Ever see an image on the internet and think,"Hey, that would look cool on a coffee table, or end table, or even a wall"? Well after paying $50 for a high quality laser cut stencil, I figured there must be a way to make one for a lot cheaper. And this is what I did:
Step 1: Materials
Screw driver (or paint can opener)
Boxcutter or knife
Sheet of plastic or vinyl (thick plastic page covers or plastic file folders can be cut open and used)
Step 2: Choose an Image, Choose a Piece
Choose your image. I chose a vector stencil of a stag. If you look at the positive space, (the black) it is mostly all connected, which makes for a great stencil. You can do an image with multiple separate pieces, but it makes for lots of measuring and spacing when it comes time to adhere it to the piece.
Just as important as the image is the piece you choose to put it on. Make sure the furniture fits the personality of the color and image you are about to give it. (Pretty much anything can work, just make sure you love it!) There is something especially gratifying about saving an old, tired worn out piece of furniture from the junk pile, and transforming it into something new and beautiful.
Step 3: Blow It Up!
If your image prints at the size you want, then you can skip this step. I wanted a much larger image than one that would fit on an 8.5" x 11" sheet of printer paper, so I went to http://www.blockposters.com/. This is a website that allows you to take any image on your computer and turn it into a poster using as many pieces of printer paper that you want so it is printable on your home printer. I made mine with 7 pieces of paper.
Step 4: Print It, Trim It, and Tape It
Once you have your image layed out like you want it on http://www.blockposters.com/ , its time to print it! When you have it printed, assemble the pieces of paper into your image. Depending on your printer settings, you may have to trim the margins off of each sheet after you print it. If you have to do this, take your time and cut the margins off with a scissors, taking care to cut smooth and straight. Once the margins are cut off, reassemble your image. Now, tape the image together at the seems.
Step 5: Stick It
Now its time to grab your plastic. Put the plastic on a flat surface. On another flat surface, flip the image over so that it is face down. Spray the back with your spray adhesive. Don't use too much! Just a dusting goes a long way. Once the adhesive has set (usually 3-5 minutes) stick the image to the plastic. Roll the image onto the plastic and smooth as you go so you don't get bubbles.
Step 6: Cut It
Once the image is adhered to the plastic, its time to cut out the stencil. Use sharp scissors and GO SLOWLY!!! Make sure to trim out any spots (negative space) that may be surrounded by the image (black space). Have patience and GO SLOWLY. You want it to be perfect!
Step 7: Finish the Area Where the Stencil Will Go
It is important that you finish the piece where you want the image in the color or stain or paint you want it before you stick the stencil to the piece. On this table, I sanded and stained the wood under the stencil so when I paint around it, the image will be in stained wood. If you'd like your image to be paint, now is when you should paint that part of the piece.
Step 8: Stick It... Again
Now use your spray adhesive again to coat the back of the image (The plastic). Use enough adhesive so the image will stay sealed to the wood with no gaps or areas where paint can leak under. Be sure to press it down hard. It may be necessary to use a rounded tool to smooth the stencil onto the wood. Smooth out any bubbles or kinks.
Step 9: Paint It
When your surface (on the rest of the piece) has been prepped (sanded, and cleaned) its time to paint! Pick the color you want and go nuts. If your stencil is sealed tightly to the wood, there is nothing to be afraid of. It will protect the wood underneath. Paint gently around the stencil and don't push the brush into the edges of the stencil. Once the first coat is dry, it may be necessary to put another coat on. Don't worry if you paint on the stencil itself.
Step 10: Peel It
Use extreme patience during this step. Paint tends to act like plastic when in this step, which means it may want to peel in some parts where the paint is thicker. To prevent this, you may want to outline the image with a sharp edge or a utility knife. Be gentle and go slowly. The purpose is to separate the image from the table by scoring the paint. Once you have traced the stencil with a knife, (no need to push hard, just score it) the stencil should peel right off. Start with the most delicate parts and move in one direction. I started with the antlers and moved toward the body. Once you have peeled the stencil off, your image will be revealed. On this piece, the image is a nice natural stained oak, surrounded by teal. It turned out better than I thought it would!
Step 11: Finish It
Once the piece has been fully painted, you will want to protect your beautiful stencil with a couple of coats of polyurethane. Follow the instructions on the can of whatever brand you decide to use. I used Minwax polyurethane and applied 5 coats to the table surface for protection and a high gloss finish. This is another step where patience is everything. Make sure the poly has plenty of time to dry before applying the next coat. I recommend at least 3 coats.
Now that you have completed your new stenciled furniture, get it in the house and enjoy your hard work! If you want, you can reuse the stencil for another project, or pass it onto another furniture upcycling friend!
(The cost of this project was around 20 dollars. The paint was $15 and the adhesive was $5, and I had everything else. And now I have all the things to make many more stencils!)