Straightforward Guide to Stenciling a Wall Without Bleeding

by Lindsey
8 Materials
3 Hours

This post is sponsored by Stencil Revolution. All opinions are my own. What happened to the days of just wallpaper and paint? Those used to be our only options as far as giving a wall a makeover. Thank goodness today we have so many more options! One of those options is giving a wall a makeover with a stencil! Let me show you how I'm going to give our bathroom wall a fun makeover with a buffalo check stencil from Stencil Revolution.I thought long and hard as far as where I could stencil a wall in our home. Ultimately, I decided on creating a stencil wall in our master bathroom. Let me show you.


You are probably wondering why I'm doing just one wall in our master bathroom.Since our master bathroom is small, I didn't want to add too much visual interest to the main walls, so I chose to do the first wall you see when you come into the room. I thought this would still add a little dimension without being overwhelming.How to stencil a wall without bleeding

  1. Prep the surface and wipe the wall down with a damp cloth to remove dust. If needed, sand areas down that are loose or cracked first. You want the wall to be smooth and clean.
  2. Grab the ruler and level and draw a straight line at the ceiling. Most ceilings aren't straight so make sure you don't skip this step.
  3. Line the stencil up with the straight ceiling line. SEE NOTE BELOW. Most of the time you will not want to start at the ceiling (due to the stencil excess), but maybe one pattern level down.
  4. Use painters tape to tape as much of the edges of the stencil as you can. The flatter the stencil sits against your wall the better.
  5. Dip your brush into the paint and then offload your paint onto a paper towel. This is similar to a dry brush method.
  6. Stabilize the stencil with your hand or a tool like a ruler.
  7. DAB (keyword is dab) the paint brush onto the stencil on the wall. DAB DAB DAB (no I'm not talking about that new crazy dance everyone is doing, LOL). Don't use painting motions as it can cause bleed through.
  8. After you've finished dabbing (is that a word?) the entire stencil, LET IT DRY. Be patient folks, you'll thank me later.
  9. Once the paint is dry, slowly remove the stencil.
  10. Move the stencil down and line the top row of the stencil up with the bottom row of the painted pattern.
  11. Repeat steps 4-9
  12. Touch up paint as needed.

Where is the best place on the wall to start stenciling?

Note: I chose to start stenciling at the top of the wall. Lots of tutorials suggest starting in the middle of the wall and working your way out. When you walk in the bathroom the first thing you see is the top half of this wall, so I chose to make sure it looked good! I don't think there is a right or wrong answer as to where to start. Every wall and every space might require a little different stenciling starting spot.Let me share some in progress pictures.You can see below where I used a level to make sure the ceiling was straight. Shockingly my ceiling was straight so I didn't have to draw a straight starting line. 

The next step in this process will depend on your stencil. This particular extra large wall stencil from stencil revolution had a few inches of excess on the top. I measured one block down from the top of the ceiling.The purpose of this is so I could go back later and add one last row on the top. I didn't want to cut the excess off of the stencil just so it would lay flat, not yet at least. 

This is the straight line I'll use to line my stencil up with. It includes space for one more row. D

Once I placed the stencil on the wall, I taped all the corners that I could.Wall Stencil FailI almost didn't share this part; but I want to be real with y'all. The first attempt to stencil this wall was a huge bust. Let me show you what I did wrong so you won't make the same mistake. 

I started with a fine finish roller (don't use a roller!). Even though I didn't plan to "roll" the pattern but lightly tap or dab the roller to the wall, it still created major bleed through.

After I dipped the roller in paint I made sure to "offload" most of the paint onto a paper towel.

I tried my hardest to be gentle and lightly tap or dab the paint onto the stencil.After I painted the entire stencil, waited a few minutes for most of it to dry, I removed the stencil and this is what I found...

Look at all that bleed through! Ugh, my heart sank. Total DIY fail.After mulling over this for a minute I decided the roller wasn't going to work and I would have to start over.Time to repaint the wall and start with a blank slate.Since I've shared the wrong way to stencil a wall that causes bleeding, let me share the right way now!The key element to stenciling a wall without bleed through is using a round brush! You can also use a regular old paintbrush, but I feel like a round one works better. Once the stencil is back up on the wall and secured with tape, grab that round brush. 

I dipped the brush lightly in paint.

I offloaded the brush to remove the majority of the paint.

I used one hand to dab the paint onto the stencil while the other hand secured the stencil to the wall with a ruler.I moved the ruler as close as I could to the square that I was painting (or dabbing) to keep the stencil flat on the wall. THIS IS KEY!Once the paint was dry, I removed the stencil and held my breath...

This technique finally worked! Finally I had a stenciled wall with minimal bleed through. Now to keep going!The next stenciling obstacle I had to face was the light switch.I measured enough room for two rows down and moved my stencil accordingly. I knew I would have to cut the stencil smaller to effectively be able to lay it flat. Just like with the ceiling area, I was going to wait until last to do that.

*I know having tape on the outlet is a no no. I left it on there just long enough to get the first r

Progress!Once I stenciled the majority of the left side of the wall, I moved the stencil to the top right.I lined the stencil up with the pattern on the left and determined that I would need to cut one row from the right side of the stencil. 

Looking good so far!Now for the tricky part...cutting the stencil to work around those smaller areas like the ceiling and light switches.I don't have a how to list of how to do this. Just make sure you leave enough excess stencil to line it up with the pattern above or beside it.

Here's where I messed up again (did I really mess up again? yep, only me :)).When lining your stencil up, pay attention to the pattern! 

Can you see it? Somehow I painted a few extra blocks (and missed a few too). Nothing a little paint can't fix.I'm nearing the finish line!The last important part to stenciling a wall is making sure you touch up those areas that don't look great. It happens- I had a few. 

Y'all ready to see the reveal? Eeek, I'm so pleased with how it turned out.

The wall goes so well with my DIY prism bracket shelves, don't you think?

Have I inspired you to stencil a wall in your home? I hope so.Stencil Revolution makes great easy wall stencils for painting. Once I nailed down the right technique (and didn't screw up the pattern, LOL), stenciling this wall was a breeze.Thanks for following guys!Lindsey**

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  • Nathalie Blais Nathalie Blais on Mar 25, 2020

    Love it. But did you leave the space open to the light switch because I see a space! I would have love to see the wall entirely. I want to do that too. Got my stencil already. Thanks for messing up so now we know the right way. I was gonna do it with a roller too. Not anymore.

  • Mary d Mary d on Apr 19, 2020

    what is the name of your stencil? I have a perfect place for it in my home.

  • Margaret Cooper Margaret Cooper on Nov 09, 2022

    Can you provide the paint color and brand you used? What paint color are your walls and if you would kindly tell us what is your shower tile is called? Beautiful bathroom!

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  • Pat jackson Pat jackson on Mar 24, 2021

    Good job

    as a past stenciled I appreciate the tip of using the ruler to hold down the stencil. I never used that big a stencil though. Great work. That was a tough stencil to try. Lots of dimension to it

  • Jenny Jenny on Mar 25, 2021

    Well done for persevering. Worth it in the end. I really like this.