Stencil or not to stencil?

Let’s have a look at a few points, tips and tricks

Do you love stenciling as much as I do?

I love using stencils for their versatility, be it so called normal stenciling or raised stenciling. I think that sometimes they just make THAT difference on a piece. I own a ton and when I say a ton I mean a ton. I bought myself 2 big art folders with presentation clear sleeves in different sizes.

They aren’t cheap but oh how practical. Each section/sleeve has a name such as “BOHO”; “BACKGROUNDS”; “SWIRLS”; “MANDALA” etc. Flip through them to find THE one or more of course you want for your piece. So time saving I can tell you LOL

Don’t worry, stenciling is not that complicated and you really can get superb results on your pieces. The challenge people (and tbh I put myself with them) encounter mostly when applying paint through a stencil

  • The paint is seeping behind the stencil – it’s also called bleed through and this can cause a blotchy print or the edges are not clean or crisp. Very frustrating and discouraging.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for the so called normal stenciling

  • Use good quality stencil with higher Mylar, This is especially important for the raised stenciling.
  • I generally use a paint brush with firm bristles not necessarily a stencil brush but they work absolutely fine too. 
  • There must be no gaps between your stencil and the surface! Use masking tape AND hold it down. Another great way is to spray repositionable contact adhesive especially if used on walls for example. I have these huge stencils and honestly they are difficult to hold in place just with some tape.
  • Do NOT put too much paint on your brush. It’s better to have a brush “under loaded” than the contrary. Pour a little paint on a dish, dab your brush in the paint, then dab it next to the paint pour to even it out. Next dab off the paint on a piece of kitchen towel. You’re ready to go now: Make a stippling movement on your stencil working from the edges inwards towards the stencil holes. Do this all over the stencil design and load/offload paint while you complete the design.
  • Don’t forget to clean your stencil with warm soapy water and take off the paint. If you used the adhesive spray then some mineral spirit before washing will do the trick
The one on the right is normal one colored stenciling and the blue piece stenciling was achieved by using different colors

Use as subtle background

I also like using the stenciling as a faint background design. When I place my stencil I will not go over every single area, be very light with my paint or with my gilding wax that I like to use to create the design. 


Raised stenciling is my absolute favorite 

For the raised stenciling you may use different mediums such as joint compound or paint with a texture additive medium. I like using both, depending what I have on hand at the moment. Paint, waxes, powders…. catch in the nooks and crannies achieved with the stencil. Love it!

The challenge is the same as above – seep through the design. 

  • Advice: Tape the stencil to the surface to prevent shifting. 
  • Smooth a layer of texture over your stencil, using a spreader. This can be an old credit card or a silicon spatula or a plastic spreader. I like the Dixie Belle mud spatula or a silicon spatula best.
  • Tip: if you like it structured and not smooth then once you applied the medium with your tool, dab lightly over the medium to create some kind of roughness.
  • Apply firm but even pressure. If you have a splodge once you take the stencil off, scrape it away while the medium is still damp, using a tool with a flat edge or an ear cotton bud. 

Several layers of medium create a heavy raised stencil. You can also add some very fine sand medium for example to achieve this look. Here I used a thick but workable mixture of paint and Sea spray (a Dixie Belle texture additive) let it dry and then layed my stencil over the existing dry design and added another mixture. This time adding a bit of sand medium.

Tip: if you just blow dry a minute so the top has a kind of a “skin”, it’s easier to take the stencil off for the first time.


Here’s another example of a high raised stencil I have done a while back. I think I did about 3 or 4 layers with joint compound. Make sure you let each layer dry and clean your stencil immediately after use, let dry before using it again. Give the design a quick light sanding to take off the peaks that might have been created and smooth it. Don’t overdo it because you’ll thinnen the stencil design. The funny thing is whenever someone comes and sees this particular piece they touch the stencil. It’s so detailed and visible, people usually think it’s a mould.

You can then paint everything and play with waxes to make the stencil pop.


ADVICE: For every raised stencil design

Let dry completely. Sand back any highpoints/ peaks and smooth out with a 220 grid sanding paper. You can now paint your piece and let it dry. Apply darker waxes or gilding waxes or paint to enhance the raised stencil.

Difference of gilding waxes on a raised stencil.

Sometimes no colored wax or creative powder is needed to enhance the finish if you play with paint color layers on top of the stencil like below


Examples of some of my stenciling


Whether or not you would prefer to use raised or normal or 3D stenciling on your piece is a personal choice. Just remember to have fun end enjoy.

So, to reply to the question in the title “stencil or not to stencil?” Don’t be afraid, just have fun and enjoy.

Happy creating and stenciling

Heike

How to create an “Industrial faux old leather armchair”


This piece has been sitting and waiting for me to find some time to transform it. I had known from the beginning that I wanted the  “old leather industrial look”. I could envision an armchair that had been used for many many years in a gentleman’s club where they smoke their cigars whilst meeting and chatting. Our interior is on the industrial side so what better finish. I was inspired by a similar finish that my friend Jonathon Marc Mendes did. He’s an amazing artist.

The chair wasn’t fabric as you can see. Just plain ugly artificial leather look but to be honest in quite good condition. Easy painting for this one. You have to know that it’s really easy to paint a fabric chair with chalk paint. Just use cotton or any flat finish. And best avoid heavy or velvet fabric. 

So, let’s do this.


I used following Dixie Belle products

  • White lightning for cleaning
  • Colonel mustard
  • Terracotta
  • Florida Orange
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee Bean
  • Rustic Red
  • Clear wax
  • A mix of brown and black wax – I wanted a very dark brown for the look

First thing to do is to thoroughly clean the piece. White lightning is my go to product. Protect the areas you don’t want painted. I also covered the studs because I didn’t feel like cleaning them from paint afterwards. Always looking for the easy way.

Normally you would mist your fabric thoroughly and let it soak into it, but I didn’t need to here because of the existing finish. Just a bit and to help the paint glide better. Mix your colors together to achieve kind of a soft muted orange/cognac base with brown undertones. I used Terracotta, Colonel Mustard, Chocolate and Florida Orange. 

Water down the mix so it gets a little runny (I’m always eyeballing but I would say 60% paint and 40% water for this piece). This also helps creating thin layers. I then did a first base and let it dry. 

I started building up my layers and used a sanding pad between each coat to remove and smooth any bumps and brush strokes on the piece. (I used 400 grid paper) I repeated this process 3 times. You might need more layers depending on the design of the fabric you have. Here is what it looks like at this stage.

Very important: do thin layers and keep building them up one by one! 



I mixed some rustic red with a bit of dark brown (here it’s Coffee bean) to tone it down. Then I started applying this color in corners with a blending technique towards the middle using my base color and the rustic red mix. Mist a little if you feel the paint is dragging or not blending well. Here’s what it looks like.

I knew I wanted some stenciling to go with the style I envisioned. Here are the ones I used on the chair. I decided to use some dark grey paint to apply them. I think that black would have been too stark on the piece.


It’s waxing time after your piece is thoroughly dry. I just love using wax. See the before and after once waxes have been applied. This is when that old leather look comes to life. Isn’t it just a fantastic difference?

I applied clear wax all over first. You don’t have to and can go directly with the dark wax but if I go too heavy with the dark wax and want to remove it’s so much easier. Clear wax acts like an eraser.

I took off excess and then used a first all over coat with dark wax then took off excess again. After that to enhance and create darker edges and parts on the piece I applied the dark wax heavily in certain areas. I didn’t wipe this layer off.  It really is about creating character and the authentic look.  I let the waxed piece “harden” for several days and then buffed everything.  Check it out here


Here is the finished and staged piece. I love it and it will go perfectly with our interior.


I hope you’re inspired to create something similar. Have fun!

And if you have any questions then do get in touch.

Heike

Colors

I have always loved color. On my hair (yep, it has changed several times throughout the many years), my clothes, in our house and today in my furniture painting. 

I remember when we built our house I wanted colorful walls but the painters looked at me with big eyes and said: “we only paint white – color doesn’t look good on walls”… Come again? I don’t know what kind of painter this was but I wasn’t going to let my idea of colorful walls go. I painted them myself – that was 25 years ago. At that time my color choices (each room a different color) might not have been the best. I think that “less would have been more “.

Colors have changed in the house throughout the years. Today I mostly went back to more neutral walls but having a few splashes of color either with my furniture, for my decor or on part of the walls.

My love for color is definitely reflected in my painted furniture that I do. And although it’s more of an intuitive painting for me, I sometimes have a look at the color wheel and see what might work better or best with a color I chose. Which is the complementary color of green or blue or red? It helps. It’s definitely worth to get one if you want to use color in your life. That being said, I do what feels right and feels good and create my own shades of said complementary color. 

One thing I’m sure of is that color really can effect us emotionally. Put a few splashes of a color you like and fits the scheme into your interior. This can be a statement piece of furniture or a few colorful decor items. It brightens up a room and makes you feel good without maybe consciously knowing it.

To what colors are you drawn to in your interior or in your creative painting? Which ones make you feel good?

Some of my colorful pieces I created

Whilst writing these lines and looking through the pieces I’ve done over the last year, I notice I’m regularly drawn to all kinds of shades of blues, turquoises and greens. I guess it means that those colors make me feel good.

The color wheel

Colors that look good together are called a color harmony. Artists and designers use these to create a particular look or feel. You can use a color wheel to find color harmonies by using the rules of color combinations. Find the colors that create a pleasing effect.

You can find these color wheels for example on Amazon.


Feature Wall

Doing a feature wall, or a staging wall for photography for example, doesn’t have to be expensive and it’s not too difficult. It really just needs time. I had done a staging wall for my photos this year and here is one I did with Charlotte from Furniture Revivals in Zurich for her workshop wall. She wanted an old world look and yet a certain elegance to it.

We both think that we achieved our goal.

This is what we used:

  • Wooden panels
  • Texture medium for a rougher structure for the base. You could use joint compound or plaster
  • Paint – different shades of neutrals. We used Dixie Belle Paint and Annie Sloan
  • Texture medium to create raised stencil. We used VP Antico from Artisan Enhancements but you could absolutely just use joint compound or any other brand you like or have on hand. 
  • Saltwash and Sea Salt Fizz (Autentico) 
  • Stencils (these two are from Artisan Enhancements: Damask and script)
  • Tissue paper (you can also use any decoupage paper or rice paper or even napkins)
  • Mouldings (we used Woodubendmouldings #1309)
  • Waxes to enhance details
  • Paint brushes, sponges
  • Water mister
  • Sanding paper 
Creating raised stencil designs

Here are a few pictures of the wall we did:


How to Stage a French Style Piece

I love the old world look and with it comes the French style. So I thought I’d share some thoughts on the staging of such an item. As this look is timeworn with patina it’s best to use items that are themselves timeworn or use items from the flea market that go with the style. 

  • Old books (leather bound or taking off cover). Bundling them for example and keeping them together with lace ribbon or/ and twine. Not everyone has really old books in the house, so you could paint them and decorate with decorative molds, stamps, decoupage etc. to give them the look 
  • Music sheets 
  • Vintage cards or faded pictures 
  • Stone busts or pots 
  • A piece of lace draped or even lace ribbons (don’t cover all) 
  • Dried flowers (be careful of choice – subtleness is the word of the day)  
  • Candle sticks 
  • Gather your little knick knacks, decorations, collectibles and put it all up on a tray 
  • A vase with fresh flowers, an aged looking amphora or dry brushed terracotta pot with some greenery also works well 

Example of self-made book covers to give them the desired look 


From Where Do I get Inspiration

People ask me this question a lot. That’s why I thought I would share a few thoughts with you.  

Although we all hope inspiration just pops up, it usually isn’t that easy. So when I’m stuck and it does happen more than I would like, where do I get my inspiration from?  

I love faded patina so anything with old world look, texture, rustic and patina and color usually catches my eye. Nature in general, old doors, house facades, abandoned backyards, gardens or places, architectural gorgeousness and so on.  

I am lucky enough to live in two very opposite countries. Mountains, lakes, pasture land and a lot of greenery in one. Sea, heat, drought, cacti… in another. Meaning I get quite a few opportunities of inspiration in both places already.  

And if that doesn’t work, well… Pinterest is my place of choice to go to. 

Here are a few shots that I took on my walks and that inspired me for a piece… 

and some of my Pinterest pins I use for color inspiration