How to Prevent Stencil Bleeding: Sign Making Hack

30 Minutes

Do you have trouble with your stencils bleeding when you are making wood signs? You try your darnest to do multiple light coats of paint brushing away from the stencil edges, but there is still paint bleeding underneath your stencils, right?! It’s even worse when you are a using a rough, reclaimed wood – like pallet boards. Sign making was turning into frustration rather than a fun hobby…but then I heard about this game changin’ sign making hack. This hack on how to prevent stencil bleeding when you are making wood signs will seriously change the way you DIY signs.

So…just so you can get the full effect of how amazing this sign making hack really is, here’s a look at how normal sign making goes. You cut the stencil out with your Cameo. I always use the adhesive shelf liner (aka contact paper) from the Dollar Tree. Then you put it on the wood….you push real hard to make sure it’s adhered and you go to town painting. You can try light coats. You can try brushing away from the stencil edge. But I bet that you’ll still have bleeding under your stencils. Will you just look at how bad this one was!?

This was on a piece unsanded scrap pallet wood. I used the exact same type of wood for the 2nd sign when I use the sign making hack. It’s just hideous. Keep in mind this is a tiny piece of wood and very small letters. Something’s gotta change though… this just ain’t working. I had to figure out how to prevent stencil bleeding. A few months ago during one of my Hometalk Live Videos, I was making a reclaimed wood sign. I was sharing my typical sign making tips to prevent bleeding…like using a foam brush and doing light coats of paint..always brushing away from the edge of the stencil, rather than towards it….and if all else fails, give it a light sanding after you’re done and call it “rustic”.

That’s when one of the Hometalk viewers mentioned how she uses Mod Podge to seal her stencils before painting. I saw the comment later that night when I was scrolling through the thousands of comments and answering questions. I was intrigued. How have I never heard of this? So I followed up with her to make sure I understood it right…and then I gave it a try.

It was when I was making these reclaimed wood bottle openers that I first tried this method. I was shocked. Like literally…jaw to the floor flabbergasted. Since I know you ain’t got time to scroll through all of the many comments in my Hometalk videos…I decided to dedicate an entire post just to this sign making hack. This is just too good not to share. Everyone needs to know how to prevent stencil bleeding. Because if you know how to prevent bleeding on your wood sign stencils, you’ll probably DIY more wood signs. And we all know the world needs more wood signs.
Step 1. Cut stencil.
Using a Silhouette Cameo cutter (or another type of paper cutter), cut out your stencil. I always use adhesive shelf liner from the Dollar Tree for the stencil. It works great and it’s so cheap!
Step 2. Peel & attach stencil.
After it is cut, peel off your stencil and press onto the wood. Press hard to make sure it sticks.
Step 3. Seal stencil. *** THIS IS THE MAGIC STEP ***
Now…this, my friends, is where the magic happens. Take your Mod Podge and just rub is over the stencil in a light coat. I just use my finger for this, but you can use a foam brush if you’d like.
This seals the edges of the stencil so that the paint won’t bleed under it.
You only need to do one coat of the Mod Podge. Wait for it to dry completely before moving on to the next step (15 minutes or so).
Step 4. Paint over stencil.
Next you just paint over the sealed stencil. I typically use acrylic craft paint and do 2-3 of lights coats of paint.
Step 5. Peel off stencil and be amazed at the crisp lines.
After your paint is dry to the touch, you can remove the stencil by peeling at one of the edges.

Will you just look at those crisp lines?! Are you as shocked as I am?
See…I told ya so! Making professional looking wood signs doesn’t have to be frustrating! You can get crisp stencil lines using this easy sign making hack with Mod Podge. All you have to do is put a thin layer of Mod Podge over your stencil before you paint! This hack on how to prevent stencil bleeding when you are making wood signs is going to change the way you make signs, am I right?

Hop on over to my blog, Making Manzanita, to see tons of inspiration for signs that you can make and apply this new amazing method!
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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 11 questions
  • Jessica Cossin
    on Jan 22, 2018

    Would this work on glass too?
    • Chelsea @ Making Manzanita
      on Jan 22, 2018

      I doubt it would work on glass Jessica, but I haven't tried it. I did, however, try it on metal and it did not work. I think it probably has something to do with not being absorbed, like it is into the wood.
  • Vivtaylor06
    on Jan 29, 2018

    What is mod podge?
    • Dor27637302
      on Oct 18, 2018

      its an overpriced, overhyped product that can be made cheaply at home. 1 cup of PVA glue to one third cup tap water. Pour into jar, shake well before use. That's it!!

  • Vivtaylor06
    on Apr 17, 2018

    What is mod podge? I dont think that we have it in the uk!

    • Dor27637302
      on Oct 18, 2018

      Its an overpriced product which can be made cheaply at home. I cup of PVA glue and one third of a cup of tap water. Put it in a jar and shake thoroughly before use. That's it!!

Join the conversation

3 of 19 comments
  • CrazyClock
    on Apr 22, 2019

    I like the look of that smaller thinner font. It looks great!

    Traditionally, the tip (not 'hack') is to pounce the paint in an up-and-down motion rather than use the sweeping motion. Up and down puts the paint exactly where it belongs: inside the stencil. When brushed on sideways (like painting anything else) the paint will be pushed below the edges of the stencil.

    No need for an extra step, time and expense of using Mod Podge or any other product.

  • Wynonia
    on Jan 23, 2020

    I am not sure I understand. Are you covering the whole opening in the stencil and laping over the contact paper?

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