Tutorial Tuesday – Painter’s Tape Stencil

This is not the stencil for you if you’re looking for a single use stencil!  It’s rather time consuming, and is best saved for motifs you plan on using multiple times.  The benefits to this stencil is that it uses material that most DIY’ers have on hand, and it can be formed around awkward shapes without too much difficulty.  Once completed, it can be safely stored by lining the sticky side with wax paper and rolling up into a tube.  It’s reasonably cost effective, as well.  It can also be made to whatever size required – as long as you have space to work on it, that is!

Step One – The Foundation.

Begin by measuring out the size you’ll need your finished stencil to be.  Do this on a flat surface – a cutting board, craft table or, if you need much, much larger, the floor or wall.

Once you know the size you’ll be working with, start placing your tape.  Once the first strip is down, you’ll be layering the subsequent pieces of tape over top by about 1/4 to 1/3 of the width of the strip.

Continue doing this until the entire area is covered with tape.

Step Two – The Layers

When you have the first layer firmly in place, it’s time to work on layer two.  This layer will be placed ACCROSS the first layer at a 90 degree angle.  Again, you’ll be laying each piece of tape over top of the prior piece by about 1/4 of the width.

After layer two is done, layer three is applied.  This time, you’ll be working on a diagonal (corner to corner) until the base is fully covered.

Layer four is a repeat of layer three – with the opposite diagonal being used.

This is actually a shot of layer 3 with the direction for layer 4 indicated

Step Three – Finishing the Base

At this point, you have four layers of tape, all firmly stuck together.  It’s OK to stop here if you don’t plan on re-using the stencil very much.  However, since I NEVER know if I’m going to want to use the stencil again, I tend to repeat the first and second layers to give me an even sturdier piece.  I’ve even been known to throw a layer of duct tape on top, just for fun!

I straightened the edges to give myself a neater finish, and it’s off to the next step.

Step Four – Placing the Design

Now it’s time to actually draw your design.  There are a couple of ways to do this.  If you are an artist, you could freehand.  (Of course, I’d have to hate you if you did!)

I print out the image I want to use and copy it to the size I need.  In this case, it’s the “Keep Calm and Sleep In” motif I wanted for the guest room.

I printed the images in reverse so that I could simply stick the back side of the paper to the sticky side of the tape.

Now, I peeled off the multi-layered base and placed it sticky side up.  I centered the motif and pressed it firmly down into the painter’s tape.  The alternative method to this is to START with the motif and apply painter’s tape to the back.  I find it more difficult as the paper seems to sometimes have a mind of it’s own, and I end up taping the table anyway!

You think I’m nuts right about now, because you just covered the sticky part of your stencil, don’t you?  Bear with me, OK?  It actually makes sense as we go along and get to the end.

Step Five – Cutting the Stencil

With your image either drawn or attached, it’s time to break out your exacto knife and cut.  If you’re working on the floor, wall or a table that you don’t want damaged, you’ll have to lift the portion of the stencil you’re working on and slide a cutting surface beneath it to protect your surface.  Cut the stencil out to the dimension of the board, then peel the tape layers back and move the board accordingly.  The painter’s tape will allow you to reposition easily.

While you’re cutting, don’t forget to leave bridges where required to keep the centers intact.

Step Six – Removing the Lower Level of Tape (if and when required)

Yup.  You read that right.  After going through ALL of that trouble to put the first layer down, I’m telling you to rip it up.  It’s not as intimidating as it sounds… honest!  Simply lift an edge of your paper away from the stencil base.  If you’re very lucky, the paper will release from the tape with no difficulty.  If, however, the first layer of tape wants to come with the paper, it’s OK.  There are at least three MORE layers of tape holding your stencil together.  (More if you’re me.)

This step is also what I do if the tape loses it’s stick.  For stencils I’ve had to use dozens of times, I just add another layer of tape to the top side and recut.  That keeps the stencil solid and stable.  I try to never have the stencil LESS than 4 layers thick.

Here’s a shot of my stencil with a layer of duct tape over top.

Step Seven – Marking For Placement

Now that the stencil is all cut out, it’s wise to take the time and mark some straight lines on the non-sticky side.  For this project, I marked top, bottom, sides, and centers.  This helps with placement on your project.  (Unfortunately, I got too eager, and didn’t take photos of this step.)

Congratulations!  Your stencil is now ready to use.  Break out the paint!  Because the bottom layer of the stencil is painter’s tape, the stencil will pretty much stay where you put it and mold itself around curves and angles very nicely.  There’s less chance of paint bleeding under the tape as well.

When you’re done of the job, it’s time to put the stencil away.  Lay it out with the sticky side up and get your plastic cling wrap.  Cover the sticky with the wrap, overlapping where required.

Now you can roll it up for storage or store it flat.  I wouldn’t recommend folding it, though.  That distorts the piece too much.

With this particular stencil, I took a sheet of copy paper and labeled it  with the design.  Then I wrapped the paper around my rolled stencil.

When it’s time to use it again, the cling wrap will peel off easily and you’re ready to start again!

As I said at the top of this post, this IS a time consuming method.  Acetate and spray adhesive is much quicker.  But the benefits of this one outweigh the time for me.  Maybe they will for you!


There have been times I didn’t have painter’s tape, but had a supply of masking tape.  Despite the fact that masking tape is stickier, it can be used as well.  Before applying it to a wall or finished surface, though, I stuck it to a length of cotton fabric.  The fabric “ate” some of the adhesive, leaving just enough to use the stencil without worrying about damaging the walls.  I’ve also used masking tape for the 5th layer and above when I had more on hand than painter’s tape.

I’ve also used wax paper to cover the sticky side, but I personally prefer the cling wrap for “removability”.

 I’m sharing here

I’d really love to see your comments on the projects I do and the ideas I have.  I learn more from critiques than praise, but, honestly, I adore praise (and who doesn’t?).

Thanks for stopping by.


6 thoughts on “Tutorial Tuesday – Painter’s Tape Stencil

  1. I honestly cannot tell you how awesome I think this idea is.. YOU ROCK!!!! I SO LOVE THIS!!!!
    thanks so much for linking up to the ALL STARS BLOGGING BLOCK PARTY …I’m your newest follower…. Thanks again and I can’t wait to see what you do next week.. =)


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