Extreme Stenciling with Paintstik Colors

by Shelly Stokes, Founder and Creative Mentor
Bar line


As I mentioned in the first part of this series, I have been doing some serious stenciling over the past couple of months. I hand-cut three stencils that are 50” high x 20” wide and stenciled the images on black fabric panels.

For this project, I wanted the images to jump right off the fabric when you see them. To accomplish this, I resorted to what I fondly call “Extreme Stenciling.” I save this technique for times when bold and bright is more important that soft, touch-friendly fabric.

[Tweet “Create bold, dramatic images on fabric with Paintstiks and Extreme Stenciling.”]

Before we start, you may want to re-read last week’s post called Titanium Is a Stenciler’s Best Friend. I am going to start where we left off at the end of that post. Please keep in mind that I am using paper stencils for this post, and working with plastic stencils can be more of a challenge. (Again, see the first post.)

Extreme Stenciling Explained


When I want a bold image on dark fabric or paper, I almost always start with layer of Titanium White. As I mentioned in the first post, the white Paintstik color masks off the darkness of the black (or dark) fabric.

A thin layer of white is fine. There is no need for the fabric to appear “white-white” before adding your final color.


Next, color in the open areas of the stencil with the paintstik, then to smooth the paint out with a brush. This works the paint into the surface of the fabric and gives a nice, even base color.


Now we get to the fun part. Add more color to the open areas of the stencil with the paintstik. Then, instead of using a brush, smooth out the paint with your finger. Yes — finger painting for grown-ups!

Before you gasp or dash off a warning about safety, let me remind you that all Paintstiks colors are certified as non-toxic with the exception of the Cadmium-based colors and Cobalt Blue in the matte color line.

Unless you have extremely sensitive skin, Paintstiks won’t hurt you. As for the mess, see the clean-up tip at the end of this post.


Here is the result with the stencil still in place.


And here is what it looks like after the stencil is removed. Now this is what I call bold and bright! This is not the look I want for all of my stenciled images, but it is good to know how to produce it when I want it.

Comparing the Results


Last week, we compared an image stenciled directly onto black fabric with one that included a base layer of Titanium White.


Here is a comparison of that “start with white” image and the “extreme” image from this week. What a difference!

Things To Watch For With Extreme Stenciling


There is a downside to Extreme Stenciling, even with paper stencils. If the layer of paint is too thick, some of it may pull up when you remove the stencil, leaving a rough edge to your image.


Can you see the bits of paint along the edges of the stencil? This is less likely to happen if you smooth the edges of each opening with a stencil brush, but it can and does happen if there is too much paint. It is even more frequent with plastic stencils because of the thickness of the stencil material.


If you plan to stitch around the edges of your shapes, you won’t mind a bit, but it is something to think about.

What To Do About Those Messy Hands


Unless you are working on a large scale project like mine, odds are your hands will never get this messy. Even so, it is good to know how to clean them up.


My favorite hand cleaner is our Cedar Canyon Brush Cleaner. It is a thick oil-based soap that is very gentle on your skin. It will even get the Paintstik colors out from under your fingernails.

Plus, it’s a darn good brush cleaner. Dip your brush into the jar to scoop out some soap, rub it into the bristles and rinse with water. Repeat until there is no color coming off your brush when you rub it on a paper towel or light-colored cloth. (Paintstik colors may stain the bristles of your brushes, so the brush may be clean even though it appears colored.)

[Tweet “Love your Paintstiks for stenciling on fabric? Try Extreme Stenciling!”]


I used the following items as I created the samples for this blog post:

Iridescent Paintstiks (Light Gold, Lime, Jade)
Matte Paintstiks (Titanium White)
Short-handled Paintstik Brushes
Label Paper from Online Labels (I use their Large Format sheets)

Are you an Extreme Stenciler?

Are you willing to share your secrets for creating bold, bright stenciled images with Paitnstiks? Leave a comment below and I will get back to you shortly. I love hearing about what is going on in your play space!


  1. Ruth on April 24, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Luv this technique and only wish I had known about it when I stenciled a design on a black purse. Thanks for all the newsletters.

    • Shelly on April 25, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Hi Ruth, I’ll be really honest and tell you I did not embrace this idea of “extreme stenciling” for many, many years. I thought it was just way too heavy. And, a heavy layer of paint will change the “hand” of the fabric. But for some applications, a heavy coat of paint is the right technique. It’s always a matter of what you plan to do with the fabric after it is painted.

  2. Judy McElwee on April 24, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Shelly, your Extreme Stenciling looks fabulous, Great job! You have been work faithfully on the project as usual. Thanks for teaching us so much! ~Judy

  3. Beth Stiver on April 25, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Love this! I am new to all of this so really appreciate the tutorials with pictures!

    • Shelly on April 25, 2014 at 11:06 am

      Welcome to our Community, Beth. Pictures really are the best, aren’t they? I really need to try some video. But until then, a series of photos is the best way I have found to show how something works. Enjoy!