Stenciling is my favorite paint technique. My first lesson in painting was in stenciling. Because it was easy to learn and achieve good results, it gave me the courage to venture into more advanced techniques. Now when I was taking my first lesson I didn’t realize that my teacher was one of the best stencil artists in the world (Melanie Royals), so I learned the right way and didn’t have a lot of major mistakes. She’s an excellent teacher, so I got good quickly, but I realize now that I was really lucky to have her as, my first teacher.
14 years later, I still believe stenciling is the best introduction into painting for beginners. So you can understand my horror when I opened a magazine last week to an article on stenciling and saw this:
I actually gasped when I saw this, audibly gasped. Now I have seen bad stenciling, it happens, but I have never seen it published. I am not going to tell you what magazine this is because I don’t want to be mean. The rest of the magazine is really quite lovely and it even has an article on a really talented decorative painter, unfortunately they didn’t consult with her on this article.
I read the article which made it really clear what went wrong. They used sponge brushes. I’m sure you’ve seen sponge brushes in stores and maybe you even bought them. Maybe you even used them and as a result you decided you suck and put away the paint and stencils in that box of shame you keep in the back corner of your closet. I’m here to tell you, you don’t suck. Sponge brushes are a cruel invention, produced by sadistic manufacturers to tear down your confidence and trash your dreams of becoming an artist. Throw them away, (yes, even if they’re Martha Stewart sponge brushes. I know they look pretty, but they suck. Throw them out!).
If you want good results, I recommend using stencil brushes. Stenciling is done with a dry brush. What I mean by that is, you load the tips of the stencil brush with paint, then you swirl it around on a paper towel until it’s nearly dry, then you do the same swirling motion on the stencil, using an even but light pressure, making sure you don’t squish or force paint under the stencil. Some people also try pouncing with brushes, and while there are instances for using a pouncing technique, you are squishing paint and are risking run-unders. There are great tutorials on the Royal Design Studio website.
Sponge brushes are squishy and they hold a lot of paint. I don’t care if you pounce it on paper towels first, the only way to use them is to squish them. Squishing causes paint to run under the stencil and leaves you with the disastrous results I’ve shown you in the three previous photos. You can’t win with sponge brushes, it’s not possible.