barb blairbefore & after basicsbefore and after

before and after basics: stencil tricks

by Barb

hello friends! it’s that time again! today on before and after basics we are going to chat about stencils, and the fantastic possibilities they create in the area of furniture. for this particular project today i chose large letter stencils {found at my local craft store} and created the word “eat” on an old pub table. i would like to add that there are many different ways to do this process, and so many different designs to choose from. the process i demonstrate here is what has worked for me, and therefore i am passing it along to you! also, if you are looking for a great source for stencils and many more tips and tricks …visit stencil1. ok, now that  we have that down let’s create!  barb

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

what you’ll need:

*wood table or other wooden furniture

*drop cloth

*sanding sponge

*dust mask

*latex paint{ i used a satin finish}


*blue painters tape

*brushes and/or foam roller

*clear poly

How to:

1. complete all the prep work for your piece. if you are painting an unfinished table {like the one here} sand down until nice and smooth, and if you are using a painted piece make sure that your base coat is nice and fresh and ready to take the stencil. your piece should be smooth, clean and dust free.

2. plan out and mark your design. i chose to put my word off center in the right hand corner of the table… i love things off center! once you are sure of your placement , use blue painters tape to securely hold the stencils in place.

3. apply your paint. here is where you have the liberty to choose your tools. i chose to use a brush because i love the look it gives, but you can also use a foam roller and/or foam stencil brushes as well. they will all work, it is simply a preference thing. i think the most important thing to remember here is to use very little paint to ensure that it will not bleed under the edge of your stencil.

4. once you have filled in all of the cutout areas, gently lift your stencil to view your design. if there are any “issues”, reposition your stencil in the exact same place and add more paint where needed.

5. once you are done painting and filling in your stencil, gently remove the stencil and let paint dry completely.

6. this is an optional step, but one that i did on this particular piece. take your sanding sponge and very lightly sand over the stenciled design to smooth it out, and work it into the wood a bit. wipe area clean with a dry cloth.

7. apply 2-3 coats of water based poly using either a foam roller {my personal choice} or a brush. if you do decide to use a foam roller, make sure that you roll very lightly to ensure the smoothest finish. no air bubbles!

all done! that wasn’t so bad was it!? see ya next week!

* top image was shot by my friend, and local photographer j. aaron greene

Suggested For You


  • Oh my goodness – LOVE! Do you happen to know where the cute fabric for the seat cushions is from?


  • Great tips for stenciling. I’m not a huge fan of word art though. It’s as if we think people would be confused what to do in a room unless it’s written in big letters.

    • blaire

      with a stencil you can use any font you like. my favorites are available at http://www.veer.com. great options, good prices, and you can buy and then create your own stencil for something like this.


  • oh my goodness, I’ve had a packet of stencil letters that I found about a year ago.

    I am now itching to go find furniture to do make-over with this idea!

  • Wonderful simple idea! What would you recommend if we prefer to “bleach” the wood, instead of painting a flat color? Thanks a lot!

  • This is ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS! How simple yet what impact!!! I want to stencil my dining room table – oh my mind is going wild – you could have a lot of fun stenciling all sorts of words.

  • These posts have been great, and have often helped me with projects I have been just getting started on. The timing has been fantastic for me! And this post is no exception. I have a wooden tray I want to add a stencil to in the bottom – my question though is, if I want the wood stained, where does that fall in the process? Your instructions indicate putting the stencil on an unfinished piece. My plan was to stain, add the stencil, then finish with poly. What is your recommendation?

    Thanks for all your help with these posts!

  • Hello friends! I am out of town and having Internet issues;( so I will try this from my phone !

    Alexis and Amber, I purchased this fabric several months back from Hancock Fabrics, it is a burlap/linen blend. I am not sure who makes the fabric though.

    Mo, you know, I’m not sure about bleaching it out. I have never tried that before, but maybe I could try to find out for ya;)

    Heather, you can totally do your plan! When I said unfinished for this piece, I should have said un painted.

    Laz, yes , I meant polyurethane. All the way;)

    Thank you all so much for your sweetness! xo

  • This is a great idea! I’m trying it on two salvaged birch bar stools that I’ve painted black today!

    Tip about stencils: I used a 500 font in Microsoft Word with the Stencil font, printed them out and used an exactoknife to make the stencil out of a thin plastic mat I had at home. Another option if you’re too impatient to order a stencil or to go buy one!

  • If my piece has already been painted do can I still sand down? Do I still use poly? If I do use poly will it look weird if I just poly the top of my table and not the rest?Thanks!

    • alex, if your piece is just painted with no finish on top of the paint, you do not need to sand it down before applying your stencil. i would highly recommend using a poly on the top, and it will not look weird to just have the top done. I promise! if your piece is going to get lots of use you may even want to use a couple coats of oil based, satin finish poly for extra protection.

  • Loving that stencil! Im still not sure about the wallpaper! I have had some bad experiences :/ but it looks oh so cute!

  • That gives me an idea. I have an old wooden table, I was thinking of giving it away but looking at this piece…I may have to try it, hopefully it’ll come up beautifully.

  • Love your table- cool idea!
    Do you have any tips on stenciling on a round surface?
    I’m stenciling on a large 15″ round bowl.

    • jan, thank you! I have done stenciling on a round table before, and placement can be tricky:) I still went with an off center design and worked with the curves. You can always cut your stencils so that they work better for the curved surface as well. good luck!

  • I just discovered this site while searching for ‘How To’ ideas. I’m imbued by ALL OF IT !!!

    Please consider sharing more of your creativity with us.