Decorative painting is when you allow your mind to expand and explore in a creative pattern along your walls.
Forgoing the classic wallpaper or block color options, instead, you can add in a splash of uniqueness or a whole banquet of personality.
If you are still on the fence or need some inspiration, scroll through our article! We have everything you need for your decorative painting journey, including 10 fantastic stenciling ideas!
If you need help understanding why stenciling is beneficial, we can guide you through that thought process too.
In fact, this page should be your one-stop-shop for all things stenciling!
In This Article
Although the number one benefit of decorative painting is your ability to add a unique quirk to your home, there is more than just creative freedom on the cards.
If you want to add a unique pattern to your home, you normally have two options.
The first is to pay for an expensive but beautiful wallpaper design. Wallpaper isn’t always pricey, but unique patterns can be hard to find. When you eventually locate a unique and gorgeous wallpaper, the cost could be high.
The second option is to hire a professional to paint your wall, room, or home. This person would likely create a stunning work of art, but again this is a pricey endeavor.
Instead, you can get a unique look by using stencils and painting the walls yourself. Doing everything on your own will dramatically reduce the costs and increase the uniqueness of your home!
Adding a gentle touch around your hanging lights or a classic aesthetic to your wall’s borders will boost your individual flare within your home.
You can use one idea from our list below and then build on it to make it feel more like your own.
You might already have an idea in your mind but cannot find wallpaper to match it.
For example, maybe you want to add a classic Victorian decoration into your home to create an air of history, but nothing you can find fits with your other items in the room. Creating your own decorative stencils can help you skirt past this problem!
If you create your own stencil, then you’ll have the freedom to include this unique idea in your home!
No matter what you do, no one will have the same patterns as you, making this feature even more enjoyable.
Decorating as a whole is not a cheap endeavor. If your tastes change with the flow of fashion, then it can be even more expensive.
Decorative paint, however, can be redecorated over and over again without feeling as though you have wasted thousands of dollars.
If gold spirals feel empowering one year and overbearing the next, it will be easy and cheap to repaint!
You can also try out ideas for a week or so without having to commit to the stencil you’ve chosen.
There is no need to settle when you have a world of creativity at your fingertips.
Making your own stencils is the best way to create a truly unique pattern. To help you on your way, we will explain precisely what you will need to make the stencil and what to look for in these items.
The items you need are:
- Application Tools
- Paint & Paint Tray
- Paper Towels
- Ruler or Tape Measurer
Now, we need to explain why these are important and what to look for when you’re buying them.
Application tools are the collective description for rollers, sponges, dabbers, and brushes. These tools are used to “apply” the paint onto the wall.
They all add wonderful elements of texture to your stencil design, but depending on the outcome you want, specific tools might be preferred.
If you’re hoping for a clean finish, then you should opt for either a roller or a brush. They both create thick and smooth lines of paint, making the stencil pattern more prominent than the texture.
Rollers are easier to use and can make quick work of your stenciling job, which is ideal if you have a large surface area to work with.
Brushes allow you to have more precision, which is perfect for jobs that require different paint within the stencil itself.
Sponges and dabbers create a bubbling effect. When you push them into the stencil, it will form the outlined image, along with unique variations of texture.
If your design is simple, this can be a great way to add more definition to your pattern.
There isn’t one answer when it comes to which tool to buy. It all depends on your design.
An adhesive is needed to keep your stencil in place. We suggest either using spray adhesive or painter tape.
Unlike with the application tools, there is a right and wrong answer to this section.
If you have a small area that you want to paint, you should use painter’s tape. This will allow your stencil to hold still while you apply the paint, and it will not damage the wall or surface it is sticking to.
Other adhesives could cause a mark or tare, but painter tape will protect the surface behind.
If the stencil is large, then you should instead use spray adhesives. Spray adhesives are tricky as they are designed to work more like glue.
If you have a large area, the spray adhesive will be strong enough to hold your large stencil in place; however, it might damage the surface behind it when you try to remove the stencil.
We advise only using spray adhesives when you have no other choice or when repainting the surface behind isn’t an issue.
There are three types of paint you can use for your stencils. The first two require a paint tray, but the last one doesn’t. These are latex paints, acrylic paints, and spray paints.
Latex paints are the most common and arguably the best type of paint for stenciling. It is affordable and holds well on walls or wooden surfaces. The only problem with latex is its quick drying time.
Quick-drying might seem like a great advantage, but if you make a mistake, you won’t have time to correct it.
Acrylic paint is another common choice. It works well on fabrics and uneven surfaces like bumpy ceilings. This paint dries within around 5 minutes for a slower drying time.
Spray paint can be used on ceramics, plastic, glass, metal, stone, and wood. It is a universal product which is slightly more expensive. It also needs a clean and flat surface to hold onto. Ideally, the surface in question should be sanded and cleaned before painting.
Paper hand towels are mostly needed to clean your hands, brushes, and area.
When you paint over a stencil, you may notice that some drops of color spill out of the lines. Your paper towels can be picked up as soon as you see the area and used to wipe away the disruptive droplets.
However, paper towels can be used to offload your paint. This is an important technique to stop the color from bleeding through the stencil. We talk more about offloading later on in the article.
Your mind can tell if something isn’t sitting perfectly in the middle of any given space. If applied off-center, the artwork will make you feel uncomfortable.
To avoid this, your ruler should be the size of the object you are stenciling. This way, you will 100% get the correct measurements.
No matter if it is a wall, a desk, or your ceiling, the exact length of your area will help you create symmetrical patterns.
If you cannot get a ruler this length, you will need to note the object’s size and triple-check your measurements. You should then follow the stabilizing method to confirm your stencils will be in the right place before applying the paint.
If your design doesn’t prescribe to the idea of symmetrical patterns, then this issue won’t be a problem for you.
Stabilizers are anything that helps you keep the stencil in place. Some people use dowels to pin down their equipment, and others outline the shape using a pencil first.
Dowels are thick wooden pegs that are often used in building or crafting items. However, you can attach these dowels to your paintbrush to stop the paint from going past their designated area – thereby stabilizing the paint.
The pencil option allows you to stabilize the stencil instead of the paint. As we discussed earlier, this is a particularly good option if you don’t have a long measuring tape.
Instead, you can confirm the stencil’s location by drawing around the shapes as though you were painting them. Then you can take a step back to see if it’s in the right location.
Here are 10 easy-to-learn stencil-based decorative painting ideas. With each idea, you can either create your own design, follow a classic or blend the two concepts together!
Let your imagination go wild! The options are endless.
Forest concepts are always a classic. The outcome will be timeless no matter what specific design you want to go with. You can pair your forest design with warm and deep colors like forest greens, lake blues, or twilight blacks.
There are three main forest concepts that you can create, birch lines, dotted trees, or silhouette backdrops.
Birch lines are when you create the distinct cuts of a birch tree while using a white backdrop. Using paper the same size as your surface, draw tall lines from the top to the bottom of the sheet to represent your trees.
Then make small triangles and lines as if they were knots of the trunk. It’s important to only make these lines around the edges of where the trunk would be.
When the design looks how you want it to, cut away the lines and triangle, and don’t cut anything else. These lines will create the illusion of tree shapes, which is why we only wanted them on the edges of the trunk.
When the stencil has been created, practice painting with it on a different surface. It might take you a couple of tries to get this pattern right, but it will look elegant and stunning once you do!
Dotting trees is a simple concept. Simply draw a cartoon-like tree on your stencil sheet, and then cut away the drawing.
Practice painting with the stencil, and you should end up with a crisp and clear image of a tree.
When you are happy, make a note of where you want to place these trees on your surface. Using your ruler, you could make a diagonal pattern, drawing dots equal to distance apart.
Then you can paint the tree on these measured dots.
This simplistic design holds a child-like charm while still being elegant.
Creating silhouettes of trees will be the easiest to paint when you put them against your surface but the most detailed when it comes to making the stencil.
Depending on your surface’s current color, and if you want the effect to look as though the sun is coming from behind or in front, you should cut the stencil, saving the inverted tree shape or the actual tree shapes.
First, you will need to measure where you want the silhouette to start on your surface, then replicate it on your stencil paper (which should be the same length). Next, draw a straight line from one end of the paper to the next.
This is the base of the landscape. From here, you will need to draw your trees. They can be as detailed or cartoon-like as you want, but remember, it’s just the silhouettes that we will see.
When ready, cut the paper, save either the inverted or actual tree shape, tape it to your surface, and paint in the uncovered space.
2. Art Deco
Art Deco was popularized in the 1920s and 1930s. It is the concept of geometric shapes with sharp edges.
Art Deco can be as simple or as complicated as you can muster. We suggest utilizing straight lines and open spaces.
Using your stencil paper, draw 5 straight lines parallel to each other, leave a big gap (around 3 lines long), then draw one line in the same parallel direction.
Depending on the size of the surface you plan to decorate, only make these lines around 2 inches long. Then, where the 2 inch line stops, draw a reflection of these lines.
Eventually, you will end up with a box-like shape! A classic Art Deco design.
Celtic designs can be super complicated, as a bunch of knots tied together with rings and beasts intertwined.
However, you can create the same atmosphere and effect if you single out the classic Celtic knot and leave the more dramatic additions to one side.
You need to start off with an overlapping cross to draw the knot.
To make the knots continuous, you then make the same overlapping cross pattern but make the right top connect to the left top section and the left bottom connect to the right bottom. For a visual, click here.
To turn this pattern into a stencil, you need to cut out these overlapping knots, leaving a border around where the rope would be. This border will keep the whole stencil attached to itself while showing a clear and clean image.
4. Night Time
Adding nighttime paintwork to your child’s nightstand or bookshelf could be the perfect relaxing image for their night.
You can use reflective silver paint to show the magic of the stars or luminescent paint to create a soft slow.
Either way, the design element can be as simple or complicated as you like. You could have a crescent moon as a central feature with little stars dotted around it or planets floating through the solar system.
5. Giant Cutlery
Giant cutlery stencils are a comical and light present in any home. You can put them along your kitchen walls, on the side of your cutlery draw or anywhere that you’d eat.
Try adding Victorian details to the handles if you like the concept but aren’t a fan of the comical element. These additional (but complicated) designs make the stencils more historical, adding a charm of times gone past.
Moroccan designs often do best on tiled surfaces. The style can be as simplistic as Art Deco or as complicated as Celtic, but either way, the outcome is curved and vibrant.
If you want this design on your tiles, you should use paints created for tiles. They will have the grip needed to stay on your surface while still retaining a vibrant color.
It’s important to remember that Moroccan should either be bright in color or have a dramatic contrast.
Deep blues with fresh whites are a popular choice, as well as salmon pinks and sky blue.
We suggest playing around with colors to get an enriching Moroccan effect that still suits your home style. A more muted coloration might feel distant from the Moroccan aesthetic but could be perfect in your home!
Chevron stencils are a simple yet elegant design that withstands time. You can see elements of chevrons throughout every culture’s history, which is why adding this stencil design to your furniture, walls or items, will always be a safe idea.
If you were unaware, chevrons are simple zig-zag patterns; they typically have their pointed arrows facing up and down rather than left to right.
Classic uses of a chevron can be seen in black and white, but you can use any color with this pattern.
Ideally, the colors you choose should be pastel or muted, as the shape itself is already loud. Pair it with a bright blue and obnoxious yellow, and you’ll have a headache in seconds.
The only problem with chevrons comes from their distinctive straight lines. It can be super easy to see when two lines don’t match parallel to each other.
Before using your stencil against your chosen surface, make sure that the angles and stabilizing methods are in place to stop any slipping.
The classic harlequin pattern is more often recognized in court jesters of western histories.
Specifically, during the middle ages, you would find comedians making parodies of famous people and wearing a harlequin-style jacket while they did so.
This style was meant to depict the devil, showing the audience how rotten their politicians and rulers were at the time.
Fast forward to now, and this history is all but forgotten, as DC Comics holds the last cultural tie to the original harlequin history; and even then, she has lost the original pattern.
The pattern of the harlequin is the shape of diamonds, set out in a row. There are often changing colors with a light background.
Be warned – If you make this pattern too bright, then you may end up with the same problem as the chevron pattern, creating an instant headache for any who looks for too long.
9. Polka Dots
Polka dots are simple in theory but creating them yourself can be difficult. Creating a perfect circle is normally a machine’s job, as our hands find the motion too smooth.
That being said, you can find tons of polka dot stencils on the internet or in crafting shops, so don’t be disheartened!
Traditionally, polka dots are all the same size and are set in a linear or diagonal pattern.
However, if you want to create a fun and bubbly image, you should opt for the modern version of polka dots.
In modern styles, you’ll find circles of varying sizes while also in a rainbow of different colors.
This mixing approach creates a dynamic display of vibrance and fun, which is perfect for a child’s bedroom!
Although we have already talked about the forest, this last decorative painting idea is slightly different. When we use plants and ferns in our stencils, we hope to look at the delicate leaves and climbing vines, creating a dainty atmosphere.
In general, there are 5 different ways to use plants and ferns that aren’t just repeating a leaf over and over again. These suggestions call for a little more creativity.
A simple way to add a slightly unique and whimsical element to a room is to add a climbing vine around a doorway or window arch.
This decoration won’t overpower the room’s atmosphere, as it is only a slight addition to the space. And because the stenciling will be around a door, it won’t even be in the center of your eye line.
Just like a real-life plant should be, this decoration would be a calming addition without taking center stage.
If you want to create a more jungly or enclosed feeling, you should look into plant stencil ideas that cling to the ceiling borders of your walls. This makes them look as though they’re hanging from the ceiling.
The dropping effect makes you feel cozy as the room hugs you in. You can even go one step further and use the stencils in opposite directions to make it look like the vines are swinging.
Some could be light green, while others a darker one to create the illusion of dimension.
It will feel as though you were sitting under a weeping willow.
Perhaps you were thinking about adding stencil paintwork to some furniture. In that case, you should search for plant vines that can wrap around your wardrobe as it climbs upward.
You could either have lots of vines coming from one area to make it seem as though the room was beginning to overgrow or have one lone vine crawl wrap around an object for a gentle connection to nature.
Lastly, you could consider using a secondary item as a stencil, which the ferns or plants wrap around. For example, in your garden shed, you could have a watering can stencil with ivy poking wrapped around the handle.
With all these ideas creating a burst of inspiration, we have some extra tips to help you on your crafting journey!
1. Buying The Right Paint
We already talked about choosing between latex, acrylics, and spray paints, but the real trick comes from using non-bleeding paint. These paints aren’t too thin or thick, meaning it will stay in place as you stencil.
If you want to use a paint you have lying around the house or opt for the cheapest one you can find, see if the paint bleeds before you commit.
To test this out, roll, brush or dab the paint from the edges of the stencil to the middle. Avoid moving side to side or backward and forward. If your colors still bleeds, it won’t work on your project.
2. Allowing Time For Drying
It might be tempting to peek through the stencil, but you must be patient. Do not remove the stencil or touch the surface you have painted until the liquid is completely dry.
If you move the stencil too early, the paint will bleed through the design ruining your wonderful artwork.
3. Stabilizing The Stencils
We talked about what stabilizers were before, but now to learn why it is so important. Stabilizers will prevent any bleeding from the paint as you glue, tape, or spray your stencil to the surface.
Ideally, if you use spray adhesives, you could try to purchase dissolvable ones. These will allow the stencil to detach from the surface once you pat it down with a damp paper towel.
However, adding water to the paint job could cause bleeds on their own. This is why we always suggest painters tape over everything else.
4. Visualize Your Design Beforehand
Although it might be tempting to rush into stenciling as soon as you can, try to be patient.
We suggest drawing your design on a sketching pad before committing it to anything. This will help you figure out what looks good in practice and in reality.
It might also be helpful to draw an inverted version of your stencil and stick it to the surface you want to paint. This is another way to visualize your artwork before laying that first drop of paint.
If something does go wrong, you can always start again, painting everything white and then building up from there. But this will take so much longer than you originally intended.
To prevent you from adding days to this project, visualize beforehand.
5. Work In Layers And Offload
Offloading is a critical stenciling term. It means removing excess paint from whatever application tool you are using, so only a little bit of paint is used.
If you apply too much paint, you will bleed through a stencil, ruining your artwork.
Some people also call this method “dry brushing”.
Every time you need to dip into more paint, offload the excess into your paper towel, tag, or whatever else you can wipe with.
Once your first coat has been laid down, apply another. Slowly building up the color, instead of putting on as much paint as possible, will stop bleeding and will create a clean finish.
To summarize, there are tons of options for you to choose from before you start preparing for your stenciling creations.
If you‘re after something dynamic, go for a plant or vine effect. They climb up your walls adding action to your home, without demanding attention as soon as you walk through the doorway.
If you were hoping to make your own stencils, we suggest using Art Deco, Celtic, or Chevron styles. The Chevron would be the easiest to make.
But if you want something slightly historical or cultural, aim for the Moroccan or Harlequin design.
All of these can be turned into elegant or fun patterns. All you need to do is add more detail or change up the color scheme to turn this great style into something a little more “you.”