This post has actually been one I have wanted to write for two years. The truth is that I love the look, but I will never stencil a whole wall or room again. Ever. Mistakes were made and I hope that anyone attempting this can learn from my experience.
Let’s take a step back to my mindset before I ever began this project:
I blame Pinterest.
The inspiration! The creativity! And every project is labeled as “easy”!
Have you seen all of the pictures of those beautifully stenciled walls on Pinterest? I mean there were the pros:
- I have stenciled before in small scale with projects like this wall map or my favorite Beer Safe which was completed later. Clearly, I don’t mind the concept of stencils.
- Wallpaper cost – about $400. Paint – less than $50. Now that’s enticing!
- I was limited to any color combination I could come up with in the whole world.
Doesn’t it seem like a no-brainer?!
More like brain dead zombie as I trudged along during the stenciling process. So what happened?
PAINTING AND STENCILING THIS DINING ROOM TOOK 5 WEEKS AND MAYBE A 150 (OR MORE) HOURS
Yes, you read that right. Stenciling was single-handedly one of the most exhausting and tedious projects I have ever done and, truthfully, we have had our fair share of exhausting, tedious, and took-way-longer-than-we-thought projects. This one was especially grueling, however, because of its repetitiveness.
What went wrong?
A Flaw in Design
First, for a room this size, you still only have one stencil, and you can only do one 20×24 inch area at a time. The stencil that I chose required a bit of overlap to lay straight. It was designed that way which actually seems like a good idea. However, you can’t lay a stencil down over fresh paint, so we developed a system where we alternated from one side of the room to the other to stencil. When doing this on a ladder, or in corners, it made it more difficult.
1 Mistake = 100 Fixes
Second, I am somewhat of a perfectionist. I wanted crisp clean lines.
Here’s the thing.
Let’s say that you make 1 mistake per stencil square and some paint gets underneath the stencil or you don’t fully paint into all of the edges.
Ok, now multiply just that little mistake by the 100+ times I re-positioned the stencil.
Mistakes were harder to notice since I had chosen two colors that were very similar. In fact, when wet, the darker stencil area was almost identical to the paint color underneath.
While some may not be bothered by a few paint blobs or light areas, I wanted professional looking results. The vast majority of time was spent with me going around with a tiny paintbrush and fixing all of the mistakes and edges.
I might have honestly hand painted or fixed 20% of those walls.
Corners: the single largest reason I would never do this project again. I have seen several YouTube videos with users lining up their stencils so neatly in the corners. (One of the videos was directly from the company I purchased my stencil). My stencil might as well have been like folding origami using a friend’s left hand. It was awkward, frustrating, and pretty much impossible. I ended up stenciling as far as I could on each side separately and then hand painting to connect it all.
Because of this, I was so convinced that my stencil was defective that I actually called the company to complain. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a refund or anything. I just wanted confirmation that I didn’t suck this bad as a DIY girl. They offered me a second stencil while assuring me that my stencil was absolutely up to their standards.
Yeah, no thanks, buddy.
Not Using the Right Tools
It has long been known to me that a stencil brush works far better than a roller. A roller is of course much faster though and I was assured that as long as I used a dense foam roller and only had a tiny bit of paint on it, everything would look designer perfect. NO way, Jose!
The end Result is that the wall is beautiful, but I would never do it again this way. I mean never. That isn’t to say that anyone should be scared of stenciling. I still love stencils for smaller projects. I just learned my lesson the hard way with this DIY stenciling project. I actually struggled with giving this post such a negative title. I do understand that some of my experience is user error. I made a lot of mistakes and I learned from them so I hope you can too. For me though, the nightmare is just still too real.
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Stenciling Projects I would do again:
Thanks, I needed this bit of reality slapping me upside the brain. It was in my thoughts to do a faux headboard. I
I think now wallpaper with trim around it will while not being cheap, it will be easier. I’ve wallpapered before and can handle it. Thanks. Glad you wrote this.
I’m here to rebuttal David’s comment, because, per SO many tutorials online for large wall stencils, we DID use spray adhesive, and guess what? Our results were exactly the same as yours were. Regardless of the spray adhesive, which we used over and over again for this area wall we did, we STILL ended up with bleeds that I had to go back over and “touch up”. It was absolutely not perfect- as imperfect as can be- and turned out looking more like a boho wallpaper that had faded patterns and then sharper patterns. Thankfully, most people who see it do not see the errors right off the bat. Not until I start talking about it and point it out. But yeah…. I could relate to everything you said. The corners and the ceiling were no fun at all to do. I ended up trying to freehand some of it because I found it impossible unless I were to cut the stencil up.
G polt says
Thanks for sharing! I had a terrible experience trying to tile a backsplash in an older home. Nothing was level and the house had settled! Probably the only way it’s easy is if you like the boho design and are suing multiple paints and textures. The wall is stunning but I’m too impatient to do all of that work. Again, I appreciate the information!
I have to agree. Did my laundry room. Only 1/2 of each wall. I bought 6 identical stencils so I wouldn’t have to wait for dry paint one stencil at a time. However, corners required that I cut stencils to get them to line up. I had to leave those til the end. I’m convinced you shouldn’t do a large stencil project unless you are ok with small imperfections. You can’t avoid them.
Did you spray the back of the stencil with repositionable spray adhesive? Makes all the difference in the world. No bleeding, much much faster, and no problem in the corners