What Features Should I Look For In A Stencil Paint?

A few of the things that need to be considered when selecting the right paint for a stenciling project.

Stenciling is a fun, easy way to decorate a lot of different items - furniture, walls, clothing, and curtains, to name just a few. To have a successful stenciling project, you need to start out with the right supplies. The primary supply, of course, is the paint. Choosing the proper paint is key to a beautiful, satisfying project.

First, you need to consider what type of surface you're decorating. The types of surfaces typically stenciled can be divided between fabrics of various types, and hard surfaces. Paper may be included with fabric since it is also a flexible medium, while cardboard may be considered a hard surface. Craft stores, artists' supply stores, and general hardware stores sell a wide variety of paints. Some of the major types are oil-based, acrylic, and latex, but within those categories there are a lot of different types of paint - artists' acrylics, indoor paints, outdoor paints, and textile paints, to name just a few. These can be appropriate for different surfaces and different projects. If your project involves fabric, the best paints for your project will probably be the ones found at craft stores or artists' supply stores.

Here are a few key considerations for a stenciling project involving fabric.

-Will the item be washed, dry cleaned, or both?

If you're stenciling a piece of clothing, the garment will need to be cleaned. You'll want to look for a paint that specifically indicates that washing or dry cleaning is all right. Even then, it's a good idea to paint a small scrap, or an inconspicuous area, and clean it to test the paint's resilience.

-Will the heat required to set some paints damage the item?

Some paints require heat-setting to keep from fading with repeated washing. For many fabrics, this is no problem at all, but if the fabric you're using burns easily, you'll want to be cautious about these paints. Again, if you want to use one of these, test it on a scrap of fabric or an area that can't be seen to ensure that it can be set without damaging the fabric.

-Does the painted area need to be soft, or is it all right if it's stiff after painting?

If you're stenciling a shirt or some other piece of clothing, you probably want the fabric to be able to bend, fold, and drape after painting. Curtains should also be soft and flowing. In this case, you'll want to choose a paint that doesn't form a stiff area when it dries. On the other hand, if you're stenciling a furniture cushion or a rug, this may not be so important, and paint that dries stiff may be all right.

If your project involves a harder surface, such as a wall, floor, or piece of furniture, then your concerns will be a little different. You won't need to worry about the paint being soft versus stiff, but you will have other things to consider. Textile paints probably aren't a good choice, but you'll find a wide variety of appropriate paints at craft stores, artists' supply stores, and down at your local hardware store. You'll find good-quality, appropriate paints that are based on oil, latex, or acrylic, but that doesn't mean that just any can or tube of paint will do. Here are a few things to think about when selecting a paint to stencil onto a hard surface.

-What type of paint or finish, if any, has been used on the surface?

If the surface you're stenciling has an oil-based finish, then you'll want to choose an oil-based paint. Similarly, if the surface has a finish based on water, then a latex paint or an acrylic would be most appropriate.

-Does the surface need to be cleaned?

If you're stenciling a wall or a piece of furniture, it probably won't be washed often, but there may be times when it needs to be cleaned. You'll want to think about how you're going to be cleaning it, and what types of chemicals or cleaning agents are likely to contact the paint. If there's any doubt about whether the paint can hold up, you'll want to paint a test area and try cleaning it to see what happens.

-Do you want a quick-drying paint?

While a quick-drying paint is useful in any circumstances - after all, who wants to sit and watch paint dry? - it's particularly nice when the item being painted is in a high-traffic area of the house, where it's vulnerable to being touched too soon.

-What type of surface do you want?

The finished look of a painted surface can range from flat to gloss, with many stops in between, such as semi-gloss paint. Each one has a different look to it, even when the color is identical. While there are some practical considerations, such as ease of cleaning and how well they show fingerprints and smudges, this is also an aesthetic issue. You need to decide what type of finish produces the effect you're looking for.

-Is the surface a vertical one?

Vertical surfaces present a little bit of an extra challenge, since gravity encourages the paint to run. Not only can this produce drips, but it can let the paint creep behind the stencil and ruin the design. If you're stenciling a vertical surface, such as a wall, you'll want to make sure the paint is stiff enough that it won't run easily.

Give a little advance thought to what you want in your paint, read the packages at the store, and test your selection before use, and you'll soon be decorating everything in sight!

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