Introduction: Spray Painting an Old Bookshelf With Stencils

I had found an old desk by the side of the road, and I thought it could perhaps make a good bookshelf, but it needed a bit of touch-up with spray paint first.


Safety Equipment

Spray paint is easy to use, but it also poses a risk to your eyes and your respiratory system. Therefore, you will need some personal protective equipment (PPE).

  • Goggles or safety glasses
  • Personal respirator (I used a standard industrial personal respirator shown above, but there are dual-cartridge respirators that are made for using spray paint.)
  • Gloves
  • Spray paint booth or fume hood (If you do not have access to one, you can spray paint outside on a sunny day as long as you paint downwind.)
  • Old clothes that you don't mind getting paint on


  • Old bookshelf or desk
  • Cardboard box, flattened out
  • Exacto knife
  • Cutting board
  • Scissors
  • Painter's tape
  • Spray paint (I started out with a can one can of green and one can of gold spray paint, but I eventually bought another can of green spray paint.)

Step 1: Paint the Main Coat on the Shelf

After I put on my safety glasses, personal respirator, and gloves, I put the shelf in the paint booth and turned on the air supply. I then covered the entire shelf in spray paint. I used two cans of green spray paint, but this may vary depending on the size of your shelf.

Step 2: Create Your Stencils

While the main coat of paint was drying, I cut out stencils from the cardboard box with scissors and an exacto knife. Be sure to use the exacto knife on a cutting board, and always cut away from your body.

I made my stencils to create the phrase "book[box]" on top of my shelf, but you can cut the stencil into any shape you want.

Step 3: Place Stencils on Desk

With the painter's tape, tape the stencil onto the part of the desk where you want to spray paint. Make sure the stencil is secure on the desk so it doesn't move while you paint over it. Also ensure to cover any spots that might get paint where you don't want it.

Step 4: Spray Paint Over Your Stencil

With the air supply on, spray paint over your stencil. Let the paint dry for a few minutes before taking off the stencil.

Step 5: Take Off the Stencil

The finished product should be a seamlessly painted design onto your shelf.

Step 6: Finished!

Set your new shelf up anywhere you want and fill it up with books!

Paint Challenge

Participated in the
Paint Challenge