How do you feel about stencils? Personally, I’m a fan!
Stencils add amazing complexity and patterns to your work without hours of numbing effort. By choosing your stencils carefully, you lay the foundation of a coherent and beautiful finished work. Patterns and textures work together to allow you to build on your own personal imagery and express your distinct style.
So, how do you combine different stencils so they work together instead of being a hot mess?
I limit myself to three stencils and usually only one or two. Too many patterns – especially if they’re distinctive – starts to look mechanical instead of artful. Sometimes one really nice pattern is all you need. I like this brocade pattern and use it frequently.
When combining stencils, look for contrast in the sizes of the elements and the quality of the patterns and textures: linear vs organic, regular vs random, etc.
I like to use only parts of the stencil pattern on the paper. I’ll usually choose a portion of the pattern and place it carefully. Then, shift the stencil and use another part somewhere else on the paper. I seldom stencil the entire surface with any one pattern because it’s more interesting and visually appealing to have the patterns appear and disappear.
As you place your stencils, look for chances to highlight the focal point of your work and parts of the stencils your eye is drawn to. If you’re layering contrasting stencils, test the layered effect before you commit to your work because it doesn’t always look like you expect!
My experience is a lighter hand applying paint is best for several reasons. One is that it helps keep the stencil edges crisp. More than that, I like to keep my stenciling subtle, both in color and depth of paint. The muted low-key background effect adds a lot of interest without standing out. My favorite tool for paint application is the humble cosmetic sponge.
As you apply your paint, try for a sheer application so that the background is barely covered. Choose colors that are similar to the background or a little lighter or darker to help sink the stenciling into it. As you stencil, you can even wipe away part of it while it’s still damp to help blend it even more.
Stencils: Your Secret Tool Kit
I use stencils extensively in my mixed media work. And, I’m currently experimenting with ways to incorporate them into watercolor artwork and even three dimensional works like art dolls. They really are a secret treasure to solve boring art!
Here are some of my favorite stencils from the shop. All of these are sturdy, reusable Mylar, made in the US and in the studio, ready to ship.