When we left off in our last post, we had just painted our teal studio with Benjamin Moore’s Edgecomb Gray, and our soon-to-be accent wall with Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White (tinted at 50%). Now we were ready for the first of our two fun projects: painting a stencil on our accent wall!
First off, full credit for our inspiration goes to Sarah of Cozy, Cottage, Cute. I have been a fan of the sweet nursery she did for her son for ages now, and ever since she did a stencil accent wall, I’ve wanted to do one just like it. I loved how bright and airy the room turned out, and I knew as soon as I saw our studio space that the big window we had would lend itself to something special. I just didn’t know what. And then I remembered that stenciled wall, and I thought, why not give it a try?
I’ve always read that stencil walls can be cumbersome to do. It can be tricky to get just the right amount of paint on the wall without it bleeding behind the stencil, you have to arrange the design just so before you start or the whole wall will look crooked, the corners are a royal pain in the rear…But everyone also said that the results are worth it. So I found a coupon online and decided to go for it. After all, it was a project that required relatively low financial investment, and if it turned out horribly or we didn’t like it, what had we lost? Our time and a little bit of money. But we could always paint over it. (“It’s just paint” became my motto over the course of this project.)
So we referenced Sarah’s post a million times and then browsed Royal Design Studio’s stencil collection to decide which design we wanted to use. In the end, we ended up deciding to use the same stencil that Sarah used, the Endless Circles Moroccan stencil. True love is forever, guys. And I loved how her wall came out.
After waiting impatiently for the stencil arrive, it finally did, and it was time to get to work! So here it is, the Happy Penguin Guide to Stenciling an Accent Wall. In a weekend. With very messy painting hands when you’re done. And a sore back. But a really cool wall. Really!
How to Stencil an Accent Wall
Paint your accent wall in the desired shade. Let it dry overnight.
First, gather the supplies you’ll need.
- Foam roller
- Foam brush
- Paint tray
- Paper towels
- A large piece of cardboard
- Painter’s tape
Arrange your cardboard in an area you can get to it easily. It will be helpful when you need to set the stencil down and don’t want to get paint everywhere. Take a couple paper towels and fold them in half together. You’ll use this to remove excess paint from the roller before applying it to the wall.
Tape the perimeter of your wall and edges of any windows/doorways/etc.
Prep the stencil by finding the top (mine had a little bar code at the bottom, so it was clear what was the top) and putting a few pieces of painter’s tape all around the circumference of the stencil so that you can attach it to the wall. I eventually figured out that my stencil felt most secure when I ran the tape along the entire outside edge of my stencil. Play with this and see what you feel comfortable with.
Note: Some people use spray adhesive for stenciling. I didn’t. Mainly because I was too lazy to make another trip to the store to get it. Would this process have been easier with it? I really can’t say. But it seemed to work fine for me without it, so if you can’t find it or don’t want to purchase it, I think you can still do this project, just as I did. It’s up to you.
Find the center of your wall. This was easy for me: Our window was centered on the wall, so I just followed that line up to the ceiling. Find the center of your stencil, and tape the stencil to the wall.
This was where I hit my first Hmm Moment. Do I arrange the stencil so that the middle of the stencil sits flush against the ceiling, or just put the top of the stencil against the ceiling line? I chose to put the top of the stencil against the ceiling line. It was easy for me to make sure my stencil was level for this first line—an important step because every other mark you make is based on this first line—because I could tape the edge of the stencil against the ceiling and know that it was straight.*
*Of course, your ceiling could very well not be level. Ceilings and walls are notoriously unlevel, so it wouldn’t be uncommon. But what I figured was that even if that was the case, visually my stencil would be level with the line of the ceiling, and therefore it would look straight to the eye. I’m no geometry nerd, but this was my train of thought. Thankfully our ceiling was pretty close to level, so I didn’t have to worry too much about it, but it’s something to keep in mind for your own walls.
Time to paint! Wet your foam roller with the paint, and then run the roller over your stack of paper towels a few times. I did it about three times. This is important, as it removed the excess paint that the roller picks up and will help to keep the paint from bleeding under the stencil. At first I thought this step was a waste of time and paint. But the more I worked with the stencil, the more I realized that it is important. As hard as it is to paint a paper towel your pretty paint color, don’t skip this step. Do it every time you reload the roller with fresh paint.
Gently roll the roller across the stencil, distributing the paint onto the wall. Avoid the temptation to press down on the roller and squeeze out any paint left in the foam. Instead, take the slow and steady approach. Slowly make your way across the stencil with a thin layer. Reload the roller with paint if you need to in order to cover the whole stencil with an even layer, being sure to roll the paper towels before the wall. Eventually, you’ll get an even layer of paint on the wall.
Tip: Every now and again, you can use your finger to gently lift up the edge of the stencil and peak behind it, spotting any areas where paint may have seeped behind the stencil. I rarely did this because I got to the point that I could see the paint pool around the edge of the stencil, and I knew that this particular area would have a bit of paint seeping behind. I could lift the stencil up and quickly run my finger behind it, wiping away the (hopefully) little drop of paint and dabbing it off the wall.
Tip: Inevitably, you’re going to get paint behind the stencil. Resign yourself to it now, so that at no point in this project will you feel defeated by not obtaining perfection. Repeat the motto: It’s just paint. If you do get a smudge on the wall/on the back of your stencil, just wipe it off once you’ve removed the stencil from the wall. You can go back and paint over the smudge once the wall is dry. All fixed!
Hmm Moment 2: How do I move the stencil to the next area when the paint in the first area is still wet? Do I wait for it to dry so that I can lay the edge of the stencil over it without getting wet paint onto the back of the stencil? Answer: I could tell just by looking whether the paint was wet or not. If it was, I waited a few minutes (go refill your drink or let the dog out) to let it dry, and then continued on. Sometimes, when I had applied a heavier coat of paint, I had to do it this way, but other times the paint dried really quickly and I could just move right along. Once I got to the large portion of the wall, I could move from one side to the other, painting one spot while the spot on the opposite side of the wall dried, and then bounce back and forth. This way I could be sure that the paint under the edges of the stencil was dry.
The stencil has guide marks (visible in the above photo) on it to help you position it over your design on the wall, but sometimes the pattern would play tricks on me, and I ended up making a mistake midway down the left side of my wall.
After that, I decided that I would position one part of the stencil over something I’d already painted so that I could ensure that I was lining the design up accurately (see below photo). I had to take a break here, whip out my Cloud White base paint, and paint over my mistake. That was the nice thing about this project. I could fix my mistake so easily!
Keep on moving across the wall. Take a break if you need to. Stand back and admire your progress.
Tip: Every now and again, I could tell that I had a lot of paint on the stencil because it wouldn’t lay flat against the wall as well as it had been and the edges would begin to look crusty from dried paint. This also correlated to more seeping spots behind the stencil. At this point, pause and clean your stencil. There is cleaning solution you can buy, but I somehow missed this and didn’t realize it until I was midway through the process and needed to clean my stencil. By some stroke of luck, my paint had reached the perfect level of dryness, and I was able to peel it right off the stencil without any trouble!
I laid the stencil down on my sheet of cardboard, and peeled away until the stencil was clean again. It was like peeling the backing off of a sticker. I can’t say why this worked for me or if it would work for you, so to be safe, you may want to invest in the cleaning solution. This may have been my lucky break!
Tip: I also used my cardboard to help me check if there were any paint spots on the back of the stencil. Every time I removed the stencil from the wall, I would balance the bottom edge of it on the cardboard, hold up the top with my fingers, and peer behind it. If I spotted some paint, I’d dab it away with my finger or a paper towel.
Tip: I also used the cardboard whenever I had to take a break. Sometimes you’re going to need to set that stencil down (like when the phone rings, the dog runs into the room and takes an interest in your open paint bucket, or you need a sweets break), and it was very handy to have a designated spot for that.
Tip: The painter’s tape along the edge of the stencil will eventually lose some of its stickiness. Replace it as needed.
Edges! Eventually, I promise you will reach the corners of the wall and ceiling and floor, and you will probably do what I did. Pause and think, “Now what? I’ve heard corners are hard, and I’m kinda nervous about this.” In theory, the corners work the same was as everything else on the wall. What makes them trickier is that you have to manipulate the stencil by bending it to fit.
Some corners were kind of easy, and I did them on my own, along with the seam along the bottom baseboard. But the top ceiling and slanted angles that we had made the other corners particularly challenging. Partially due to the whole bending-of-the-stencil thing and partially due to the fact that I am short, I called in reinforcements for the corners and asked Bryan to help.
I’m not going to lie, you guys. We got really frustrated with the corners. I think it was our slanted walls, but we had a really difficult time. By the time we’d moved around the whole wall once, we had gotten it the best we could and still had about 1/2-inch border where the stencil wasn’t able to bend into the corner. We were also making more mistakes, smudging our paint more, because we were struggling so much.
So we stepped back, stared at the wall for a solid five minutes, and then decided we had a solution. We used a piece of paper scrap that we had in the studio, and used it to mark off an equal space around the entire perimeter of the wall.
Then, we painted a border around the entire wall in Edgecomb Gray, so that the border would blend right in with the corners of the adjoining walls.
It worked like a charm! I was worried I wouldn’t like the border, but it blends right into the wall when you look at it. Whew!
Step 6 – The Final Step! Then You’re Done!
Even with us working together with the stencil, I still had some areas that I went back to by hand to fill in. I also went back and touched up any smudges that I’d made. I was glad that I had enough paint at the end to do this. (Photo below is prior to doing this.)
Stenciling this wall has not been a fast project. I worked on this over the course of a weekend, and it was tedious at times. That being said, we love the result. It gives the room a focal point and interest without being overpowering. As far as projects goes, you get a lot out of your time and effort without having to invest a lot financially.
Next up on our makeover of the studio: a project with reclaimed barn wood! Anyone else ever do a stenciled wall? I’d love to hear what your tips and tricks are!