This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience. If you make a purchase through one of my links I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Using a vinyl stencil on wood for your hand painted sign can sometimes be tricky. After your first try, you’re probably asking yourself ‘How do I stop the paint from bleeding under the stencil’ Or ‘Why is my stencil pulling up paint when I take it off?’
And then there is the whole ordeal of getting the stencil on the wood straight in the first place. Don’t even talk about bubbles and wrinkles.
I know I had issues with all of these things when I started using vinyl stencils. I’m going to share my tips, tricks, and secrets for using a stencil to get perfect hand painted signs every time. After learning these, you will be a sign making pro in no time at all.
We’re going to start this tutorial from the point your stencil is made. If you want to know how to make a stencil in Cricut Design Space that easy way, check this tutorial here.
And you can get the ‘It’s so good to be home’ SVG file in my free resource library. The information is at the bottom of this post.
Let’s get to it!
Stencil on Wood -Getting it Straight Without Wrinkles and Bubbles
The first tip to getting your stencil on straight is making the stencil the same size as your project (or at least close to it). I covered this in the stencil making tutorial here.
Here is my stencil ready to go. You can see it’s not quite as wide as my wood. My project is 24″ long, but with the Cricut mats, their max is 23 1/2″. It’s still close enough I can eyeball it.
And I plan to put something else on the bottom of this sign, so I’m aligning the stencil with the top. If I didn’t have other plans for the bottom, I would have made the stencil 11″ tall, the same as my board.
Having the stencil the same size saves a lot of time and headache getting it straight.
Using Transfer Tape
After your stencil is cut and your letters are weeded out, we need to transfer it to your project. We do this with transfer tape.
TIP: Clear contact paper is cheaper and easier to work with than most vinyl transfer tapes.
So for bigger projects, I want my contact paper larger than my stencil. Only peel the backing off of the end edge of the contact paper.
Then stick that edge down to your surface and the edge of your stencil to keep them both from moving. As you slowly peel the backing off the contact paper, use your Cricut scraper to push the contact paper down the center of your stencil.
Stop every few inches to also run your scraper from the center out to the edges to help prevent bubbles. Work your way down until the contact paper is covering the stencil.
Cut off the end of the contact paper and trim up the edges around your stencil.
Transferring Your Stencil With The Hinge Method
1. Once your stencil is lined up straight, place a piece of tape straight down the center of your stencil to hold it to the wood. I usually use masking tape for this step, of course, I’m out at the moment.
It may be a bit hard to see, but I used clear tape instead. It still worked well.
Placing your stencil on the wood this way is called the hinge method. You can see in the picture I am holding the right side of the stencil up, while the tape is holding the rest of the stencil down.
2. Go ahead and pull the right side of your stencil over to the left and remove the backing until the tape stops you. Cut the backing off, being careful to not let your vinyl touch the wood yet.
3. Hold the end of your stencil pretty tightly at about a 45-degree angle off of the wood. Starting where the tape is, take your scraper and start pushing the stencil down in the center. Keep the end up with a firm hold.
The only places the sticky stencil should be touching the wood is where the scraper has pushed it down.
Work your way all the way down to the end. Pushing down first the center, then outwards to the edges.
4. Remove your tape from the center. Take the vinyl baking off the left side of your stencil and repeat the process for that side.
5. Push down firmly with your Cricut scraper over the design area of your stencil. A tennis ball works well too! You want to make sure it’s good and stuck where we will be painting.
6. Starting in one corner, pull off the transfer paper. Go slowly once you get to your design, especially around intricate parts. You may need to do some more rubbing or hold the viny down with your fingernail or a Cricut tool as the transfer paper comes off.
Make sure your letter centers, like for ‘o’ stay in place.
Tip: If the vinyl just won’t stick in some areas, try using a blow dryer with a low setting on those places.
TIP: This is easier for smaller projects, but stick your transfer paper to your clothes a couple of times to de-stick it before you place it on your vinyl, it will be easier to remove. I also prefer to use clear contact paper as my transfer tape.
Now our Stencil is down, nice and straight!
How To Stop Paint From Bleeding Under The Stencil
Nothing is more frustrating than pulling up a stencil and seeing that the paint bled. Totally aggravating!
I have some tips and tricks to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
After the transfer paper is removed, go over your design edges again, making sure they are good and stuck. Rolling a tennis ball over with firm pressure works really well.
Seal the stencil. If I am stenciling on a painted board, I prefer to use my base color to seal the stencil. That way if the stencil bleeds, it’s not noticeable, because it’s the same color as the base. And this also seals the edges, so our final color won’t bleed.
You can also use a thin layer of Mod Podge for this step if your base is multi-colored.
If your base is stained, use a thin coat of poly to seal the stencil.
Tip- When you’re applying your seal layer, brush towards the edges of the stencil. Paint like you are trying to make it bleed.
Paint the final color. After your seal layer is completely dry, you can paint your final color.
For the final color, I use a little paint and dab it on more than brushing. You’ll most likely have to do a second coat, but it’s extra assurance that you won’t get bleeds. Especially on rough boards like barn wood.
For the second coat of the final color, I use a little paint and light brush strokes to even the color out.
This really is quicker than it sounds. Especially using light coats of paint. Where I started is usually dry by the time I finish, so the next coat can be started right away.
Now that the painting is done, let’s remove the stencil.
How To Remove Vinyl Stencils Without Removing Paint
You’re in the home stretch! Don’t wreck your project now by peeling paint up when you remove the stencil.
The first part of getting this right starts before you even paint. Make sure your board is clean clean clean! Paint will not stick to dirt and sawdust very well.
And make sure your base coat is completely dry before you lay down your stencil.
That said, there are a few tricks to getting the stencil off without peeling up paint.
Note what direction your wood grain is going (the lines in the wood). In my project, the wood grain is going left to right.
And most people would start pulling the stencil up from the left or right side. That is pulling the stencil up with the wood grain. That can make the paint come up with the stencil.
We want to go against the grain as much as possible.
I start my peeling up the stencil all along the bottom.
Keep going up up up until it’s completely off. Depending on your design, some areas may have to come up with the grain, just go slowly.
Even when you are pulling up the centers of your letters, try to go against the grain.
You can see my letters are nice and crisp, even where I joined two boards together. I have to admit I was worried about this ‘M’ where the boards meet.
But these techniques work like a charm!
We’ve covered all of the tricks you need, from getting your stencil on straight, to stopping bleeds and getting that stencil back off without wrecking your hard work. Now you’re ready to make professional looking signs each and every time.
If you would like to see the completed project check out my post here for the full reveal.
And if you need help making your stencil in Cricut Design Space, see this complete tutorial here.
Swipe My SVG File
I have the ‘It’s so good to be home” SVG file available in my Free Resource Library. And you can totally use it! No cost what so ever for personal use. To get exclusive access to the library simply fill out the form below.