How to Use a Stencil Brush

And a Few Tips for Obtaining Crisp Edges

A stencil brush is a specialist brush with short, firmly packed bristles. These types of brushes are available in various widths, from small, for tiny, detailed sections, to large ones for faster painting. They're used in a straight up-and-down pouncing motion, rather than a long swoop side to side or up and down.

The main advantage of a stencil brush over a normal paintbrush is that it reduces the chances of getting paint under the edge of the stencil because of the stiff bristles.

Stenciling Tips

If you're painting a border stencil using several colors, you may find it easier to have a brush for each color, rather than rinsing the brush each time that you need to move the stencil down the wall or other surface. You fill in all the colors in one area before repositioning the stencil farther down to fill in the next segment of the border.

Before you start on your surface, practice with your stencil if you've never used it before to find out where the problem areas will be and to get used to how much paint to use, especially if there are tiny spots that you want to avoid overloading, and when to lift it.

of 03

Loading Paint Onto a Stencil Brush

How to Use a Stencil Brush
Don't put too much paint on the stencil brush. Image © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to, Inc..

Don't overload the brush with paint. Dab just the end of the bristles (the hairs) into the color you require. Having only a little paint on the brush means you have more control over it. It's better to dip the brush into the paint frequently, as it's far easier to add a little more paint to a stencil you're painting than it is to remove it, without creating a mess.

Resist the temptation to push the whole length of the bristles into the paint. Not only does this make it harder to clean the paint out of the brush, but you're more likely to end up with too much paint in an area accidentally. If paint gets too far down in the bristles and dries there, you will no longer have the nice full, compact brush head, which will make for more difficult painting and could wreck the brush.

The paint you're using for stenciling shouldn't be too liquid, nor your brush too wet (which thins the paint further), because the paint is then more likely to seep under the edge of the stencil, potentially ruining the result.

of 03

Secure Your Stencil

Tape down the edges of the stencil before you start so that there's no danger of the stencil moving. Painter's tape works well. On a wall you can also try repositionable mounting spray.

Use the fingers of your free hand to keep small parts of the stencil down while you apply the paint.

Tip: Seal the edges of the stencil down to your surface with a layer of decoupage medium and let it dry completely before painting to achieve crisper edges. The decoupage medium will dry clear, so no one will be the wiser.

of 03

Applying the Paint

How to Use a Stencil Brush
Image © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to, Inc..

Apply the paint to the relevant section of the stencil in a vertical, up-and-down tapping motion. Do not brush it across. This helps prevent paint getting under the edge of the stencil.

You can also swirl the brush from the inside to the outside of the stencil areas, in an effort to prevent bleeding under the edges.

Painting with a stencil brush sideways up against the edge of a stencil increases the risk of building up a ridge of paint at the edges. If this does happen, use a piece of cloth to gently soak up the excess paint while it's still wet and before you lift the stencil (when it's just barely tacky).

Tip: Have a cloth or a supply of paper towel for wiping your hands and stencil brush on.