin. For this stepladder project we needed two different colours of water based paint, a base or background colour and then the colour for stenciling. If you are stenciling onto existing painted furniture, then you’ll only need the one colour of paint for your actual stencil.

stencil template

The trick with stenciling is to minimise bleeding, which is what happens when the paint sneaks in under the stencil. To create your actual stencil you want something sticky, but not too sticky that it will pull the paint off, so we went with some good old Contact adhesive which you can buy at any office supply store. You know the clear sticky stuff used to cover school books? If, like me, you’ve ever stayed up late covering school books due the next day, you’ll know it can be difficult to use, but it’s the perfect product for stenciling. If you have a fancy cutting machine like a Silhouette you can use that to cut out your shapes, however for this tutorial let’s assume you don’t have one, so we’ll just be cutting the shapes by hand.

Measure up your piece of furniture so you know exactly what size you need your design to be. Print it out on some paper or draw it freehand if you’re able. In a well-lit area, place your contact over your template and using a sharp scalpel carefully cut out the contact with your design (without removing the paper backing to the contact at this point).

TIP – It’s worthwhile putting a new blade into your scalpel so that it’s

sharp enough to cut a nice smooth edge.

Depending how complex your design is you’ll need some patience so you can take your time to do it carefully. With stenciling you will have a positive and a negative, so take some time to think about what you would like painted e.g. either the actual letters or the background so that the letters show. Both ways can look great depending on the project.

how to stencil

Now remove the backing paper to the contact and place your design on top of the furniture. Using the top of your fingernail gently but firmly rub around the edges so that it is stuck down well to the furniture and therefore minimises bleeding.

Using a stencil brush gently dab the paint over the stencil to cover the cut out areas. Try not to use too much paint and use a gentle dabbing motion to cover the area. You may need two coats so wait till the first coat is completely dry before painting on the second and once you are satisfied with the coverage gently and carefully pull off the stencil to reveal your beautifully stenciled furniture.

how to stencil furniture

Allow it to dry thoroughly and depending on the durability of the item you may want to do a clear top coat to seal in the stencil and minimise wear and tear. This stepladder definitely needed a clear top coat to protect the design.

What piece of furniture would you like to stencil?


(This article originally appeared on and has been republished here with permission.)

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