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How to Paint Stencils on Walls
How to Paint Stencils on Walls

Learn how to paint onto interior or exterior walls using single or layered stencils.

Kath Ramirez avatar
Written by Kath Ramirez
Updated over a week ago

Using stencils to paint walls is an affordable and easy way to add customization to your home or business. Wallpaper can be expensive and challenging to use, and can’t be reused. Our stencils are made with durable mylar plastic, allowing you to use and reuse them as many times as you like. An entire wall can be covered with just one pattern stencil! Don’t bother fussing with wallpaper or wall decals, instead find your perfect design in Stencil Stop’s Wall and Pattern Stencils Collection.


  • Wall paint(s)

  • 4”-6” paint roller with a nap lower that ¼”

    • Or a foam roller

  • Painter’s tape (1” or wider)

  • Paint tray

  • Drop Cloth

  • Pencil

  • (Optional) hair dryer or fan

  • (Optional) small paintbrush for touchups

Paint Roller Tips

Paint rollers are the fastest and cleanest way to paint stencils onto walls. While you can use sponges, brushes and other tools, we recommend a paint roller for large areas to save time. To get the best results from a paint roller, follow these tips about choosing a paint roller.

  • Use a 4”-6” roller for the best results. A smaller roller allows for more control over the amount of paint being used and where.

  • We recommend using a roller with low “nap,” which refers to the height of the fluff on the roller. Any nap size ¼” or smaller is ideal, or a foam roller. The higher the nap on the roller, the more likely paint bleed will occur. A lower nap stores less paint in the fibers and allows for a more even coating of paint.

  • Alternatively, foam rollers work for stencils as well. Foam rollers are much more dense than microfiber (fuzzy) rollers. The resulting paint will be less textured than with a microfiber roller.

  • Use a paint tray that has ridges. This allows for excess paint to be squeezed out of the roller. We recommend using one that is meant for rollers larger than 6” so the ends of the roller can also be squeezed out easily.

How to paint stencils on walls

1. Tape around the edges of the stencil

Place the stencil on a flat surface like a large table or floor space. Using painter’s tape, place a strip of tape parallel along each outer edge of the stencil. Make sure that the tape is halfway off of the edge of the stencil, but don't cover any registration marks. Don't bend the stencil when placing the tape. This could keep the stencil from becoming flush with the wall.

2. Place the stencil on the wall

If a stencil has a geometric pattern, such as a checkerboard stencil, use a level to assure that the pattern will be level. Use a strip of painter’s tape to affix the stencil to the level and align it on the wall.

Use a level and painter's tape to affix your stencil in the correct position on a wall

Smooth down the tape on the edge of the stencil and remove the level to begin. Stand 5’-10’ away from the wall to observe the placement of the stencil.

3. Trace registration marks onto the wall

Mural stencils with multiple layers will have small marks that allow for easy placement. Using an erasable pencil, lightly trace the “+” sign in each of the four corners of the stencil. Place painter’s tape over the “+” holes in the stencil to avoid painting them. Repeatable stencils don't have registration marks but do have overlapping elements to make alignment easier.

Trace the registration marks on stencils that have multiple layers

4. Pour paint into the paint tray and roll out excess paint

Before painting, lay out a drop cloth at the base of the wall. Pour a small amount of paint into the tray, little by little, to avoid waste and paint bleed. Paint bleed is when the paint seeps outside of the stencil design and is almost always the result of too much paint being used. Thoroughly roll out excess paint onto the paint tray. Make sure that the ends of the roller have also been squeezed out as well.

Press the excess paint out of your paint roller before painting a stencil

This image shows the pooling of paint at the end of a roller. Make sure that this is rolled out onto the paint tray before starting.

5. Paint over the stencil with a paint roller

Press firmly with the roller onto the stencil for the cleanest edges. Less paint will be used than when normally painting a wall, so rolling on the paint may require a little elbow grease for best results. Don't lift up the stencil when painting, as this could potentially shift it.

Roll the roller up and down, side to side, and diagonally to avoid streaks in the paint.

Painting a wall mural stencil

6. Peel off the stencil

Once the paint has had a few minutes to sit, gently peel up one of the top corners of tape. Stand on the opposite side from where the corner of the tape is peeled. To remove, pull the stencil outward from the wall and towards yourself.

7. Allow paint to dry fully

Before starting another stencil (if you have one), it is important to let the paint dry FULLY. If a stencil is placed atop wet paint, it'll peel up the paint underneath.

Use a hairdryer or fan to help speed up the drying process. Wave a hairdryer over the entire design or set up a fan in front of it. The thinner the paint, the faster it'll dry.

If using a pattern stencil, dry the back of the stencil if there is any paint on it.

The next options are for stencils that are repeatable patterns or multiple layers.

8. Tape the edges of the second stencil

If using a single-layer pattern stencil, skip this step.

For layered mural stencils, there will be multiple layers for one stencil design. The second layer will also need to be taped like the first layer. Repeat Step 1 with the new layer.

9. Match up registration marks or repeating elements

For multi-layer mural stencils: Place the registration marks of the second stencil on the marks that were drawn onto the wall in Step 3. Smooth out the tape to affix the stencil to the wall.

Aligning registration marks to align a layered stencil

For pattern stencils: Match up the repeating elements in the design. Learn more about the process of repeating wall stencils in our article about How to Align Repeating Stencils. Smooth out the tape to affix the stencil to the wall.

10. Paint second application of the stencil

Paint over the second layer or application of the stencil in the same manner as the first. Remove the stencil by pulling it outwards from the wall and towards you.

11. Dry the paint fully

Using a hairdryer or fan, make sure that the paint fully dries to the touch.

12. Repeat!

These steps can be repeated as many times as necessary to cover a wall or complete a mural design.

After the final stencil is removed, the registration marks can be erased.

Once finished, the tape can be removed from the stencils. If you wish to use the stencils again, learn all about how to clean and store them.

13. (Optional) Touch Ups

There’s nothing to be embarrassed about–we all make mistakes! If there's paint bleed, paint drops, misplaced smudges, etc., use a small paintbrush and respective paint colors to fix any wonky edges or rogue splotches. Having some of the original wall color is handy if there are any mistakes outside of the stencil design.

Shop our Wall and Pattern Stencils Collection to find more stencils made for the home. If you'd like to make your own layered stencil murals, check out our Custom Layered Stencils. We also offer Large Custom Stencils for ambitious projects.

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