Tips and Ideas · Friday 16 April, 2021

Using Self Adhesive Stencils

Recently, I’ve been using the range of stencils I designed for my Hampshire Sheen business. They are a range of precision cut professional quality paint masking vinyl designs for woodturners and other artists.

Here are my top tips on using the range (and others available).

Using stencils is great fun and very rewarding. Getting to grips with them is easy with our Level 1 sets as they peel off very easily and are applied just as easily. To help you further, here are some things to consider.

Take Your Time: Although the stencils peel on and off easily, if it sticks to itself, it is tricky to prise it apart without stretching or tearing it. Likewise, avoid applying too much colour in one go. Multiple light coats are preferable to one heavy one. This helps prevent bleeding beneath the stencil and encourages a gradual build-up of colour.

Surface Choice: Stencils work best with plain, tight grained woods like maple, sycamore and beech. Their close grain structure can be sanded very smooth with little chance of your colour bleeding into the grain beneath the vinyl. You can also use these stencils on many other hard smooth surfaces such as metal, glass, paint etc.

Safety:Take precautions to look after your skin, lungs and eyes by using personal protection equipment appropriate for the job.

Below are application and usage guides for our stencils.

The Stencil on the Sheet

Each stencil comes looking similar to this Tree symbol from our Kanji set. The green square is the Negative part of the stencil whilst inside the dark green cut line is the Positive part.

Both can be used to create images in your design on your work.


The Negative Part

Here is the same stencil with the centre (the Positive) removed leaving white space. This is where you apply colour in your method of choice. Round the outside in yellow is masking tape to ensure your colour is only applied in the white space.

When colour is applied inside the Negative part, it produces a Positive image!


The Positive Part

This is the central part of the stencil. It has been removed from the Negative part and applied to the wood allowing you to apply colour around the image. Correctly, this part is called a Mask.

When colour is applied around the Positive part, it produces a Negative image!


Comparison

Take a look at the images to the right (above on mobile devices). The colours have been applied with (A) the Negative stencil and (B) the Positive mask.

In (A), the colour was applied inside the Negative stencil resulting in a Positive image of the individual letters with bare wood around each element.

In (B), the colour was applied around the Positive mask to colour the wood, but leave the wood showing inside the letters. This is a Negative image.


Medium Application

Airbrush and Compressor: Airbrushes are the most common application method for stencils, although not absolutely necessary.

An airbrush and compressor set will open up a whole new world of creative possibilities if you don’t already have one and an entry level set-up can be purchased relatively inexpensively from many vendors.

A compressor with a 5ltr tank is a good choice for its small size. Set-ups with a tank are preferable as they produce a constant airflow for the attached brush.


Of course, you don’t have to use an airbrush with these stencils. Here are some other ideas for you to try:

Use Metal Leaf

Apply a negative stencil to your work surface and press down firmly. Apply gilders size inside the stencil and leave to become tacky. Lay the metal leaf on the size and press firmly into the stencil. Then, after about 15 minutes, remove the metal leaf and the stencil from the work, leaving behind the leaf. Finally, apply suitable sealer and finishing products to the piece.


Outlining for Pyrography

After the stencil is applied, carefully and lightly draw round the design in pencil, remove the stencil and use the outline for pyrography work.

Outlining for Piercing

Some of our designs can be used for piercing. Outline the stencil as above but pierce the wood with a suitable tool instead.

Daubing

Use a sea sponge, bubble wrap, hessian, leather or other texture lightly covered in paint and lightly apply it over the stencil to create interesting texture effects.

Splattering!

Try using a toothbrush dipped in paint or dye and splatter the surface to produce random effects. Make sure your piece is well masked first though!

Stippling

Use a fine pointed permanent ink pen and add hundreds of tiny dots creating light and shade with differing intensities of dots


Surface Prepartion (Wood)

1: Sand your piece perfectly down to (we recommend) 600 grit ensuring you remove all tool and sanding marks.

Check between each grit to prevent having to go back up the grits if you find a mark when you think you’ve finished.

When you’re done, remove the dust with a paper towel so you have a clean surface.


2: We suggest burnishing the surface of the work with a paper towel until a dull shine begins to appear.

The burnishing process introduces heat to the wood which lightly seals the grain (we find) more evenly than applying sealer first.

The sealed grain will help (but not completely) stop colours bleeding beneath the vinyl stencil


Negative Stencil: Application

As you’ve read above, each stencil has two parts, a Positive part (the ‘mask’) and a Negative part (the stencil). For this section, we’ll look at using the Negative part of the stencil.

It is likely that you will mostly use the Negative parts of the stencils to begin with in order to create solid, positive impressions of the stencils. The negatives are shown in colour on the stencil diagrams provided in the pack, but not so obvious on the actual stencil sheet. Cross refer the stencil with the design to avoid confusion.

Note: If the stencil you are using has lots of fine lines and intricate detail, it is recommended you use the transfer tape to apply the stencil to the work. See the sections below for two methods of using tape. Also review the sections on ‘Weeding’


Decide which stencils you would like to use and where on your piece they will look best.

The negative part of the stencil in your pack is shown in colour whilst the positive part is black or white.


Carefully remove the stencil from the backing paper ensuring you do not stretch it or tear it, or any part of the stencil not being peeled off.

For intricate designs, you may find it easier to use a weeding tool at this stage.


Evenly lay the stencil down onto your work. Make sure there are no creases or wrinkles.


Press the stencil down firmly.


Stick masking tape all round the stencil, overlapping the edges. Additional masking can be added such as scrap paper to help prevent accidental spillage and overspraying.


Negative Stencil: Spraying/Applying Colour

Load your applicator (in this case, an airbrush) with the colour for the stencil and do a test spray onto the masked area to clear the nozzle and check spray intensity and width.

See the section on ‘Medium Application Ideas’ for suggestions on other ways to use your stencils


Lightly spray around the stencil mask in light coats to build up the colour. Too heavy a coat may result in a little bleed beneath the stencil.


When the colour is dry, peel off the stencil. If you wish to use it again, take care not to stretch or rip it.

Not all of our stencils can be reused. The packaging of each set indicates if they can be reused or not. Generally, the more intricate the stencil, the less chance there is of reuse.


Stick the stencil back on its backing paper or a piece of plastic. Again, take care not to stretch or tear it. Any dust caught on the sticky side will prevent it from sticking back down properly!


Negative Stencil Finished – Next!

Now your first part is done, you can move on to repeating the above steps for any other stencils you need for your design.


Positive Stencil: Application

As you’ve read above about the Negative part of your stencils, now lets look at the Positive part.

The Positive part of the stencil is the bit inside the negative. This is shown in black or white on the stencil diagrams provided in the pack, but not so obvious on the actual stencil sheet. Cross refer the stencil with the design to avoid confusion.

Note: If the stencil you are using has lots of fine lines and intricate detail, it is recommended you use the transfer tape to apply the stencil to the work. See the sections below for two methods of using tape. Also review the sections on ‘Weeding’


Decide which stencils you would like to use and where on your piece they will look best.

The Positive part of your stencil is shown in black or white on your stencil diagram sheet.


Carefully remove the stencil from the backing paper ensuring you do not stretch it or tear it, or any part of the stencil not being peeled off.

You may find it easier to use a weeding tool such as a craft knife to help peel it off.


Evenly lay the stencil down onto your work. Make sure there are no creases or wrinkles.

There is no need to put masking tape round this Positive stencil.


Press the stencil down firmly.


Positive Stencil: Spraying/Applying Colour

Load your applicator (in this case, an airbrush) with the colour you want and do a test spray onto a piece of paper to test the spray.

See the section on ‘Medium Application Ideas’ for suggestions on other ways to use your stencils


Lightly spray the space around the stencil in light coats to build up the colour. Too heavy a coat may result in a little bleed beneath the stencil.


When the colour is dry, peel off the stencil. If you wish to use it again, take care not to stretch or rip it.

Not all of our stencils can be reused. The packaging of each set indicates if they can be reused or not. Generally, the more intricate the stencil, the less chance there is of reuse.


Stick the stencil back on its backing paper or a piece of plastic. Again, take care not to stretch or tear it. Any dust caught on the sticky side will prevent it from sticking back down properly!


Now your first part is done, you can move on to repeating the above steps for any other stencils you need for your design.


What is ‘Weeding’ and The Tools Needed?

What is Weeding?

Weeding is the process of removing individual elements of a stencil design that are not joined together. For example, removing the middle of the letter ‘O’ or ‘d’.

Weeding Tools

Weeding tools can be anything small and thin enough to carefully and accurately lift small or delicate parts of a vinyl stencil off a surface.

You can use anything with a very thin edge or point such as a craft knife or dental pick. You can use tweezers if you wish to, but there is a risk of folding the stencil onto itself and sticking it together – not a good idea unless you are exceedingly careful.

‘Weeding’ Multi-Part Stencils

Generally, in our level 2 and 3 stencil packs, some of the designs are in multiple parts, ie you need to apply the one stencil in two or more separate pieces to the work to complete the design. This is where a ‘weeding’ tool comes in very helpful.


Illustration of a Multi-Part Stencil

To the top left, you will see how the symbol should look when finished. The larger green image shows how the stencil looks on the sheet.

In order for the stencil to look right when it is applied, the ‘windows’ in the top section need to ‘weeded’ out and applied to the work separately from the rest as they are not attached to the main part of the stencil.


To achieve the symbol, we need to remove the Negative part of the stencil shown here in blue so the colour is applied into the white space. However, just removing the blue part will leave behind the ‘windows’ shown in purple as they are not attached to the main part of the stencil.

The windows will need to be ‘weeded’ off the sheet and applied independently to the work in the correct position.


When the Dream symbol stencil is applied correctly to your piece and masked around the edges, and the windows have been stuck into their correct positions, you can then apply the colour into the white space.


Here’s the Kanji symbol for Happiness. You can see just above the centre, there is a white ‘window’ similar to those described above.

In order to achieve this stencil, the negative part needs to be removed first, applied, and then the ‘window’ applied after. Here’s how to do it . . .


For ease, slide the blade of a craft knife, or other weeding tool under the corner of the stencil and carefully peel it off.

Lay the stencil down evenly on your work piece.


Looking back at the stencil sheet, you will notice that after the stencil has been removed and applied to the work, the window mentioned above is still on the backing paper.


Using your weeding tool, tease the missing piece off the backing paper. Make sure it is stuck to the tool.


Lay the window down in the correct position within the stencil and press into place.


Here’s the completed stencil on the piece with the masking tape securely in place.

You are now ready to fill in the stencil with your medium of choice.

Some stencils have more than one element to it that need weeding out, such as the Mandalas. Make sure you cross refer the stencil to your reference sheet when weeding the stencil.

What is ‘Transfer Tape’

Transfer tape is a method of picking up a stencil from its backing paper and applying it to the work surface.

It is normally used for transferring complex designs with intricate details (such as fine lines) safely from backing paper to the work.


Transfer Tape Method 1

Choose the stencil you wish to use from the reference sheet.

As you can see from this one, from our Flourishes set, there are some fine lines in the stencil so it is best to use transfer tape to ensure the stencil is applied safely to our work surface.


Cut a piece of the supplied transfer tape large enough to cover the stencil you want to use.


Peel the backing paper off the transfer tape and stick it firmly over the stencil. make sure the tape doesn’t stick to other stencils.


Carefully peel the transfer tape off the stencil backing paper. The stencil will come off too, stuck to the tape.


Lay the tape and stencil down onto the work piece making sure it is evenly applied with no creases or wrinkles. Press the stencil firmly into place.

Be very careful applying to concave surfaces like the inside of bowls – the tighter the curve, the trickier it will be to successfully apply.


Peel the transfer tape off the surface. This will leave the stencil in position. Do it slowly, checking that the stencil remains on the surface. If any fine detail comes up with the tape, press it back down then continue to peel the tape off.

Once clear of the stencil, the tape can be stuck back onto its backing paper.


Use your weeding tool to prise the parts of the stencil off the work surface, then carefully remove the rest of the (in this case) stencil.


Remember: Not all of our stencils can be reused. Fine lines and intricate detail parts curl up when removed. This is perfectly normal and to be expected with paint mask vinyl.


After masking round the outside of the stencil on the work piece, it is ready for completion.


Transfer Tape Method 2

As usual, decide which stencil you would like to use. For this example, we want to use just the white (positive mask) part of this stencil.

It will be difficult to remove by itself because of the fine lines in the design. Time to use transfer tape.


For this method, we will remove the negative part of the stencil from around the part we want to use. It may be possible to reposition this piece on a piece of backing paper for use later. This will depending on how fine the lines in the design are.


Now the negative stencil has been removed, we are left with a very fine design that will be very difficult to remove and place on our work piece.


As in the previous tape method described, cut a piece of transfer tape (or reuse a piece) press it down onto the vinyl and carefully peel it off the backing paper.

Make sure none of the fine lines are left behind.


Press the tape firmly down onto the work piece and peel the transfer paper back to leave the vinyl stencil behind.


Once the tape is removed, the stencil (mask) is ready for its colour, or the application of more masks.

When the colour has been added, remove it as previously described.

Remember too, that not all our stencils can be reused.


Writing Words with Negative Stencils and Transfer Tape

Take a look at your font reference sheet and you will see that each letter (the same as the other stencils) has a positive and negative stencil. For this example, we will look at writing letters with the Negative part of each to produce solid coloured writing.

Our message will be a simple one – ‘Thank You’.


Here’s the finished message.


On a piece of backing paper, or stiff plastic, draw a pencil line if you would like your letters written formally.


Taking each letter in turn, cut it to fit the next letter in the word. This will also help with attractive letter spacing, bringing them closer together.

Keep in mind that lowercase letters that follow an uppercase letter will often sit beneath part of the first letter.


Using a craft knife, cut round part of the uppercase ‘T’ so the next letter can sit under it slightly, and bring the letters closer together.

Use a weeding tool or the blade of the knife to lift it from its backing paper.


Lay the first letter down on the pencil line. Press it down.


For the next letter, cut it round and lay it, slightly overlapping the previous letter. This will help reduce fiddly masking when the words are complete.


For letters like ‘a’, b’, ‘p’, etc you will need to weed the middle of the letter off the backing paper and place it into position.

Complete all the letters for your word as detailed above.


If you are writing two lines, overlap the second line a little to avoid fiddly masking.


Grab your transfer tape and press it firmly down over your message.


As previously described in the Trasnfer Tape section, press the tape and vinyl down onto your work surface. Press firmly and carefully peel off the transfer tape.

Be careful not to pull off any small part of the detail such as the middle of letters. If you need, weed it off the transfer tape and place it down where it should be.


Mask your message making sure there are no gaps where you don’t want them and you’re ready to apply the colour or other media.


When you’re done, peel the masking tape and vinyl off to reveal your message rendered beautifully.

It is unlikely you will be able to use the vinyl again, but if you feel you can, lay it back onto its backing paper.


Internal and External Curves

Take care when applying stencils to curved surfaces as they can cause creases and wrinkles in the stencil.

Internal curves can be problematic with large stencils creasing and wrinkling during application. It is best to use smaller designs on internal curves, particularly if the the curves are tight.

Like the internal curves, External curves can also cause wrinkling and creasing.

For the most accurate way of applying stencils to your curvy work, we advise using the provided transfer tape. See this help section for advice using it correctly.

If the curve you are applying the stencil to has straight sides, the will be no problem – the stencil will apply perfectly.


Where to Buy The Stencils

United Kingdom

The Woodturning Shop – www.thewoodturningshop.com

United States

Wood World of Texas – www.woodworldtx.com

Denmark

Traedrejerbutikken – www.traedrejerbutikken.dk/

Norway

Tredreieutstyr – www.tredreieutstyr.no/