House to Home: Stencils and some patience make for inexpensive decorating impact

By: DEBBIE TRAVIS McClatchy Newspapers
July 16, 2013 Updated: July 16, 2013 at 3:35 pm
photo - Stenciling gives you the freedom to create your own designs and patterns in colorways that connect with your style.
Stenciling gives you the freedom to create your own designs and patterns in colorways that connect with your style. 

Dear Debbie: I am looking for a stencil of different-sized circles that flow into one another to do on a black wall. I will be using a shiny finish with the stencil to make it appear as they are raised on the wall. This is going to be my main wall, which my headboard is on, in the master bedroom. Can you please help me? Thanks. - Tammy

Dear Tammy: You have chosen a great technique to build drama and interest for your bedroom's feature wall. By using stencils to produce a design, you have the options of where you want to place the motifs, the texture and sheen for each, and the color contrasts.

With the big trend in pattern on our walls, stenciling is not only less expensive than wallpaper, it comes with a sense of pride in something hand done.

Begin by sketching a plan for the wall on a piece of paper; place the circles approximately where they will go, including some that stand alone and some that overlap. You will need three or four sizes of circles. You can find circle stencils on the Internet, but they are very easy to make yourself, and you can cut them to the sizes you want. Look for stenciler's Mylar and brushes at craft stores. Trace the shape onto the Mylar and cut it out using a sharp knife (such as an Xacto knife.) It is handy to have two or three of the same stencil on hand.

You will do the overlapping yourself using two stencils that are different sizes. On a monochromatic wall such as yours - matte black for the base coat and gloss black for the circles - this will create a subtle finish that changes as the day and night light shimmers off the gloss paint.

Use your sketch as a guide for marking the placement of the circles on the wall. Colored chalk will show on black; "B" for big circle, "M" for medium, "S" for small. Position the stencil on the wall, use stencil adhesive to hold it in place and press the stencil on firmly. Apply the paint with a dry brush or small foam roller, moving in from the perimeter to avoid leakage. Wipe your stencil clean and reposition. Stencil on the overlapping circles after the first circles have dried so that you don't smear the paint.

I used stenciled circles in muted tones of yellow and green to decorate the bathroom vignette shown here. They appear to float like bubbles moving up the wall. The bubble circles are more dense at the bottom edge and lighten up toward the top as they would in real life.

When you are painting in contrasting colors, begin with the light shades. This helps when you are overlapping circles, as the darker color will easily cover the shade beneath it.

If you are working on a black background, some colored circles would create a youthful, contemporary wall. Lime green, pale purple, midtone blue or sunny orange are all on trend, and could match up to the bed linen or a carpet.


House to Home is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Email your questions to house2home@

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