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Make It : Stenciling Basics

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I have been doing a lot of stenciling recently, and after hearing the question, “What did you use to make your stencil” oh, about a hundred times, I thought I’d share my go to materials and some tips to make sure your stenciled image turns out the best it can.


All three of these materials can be used in many ways, but this is how I’ve adapted to using them. Part of why I like them is all are very easy to cut with a craft knife, unlike some of the heavy plastics that have traditionally been used for stenciling, so one's finger tip no longer has to go numb when cutting an intricate design.

FREEZER PAPER is great for fabric since it can be ironed down, which keeps it in place while working. Look for it at your super market where the tin foil is sold. ( I love that the box has info for crafting) To cut design, print image on regular paper and lay a sheet of freezer paper over it and go for it.


CONTACT PAPER is excellent for glass and ceramic and on surfaces that may have a curve, since it is a soft adhesive plastic so it can be stretched and tweaked as needed for unusual shapes. Print image on paper and double stick on top of the contact paper and cut away with your craft knife. Contact paper can also be adhered to the glass or ceramic first and then carefully cut and removed. This etched fish tank is a perfect example of this technique.

MAP PAPER / ADVENTURE PAPER is a great waterproof material. The best is it can be printed on, so transferring the image is a piece of cake. Spray the back with repositionable adhesive and it can be used on any surface (including fabrics and glass). It’s really ideal when doing multiplies since it does not get soggy like paper. If the image is large it’s smart to create an outer brace with a stiff board (we used foam core since we had remnants on hand) so the stencil doesn’t fold up on itself, and you can go to town making a a bunch of prints.


One great thing we have started doing is using the various Martha Stewart Punches to create patterns.


The secret for punching through all three materials is to lay a piece of plain printer paper on top, and insert into the punch. Make sure to have the punch on a hard surface while pushing down.


Why that piece of paper makes punching work is a mystery to me, but it is giving us some awesome results like this etched glass set.

And I love these pillows created with the Deep Edge Daisy punch and Freezer Paper.

1 of 4
completed pillows with decorative edge

1 completed pillows with decorative edge

a little extra tape around the stencil made sure that paint did not stray outside the lines

2 a little extra tape around the stencil made sure that paint did not stray outside the lines

taping the fabric to a surface kept the fabric taut

3 taping the fabric to a surface kept the fabric taut


4 success!

And finally...what brush? I generally do a quick test to see how the paint is getting absorbed, since surfaces and paints all work differently together.


I have noticed that I am favoring the foam stippling brush more and more. But I also like the simple sea sponge that Athena introduced me to, and that she has used for all her gorgeous stencil projects created for the magazine.

Is there a tip or suggestion that you might have? Like I said this is how I have adapted to get great results, but I am always interested in how to make it better, and that comes from being open to learning from others.

Comments (15)

  • it just me or is no one able to see almost all the images? I can only see the last one. The rest are broken.

  • Crafter Comment:

    Hi Laura-
    We're working on fixing the images. This post is full of great information, and we want to make sure you can see all of it.

  • Well I can see the images. Freezer paper is a wonderful thing. Love the paper punch idea and the fantastic pillow. Thank you!

  • Love the punches but cannot get all four corners exactly the same. Can only match two. Is it the size of the paper that makes the difference? There were no instructions in the box with the stencils so I have only been guessing.

  • Crafter Comment:

    Hi Sylvia-

    Check out the instructions at

  • Thanks for this! I've read on several blogs that freezer paper makes great stencils, but I never understood how that worked.

  • I love this pillow (pictures are ok for me)! What kind of paint is Martha using?? Is it washable.

    Punches - I recently purchase an edging kit and followed the website instructions, but am still having trouble getting all corners linked up. I really wanted to make place cards - -am hoping that the shapes do not have to be perfect squares, and that hopefully with practice, I can perfect the technique :)

  • If you don't have freezer paper can you use parchment instead? we don't seem to have freezer paper in NZ, only parchment, waxed or luncheon wrap.

  • Martha and/or Craft editors at OMSL...I have a great idea for you to use a die cut machine to cut out your templates...I would love to hear from you so that I can describe this!

  • Wow! That pillow turned out great! Awesome post.

  • I love your idea to use the border punches as stencils. I must try that, the pillows are wonderful!!

  • Hello and thanks so much for this post. i was wondering if you could recommend a brand of fabric paint to use? What do you guys use in your crafts and how do you keep the paint colorfast?

  • Crafter Comment:

    sorry for the delayed response!
    parchment could be taped down, but it won't be as clean of a result. and don't iron that wax paper, since it will melt and stain fabric.
    as for paints, we used acrylic paint on this pillow. it's permanent once dry and i like that it does not bleed into the fabric.
    and practice makes perfect with the edge punches. so pull out that scrap paper and punch away!

  • [...] Crafts Dept. at has a great new article on Stenciling Basics, which is where I came across this pillow. The stencil used was made with the Deep Edge Daisy punch [...]

  • [...] shares some tips on stencil materials and tools. [...]

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