Thursday, 3 April 2008

window stencilling: a novice's how-to guide

Pretty but a little bit painful

We-ll, I've stencilled my window. And what a joyful experience it was too. First of all, let me apologise to anyone who ever read one of my articles where I flippantly mentioned the words "simple" and "stencil" in the same sentence. OK so it's not brain surgery, but it wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. Secondly, I love the effect, but it's also not quite as private as I thought it was going to be so I either have to just live with it as is, or do it again, this time over some plain but rather opaque window film. I'm thinking I can put up with it for a little while longer UNLESS i apply the window film to the outside of the window?!?! Could I be so lucky as to think that would work??? If anyone has ever done this, please let me know if it just peels away in the weather or works wonders. And thirdly, I realise the window is filthy dirty from the outside and has paint on its edges from the exterior architraves, but it's so high off the ground, I'll need hubby to clean it for me on the ladder.

How it looked before. It's certainly an improvement!!

So, in case you've got the urge to do something similar yourself or want to stencil a wall, door, floor - anything - take these tips into consideration.

1. You should probably follow the instructions... Seems rather obvious, doesn't it? Well I didn't. I just assumed a few bits of stickytape, paint and a paintbrush would do the trick. To be fair, I didn't get any instructions as I was lucky enough to discover we had the pattern at work, so I borrowed it. But still, I'm at my computer all day and the Stencil Gallery website and help was only a click away...

2. It's not a simple matter of stickytaping the stencil to a wall and painting breezily over the top. Oh no. Paint bleeds underneath so you need to make removable spray adhesive your friend. Lightly spray on the back of the stencil, wait a minute or so to dry, then apply to the window/wall, smoothing over all edges and especially around the cut-outs so they're firmly stuck to the wall and the paint won't smudge under the edge. You can get this wonder product from craft stores and hardwares. And I only had to apply the glue twice.

3. Don't let the paint dry while the stencil is still attached to the wall. Remove the stencil straightaway and let it dry alone. Otherwise, paint that dries on the edges of the cut-outs will peel away your efforts as well, leaving it looking patchy.

4. Make sure you use the appropriate paint. I figured gloss paint would work best because I have a lot of experience in removing it from glass before (we're not the tidiest painters nor have we had great experience with painter's tape) so figured it'd be the best thing for easy removability. But it doesn't bloody dry quick enough. And you need a quick-drying paint because if you're repeating the pattern, you need to re-stick the stencil over what you've just done. Gloss paint also takes a lot of elbow grease to remove if you don't follow my first tip and get lovely bleeding marks. Acrylic paint works best on the window - it dries in seemingly seconds and still scrapes away easily enough if you need to remove it.

5. You need to constantly clean the stencil. The paint dries so quickly it starts to cake on the cut-outs and if there are really narrow sections, like there are on the Mokko pattern, the sides can join together with the paint, meaning your stencil won't actually be a stencil in that part anymore. A wet rag and my fingernail were put to good use after every second stencil. It's a little time consuming and also means the adhesive on the back of the stencil is also picking up paint shavings etc as you work. So clean both sides as best you can with a damp cloth.

6. Your best friend - the spray adhesive - soon becomes your enemy when, once you're done, you realise that all the in-between clear glass has a sticky coating of glue. I tried a cotton bud with a tiny bit of turps to clean it up, but then discovered a little saliva on a finger is an even easier, prettier smelling and quicker way to do it. And do it accurately too.

7. One coat of paint might not be enough on a window, but be wary that acrylic paint acts like an eraser the second time around (sometimes), rubbing out what you've already painted or leaving lumps and lines.

Anyway, it's done and I like it! Just had to share a few tips I learnt along the way. Once you've got the hang of it, it IS simple, but it's just getting to that stage that's a bit of a pain!
So what do you think?


Anonymous said...

I love the window and have been a fan of your blog for sometime. This is something I have thought of doing to my window at the frond door. But I guess I will have to wait until the children are not around as they will try to help.

Claire said...

Looks Great.
Good Tips as well.
What is outside that window, is it close to a boundary fence, could someone potentially see through it?

Courtney said...

looks great! could you try the sticky film over the top of it? would the pattern show through?

by the way I left you the tiniest little award over at Nesting Instincts today. :-)

Belinda said...

I think the finished product looks great! Can you post another photo from a bit further back so we can see its effect? If the window is high up, maybe you won't need to do anything else.

belinda graham said...

Thank you all! Claire, we're a battleaxe property so the deck of the house in front of us looks right into this window. Luckily, though, in the four and a half years we've lived here I've seen people on the balcony a grand total of three times so it's not a major problem. I also hope to get some fast-growing trees planted in the near future...
I don't think I can put the film over the top of it - but Steve is going to get his creative juices flowing and see if he can pad out the holes a little bit more with some freehand painting. Hopefully that'll get done this weekend. Will post a (pulled-back!) pic when it's done. I only cropped it in so close cause I have baby stuff, paint, clothes and way too much mess in that area at the moment!!

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...

Oooo, I have a client who will love this! Thanks for sharing it!