1. Photocopy an image, pattern or design and increase the size until you’re happy with the scale.
  2. Place a Mylar or plastic sheet on top of the image. Then, trace the image with a Sharpie marker.
  3. Identify spaces in the stencil to cut away—called “black” spaces. The remaining parts of the stencil, which block the paint from being applied, are the “white” spaces.

STENCILING NOTE: All of the white spaces must be one piece in order for the stencil to stay intact. If you have white spaces that are an “island,” meaning that they are completely surrounded by black space, you must create a bridge. That way the stencil will remain as one piece. You can color in the bridge space on your final surface after you’re done stenciling.


  1. Establish the horizontal center of your wall. Mark with a pencil right below the ceiling. Center your stencil under this mark. Use a level to make sure it’s exactly even.
  2. Adhere stencil with painter’s tape or spray adhesive. Place additional pieces of tape on the wall under your registration holes. By painting the holes onto the tape, you’ll have removable registration marks for the stencil’s next positioning.
  3. Apply the paint by dipping your brush into your well-mixed paint, then dab the brush on a dry paper towel to remove most of the paint (you don’t need a lot of paint to cover the surface). Making sure your stencil is flat to the wall, tap— don’t brush—the paint with the flat end of the brush over the cut-out (“black”) spaces of the stencil until the pattern is evenly applied. If you are painting a second color, wait a few moments to let the first color dry (by using a “tapping” method, your coat is thin and drying time is short), then apply the second color to the appropriate “black” spaces.
  4. When painting is done, wait a few moments, then remove the stencil. Immediately adhere it next to the first transfer, using the registration marks to align it correctly. Continue this process to the wall’s end, then return to the center and repeat the process in the other direction.


Taking a traditional stencil and blowing it up to 10 times its size turns a dated look into something completely contemporary. And why not? With stencils, there are no rules at all to play by. So, create a stenciled stripe from floor to ceiling in the middle of the wall; continue a stencil motif onto the ceiling or the floor; or have your stenciled pattern begin and end randomly. To test these types of effects out, play with the scale and pattern on your computer first, or sketch it on a piece of paper. And if you aren’t quite satisfied with the result, relax—it’s just paint! Cover it up with wall paint and create a new masterpiece another day.