How to pull off free-hand stenciled wall art

Guest post by Hannah

I have been fantasizing about creating some sort of mural or crafty art on some wall of our house, and our future baby’s room seemed to be the perfect place! I was dreaming up plans for a tree stencil on the nursery wall. We didn’t know the sex of our baby so my husband and I agreed on a light aqua color to paint over our already purple wall.

After researching wall stencils, I realized I didn’t want to pay for something I could do myself. It seemed easy enough.

So, if you’re inclined to paint something on your wall, in the process of painting your walls, read on.


Step 1: Prep room or wall to paint by washing it, taping the moulding, etc.

Step 2: Draw/trace your image onto the wall. I did this freehand, using a few images I found online as my guide. A teacher friend of mine said she traced her image, put it on her projector, and then projected the image onto the wall to trace it. Brilliant.

Step 3: Tape inside the lines of your drawing. I started with the outer edges of the tree, and then filled in later. I didn’t end up staying inside my lines, but I was okay with that. I taped generously, then used the X-acto knife to create curved and angled edges where I wanted them.

Step 4: Fill in the image with tape, making sure you press down the edges of the tape well to prevent paint seepage.

Step 5: Paint the wall in the color of your choice, painting over the tape. Allow time to dry. Paint another coat if necessary.

Step 6: Peel off the tape. Your image will be in the original wall color, surrounded by a new wall color.

Note: There was some paint seepage of the edges of my tree, which bothered me at first. Then I realized that no tree has straight edges and decided that it was fine.

Comments on How to pull off free-hand stenciled wall art

  1. If you did want to have crisp edges, just paint over the stencil first with a coat of the original wall cover, then paint the whole wall with your new color. This way, the original color does any seeping – preventing the new color from doing so. I agree though, for your tree, the rough edges look great!

  2. All you need to do for crisp edges is make sure you burnish the edges of the tape before painting- if you don’t have an actual burnishing tool, you can use a plastic putty knife or even the cap of a sharpie marker. You just need to run something over the edges to make sure it’s completely stuck down– most of the time, pressing it down just with your hands doesn’t cut it. Also, don’t bother with regular painter’s tape- always go with the smooth blue tape for “delicate surfaces”– it’s more expensive, but if you get the cheap stuff…the stuff that has the wrinkly texture…your paint will have a greater chance of seeping under those wrinkles and in my experience, the adhesive is still too harsh to pull up the tape without the risk of damaging your surface.

    Another option for a stencil, if you don’t want to paint a wall a color and then paint over the whole thing again with another layer of paint, you can make a traditional stencil to stick on the wall using contact paper…or if you want to make a huge stencil without piecing together a bunch of strips of contact paper (and you have the money to blow) there’s a great product called “Tuff Mask”– it’s made for stenciling onto cars. Side note, it also has a paintable paper surface, so if your landlord won’t let you paint your walls, you can paint huge sheets of Tuff Mask and stick them up like wallpaper.

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