I just got a great question via email and having sent the answer off, thought you might like to hear it too.
The question was about how to get crisp edges when using stencils and did I have any tips?
I’ll make an assumption that you’re having a problem with the edges when you use paint with a stencil – that’s the most common medium that causes problems. My experience has been there are two things that may be at fault: the application tool being too wet and the stencil moving around.
First, the application tool. Paint is inherently wet and stenciling is an inherently dry art form – thus the smudgy edges. I’ve found that using a sponge applicator (either a cosmetic wedge or special purpose sponge brush) is a better way to apply paint. Brushes are difficult to get dry enough and often “push” the paint under the stencil edges.
The trick with using a sponge is to dip it into the paint and then dab most of it right back off until the sponge is barely damp with paint. Then gently tap it onto the area straight up and down. Of course, it may take more than one coat to get the color build-up you want, but the edges will be crisp and, personally, I like the look of the differences in coverage – it gives the work a more lively quality.
Second, the stencil itself. If the stencil moves while you’re painting, the edges will smear. If you’re working on a project that allows, go ahead and tape the edges of the stencil down with low-tack blue tape. That will keep everything in place for the duration of the project.
But, if you’re like me and move that stencil around to get different angles, that won’t work. In that case, I hold the working area down firmly with one hand (up close to where I’m working) and apply paint with the other. One other tip with this is to gently twist your wrist as you lift the sponge so it doesn’t pull the stencil up with it. It takes a few times of practicing but it really does keep that stencil down so the edges stay secure. Finally, be sure to wait long enough before picking the stencil back up – it shouldn’t be long at all if the application was dry enough.
Now, this is just my experience and your results may vary – do you have something that’s worked for you?
Try out your stencil technique with this Paper Lantern Stencil in the shop!