Learning how to prep wood to stencil signs is easy but there are important steps that must be taken!
If proper steps are not followed, bleeds will most likely occur. Sure you can do some “clean up” after the fact, but it won’t be the same as doing it right the first time.
- Tack cloth
- Sand paper: I use 120 and 220 grit paper for my palm sander or a sanding block.
- Water-based poly acrylic sealer. I like using General Finishes Flat out Flat and Dixie Belles Clear Coat. Or Mod Podge or same background paint color you plan to use.
- Stencil design of your choice
- Paint brushes of your choice. I like using Artisan Brushes from Hobby Lobby for my sign making.
- Baby wipes or paper towels
- Tweezers or clay tool set
The very first step is to prep your wood piece before applying the stencil to make your sign. This includes making sure your piece of wood is free of dirt and dust before you sand it smooth and that you are not sanding dirt into the wood.
Use your tack cloth to wipe it down before sanding. I start with 120 grit sandpaper and sand my board as smooth as I can get it. I’ll wipe it with the tack cloth again and repeat the process with the 120 grit sandpaper if needed. Once I am happy with the feel of the board, I then sand it with 220 grit sandpaper. When this is all completed, wipe it with your tack cloth again.
The reason for the previous task of sanding your board as smooth as you can get it is to help prevent paint from bleeding under your stencils when you’re ready to letter or decorate your sign. If your board is rough, the stencil is likely to have gaps in those areas where paint can seep under.
The second step is to paint or stain your background. I love using Dixie Belle’s Chalk paint for my signs but if I am using stains, I buy mine from the local Tru Value, Minwax. The stains I normally use are oil based so I like to wipe the stain on with a clean rag I can dispose of when I’m done and immediately wipe it off so some of the wood shows through.
Since the stain I use is oil-based, I will usually let this cure for a couple of days before moving forward.
Before applying my stencil, I like to apply a thin coat of poly acrylic and let this cure for at least a couple of hours to a day before applying my stencil. Click here to see how I use contact paper for both my stencils and transfer tape!
Applying your stencil. Click here to see how I apply my stencils to ensure they are centered correctly every time. Once my stencil is applied there is one last prepping step I like to do first before painting.
Painted Background: follow this step
If I used paint for my background. I will use the same color of paint to paint over my stencil that has been applied to my board and let this dry.
So if my board is painted black for the background, I will paint the same black paint over the stencil that has been applied on the board.
Stained or paint blended Background: Follow this step
If using a stained background or a combination of paint colors and blending them as I background, I use either poly acrylic or Mod Podge and use a paint brush to lightly paint this over the stencil that has been applied to my board.
The last and final step to prep your wood so you can stencil signs is to start painting over your stencil and have fun!
Once I have the stenciled sign painted, normally I wait until after the paint is completely dry before removing my stencil. I will use my 220 grit sanding block and lightly sand over the stencil before slowly removing the stencil from the board.
I have noticed when it is humid, I may have to pull the stencil when the paint is still wet. For some reason, here in Iowa during the Spring time, I will have issues with the stencil pulling some of the paint up with it at times and especially on smaller designs or small letters.
If I have to pull the stencil up wet, I do it immediately after it is painted and careful not to let part of the stencil with the wet paint to fall on the board. If there are any stencils on the inside of the design, I will remove these carefully when the paint is dry.
Sometimes small grooves are missed. Because of this, paint may still seep under the stencil where you do not want it. The previous steps we have taken will help ensure that this is minimal.
The reason for the third step, applying poly acrylic to your board, is to help with any “clean ups” after the stencil is removed.
Having a thin coat of poly-acrylic on your base coat of paint or stain will allow you to lightly remove any paint in areas you do not want.
If needed, I’ll use a very small pottery or clay spatula or tweezers with the end wrapped in a baby wipe and gently remove unwanted paint in areas by wiping it off.
I usually wait until the next day before applying a coat of water-based poly acrylic on the sign. I’ll usually do 2-3 coats total.
Before applying each coat of sealer, I lightly sand with my 220 grit sand block, wipe it down with the tack cloth and apply a thin coat.
That is it! I love making personalized signs and the process is really easy, the hardest part for me is patience! Waiting for the paint or sealer to dry.
Let me know if you have any questions!
I hope this post answers all your questions on how to prep wood to stencil signs! If not, please let me know. I would love to help you if I can!
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