Overlays and Masks in Stenciling and How to Use Them

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Two ways to add color separation and detail to your stenciled design are by using overlays or masks. Overlays are simply second stencils laid on top of the image left by the first stencil. They can be used to separate colors, add details or eliminate bridges in the original print. Masks are basically just templates that shield a shape or area from color. For the purpose of this blog post, we are assuming use with transparent stencils.

Any time you want to keep two colors completely separate you will want to use an overlay. First you will paint the main element of the design, for example, the octopus body in our Under the Sea Stencil Kit. Then you will carefully remove that stencil and apply the second stencil or overlay, for example the octopus face, on top of the first print and paint that in. With water-based paints you don’t need to wait for the first element to completely dry before painting in your overlay. You could also add a third and fourth overlay to provide shading or details. Though those overlays are not provided with our kit, there are many ways to create your own. HINT: Because the paint layers will be thin, choose your colors wisely so they show up in each layer you add.

You can also use an overlay for outlining. Start by painting your first stencil by rolling a flat block of color over it. Then remove that stencil and apply your outline overlay. Using a roller outline with a bold color. If you use a stencil that gives just a suggestion of the outline of a shape, you can use that on its own or as an overlay to make an interesting print.

Masks are different from overlays in that they are the essential opposite of the stencil. Masks shield from color or paint while stencils expose the shape to paint or color. For a simple stencil with an outline mask, simply apply your stencil to your surface, remove the outline mask to expose the outline of your print. Then paint the outline with a roller brush. Now insert the outline mask and remove the center of your design and paint the center. This is a very basic example of a mask.

You can also create a variety of effects by layering masks and stencils in different orders. For example, in a nursery, perhaps you’d like to stencil the baby’s first initial plus a teddy bear. You would stencil the bear first, then cover it with its mask. Then place the letter stencil on top of the bear mask. Paint the letter. In this example, the teddy bear mask protects that area from the paint of the letter, so the teddy bear appears as if its in front of the letter. You can easily reverse the order to make the bear appear like it’s behind the letter.

With masks and overlays you can create a wide variety of detailed prints. If you have purchased a basic stencil and want to create color separation or add some details, you can cut your own overlays or masks as well as use many objects found in your home or nature as masks. A quick internet search can help you in your stenciling adventure. If you have any questions on using My Wonderful Walls stencils with overlays or masks, please feel free to contact us.

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  • Tara Woodbury
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