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Stenciling a hallway: The pros, the cons and the final results

Graham is a former magazine stylist with a passion for crafts. She writes for various magazines and blogs when she's not playing with glue.


Several weeks back, I was working on a project called, "31 Days of Pin-testing" where I explored hundreds of pins from the oh-so-popular Pinterest site and tested them myself. When I first planned this project I knew that it was going to be a difficult one. My days are already quite full without adding hours of crafting and baking to my schedule.

I decided to go through with my plan of testing pins for 31 days regardless, because I knew it would be more fun that it would be frustrating. That is until I decided to stencil a small hallway in my home.

I had originally planned to refurbish a small nightstand by taking aluminum foil and then applying a few coats of paint to it (Intrigued? You can find that project here).

It seemed like a fairly easy project to pull off in an afternoon and that was, in part, one of the reasons I chose that craft. Before I could run to the store and stock up on the necessary supplies, I foolishly changed my mind and opted instead to stencil a wall. After seeing so many beautiful images on Pinterest of stenciled bedrooms, bathrooms, floors and fabric, I couldn't resist. I would stencil an entire hallway. How difficult could that be?

Without further delay, I ordered my stencil from an online shop, purchased a few items that I didn't already have and scheduled a start date. This project would certainly take me no longer than a day or two.


The site that I bought my stencil from provides a helpful video on their website that offers a few useful tips and recommendations.

Like most of the design projects that I have worked on, if not all, I prefer to alter them a bit to fit my own personal preferences. This project was no exception.

For the best results, the crafter is encouraged by the stencil manufacturer to use a flat based paint. It is further advised that the paint colors be within the same color palette, in other words, don't choose colors that are extremely different. Nevertheless, I set forth with a picture in my mind's eye of the hallway I envisioned and did the complete opposite of everything that had been recommended.


Perhaps my first lapse in judgment was choosing this slight hallway to stencil. My goal was to add visual interest to a small space that lacked any design. The space gets little direct sunlight and I had decided to simply paint it a bright white until another idea came to mind.

Although petite, this hallway has many elements that should have been considered before choosing to stencil it.

Within this space there are four doorways. There is crown moulding and there are foot boards. There is one light switch and one fire alarm. There is a thermostat. There is also moulding around the attic door which would make stenciling near the ceiling difficult (I didn't think of that until well into the project).

Because of all these elements, I knew that I would need to find ways to stencil around them and still be able to line up the pattern. That would eventually prove rather difficult.

The stencil company includes a small section of the stencil pattern which is supposed to make stenciling near the top of the wall simpler. For some reason, I couldn't manager to align my pattern, so I didn't have much luck with this smaller stencil.

Toward the end of this project when I needed to stencil near the top of the wall, I lined up the pattern and taped the majority of the stencil sheet to the ceiling.

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Here is the hallway as I first began this project, looking even more dull and uninteresting in this photo.

I stepped back and found the center of the hallway from where I stood. Like tiling, you want to begin at the center and work toward the edges. I taped the stencil to the wall, making sure it was level (the same company that sells the stencils also sells a stencil level. I didn't buy the level. We have a small level for woodworking and I also have a good eye, so I saved myself some money).

After one last look to be certain that I was centered and leveled. I was ready for the next step.


What Supplies Do You Need?

There are only a few items needed to stencil. I had nearly everything required to stencil my hallway. I had the brushes, the paint tray and some leftover paint. The entire project cost less than $100 dollars.

[I would later recalculate that $100 dollars and rationalize that wallpaper would have cost me approximately $300 dollars more, but I would have been much happier with the results and it would have been completed within a day]

Here are the items needed:


Paint tray

Paint roll with rounded edges

Small paint brush

Paint brush

Paper towels

Paint tape


It's recommended that you purchase a small roller. Aside from the stencil, it was the only other item I needed to buy other than a roll of paper towels. I have used Frog Tape before, but I had two rolls of blue painter's tape. It worked just fine.

I had one of my Purdy brushes handy, for that "oops" moment. I never used it. I did, however, use the smaller brush on several occasions. Perhaps a stenciling brush would have worked better. This brush that I had worked well enough for me.


Once I had everything I needed and I had taped the stencil to the center of the wall, I was ready to begin.

Next to my paint tray, I had folded a few paper towels and placed them on top of a large scrap of a cardboard. According to the manufacturer, it is best to blot excess paint from your roll before rolling it onto the stencil. This can be done by gently rolling it back and forth on a folded paper towel to remove excess paint. If you have too much paint on your roll, it may seep under the stencil. The roll should almost look dry, according to the directions. My roll did, in fact, look nearly dry. Because of my paint choice there was some bleeding, as you will see a bit later.

The first roll. You may be able to see from this photo the gloss from the white background paint. Because I chose a gloss background, that lead to s few of my difficulties.

The first roll. You may be able to see from this photo the gloss from the white background paint. Because I chose a gloss background, that lead to s few of my difficulties.

I only poured a small amount of paint into my paint tray. Working with a small amount  of paint helps keep your roll from getting too much paint on it.

I only poured a small amount of paint into my paint tray. Working with a small amount of paint helps keep your roll from getting too much paint on it.

As I began to stencil, I quickly realized that I would need to apply multiple coats of paint in order to achieve the dark espresso brown color I wanted. This project was going to last longer than I originally thought. It was now October. It was chilly outside. The paint would take longer to dry, therefore, painting between coats would take much, much longer.

The best way to work this project was to place a fan in front of the stencil to help dry the paint as quickly as possible between each application. I had to be careful that the fan was angled in such a way that it didn't crimp or blow the stencil from the wall.

I would also need to schedule a side project to keep my time management flowing while each coat of paint dried thoroughly.

As you can see from the stencil, the darkest brown color is the color I was trying to achieve. Ultimately, I would need to apply many coats to get the desired tone.

As you can see from the stencil, the darkest brown color is the color I was trying to achieve. Ultimately, I would need to apply many coats to get the desired tone.

One, Two, Three, Four, FIVE coats!

In order to achieve the dark espresso color, I needed five coats of paint. Perhaps a smarter person would have abandoned the project after discovering this fact, but I was determined to continue.

Because it was necessary for me to apply coat after coat, the stencil quickly became caked with layer upon layer of dried paint. I needed to clean the stencil more often and that, too, would slow my progress.

Make Your Own Stencil Using Contact Paper

Cleaning the Stencil

After some use, it will become necessary to wash the stencil. Per the manufacturer's suggestion, there are two ways in which to clean the stencil. I tried both so that I could compare the two methods and provide you with a bit of insight. Here is my encouragement to you: Do Not Wash Your Stencil!

In order to reconstitute the paint so as to wash it off, I needed to allow the stencil to soak in the bathtub for awhile. Once the paint became softer, I took a small cloth and began to wash the stencil using a small amount of dish soap. What I discovered was this method was labor intensive. I didn't want to bend the shape of the stencil and therefore needed to be very careful and gentle while washing. Once I had washed enough of the paint off, (I did not get the stencil entirely clean) I had to determine where I was going to hang the stencil to dry. That turned into a small dilemma because the paint that remained on the stencil was still dripping off and onto the floor. I managed to hang the stencil above the tub and I allowed it to dry.

Once the stencil was completely dried, I was ready to begin stenciling anew, but not until I had cleaned the bathroom and the floor where I had washed the stencil.

The second method was, by far, much easier. When the stencil needed to be cleaned, I simply left it taped to the wall where I had been working and allowed it to dry. Then, I would remove the stencil from the wall, place it on the counter and slowly begin peeling off the dried paint. Within minutes I was done and could begin stenciling again.

The bath tub picture was taken before the messy results. I was too busy cleaning up to snap another photo. Peeling the paint off is a much better method.

The bath tub picture was taken before the messy results. I was too busy cleaning up to snap another photo. Peeling the paint off is a much better method.

As the hours past and I could begin to see my progress, I felt better. I liked the way the hallway was beginning to look. I would stand back and occasionally look at the wall from the bottom of the steps. From a short distance, the stencil looked nice, but up close the lines weren't as crisp as I would have liked.

Before each coat of paint dried, I was able to gently wipe away the excess paint that bled through. It was tedious work. It was very tedious work.


To secure the stencil to the wall surface, I could have used a spray adhesive. I opted not to use that, instead, opting to use painter's tape.

The tape secured the stencil to the wall, but not snuggly. The stencil sheet had gaps and a few buckles. That contributed to the paint bleeding behind the pattern and making more work.

Due to the cramped space that I was working in, I'm not certain if this problem could have been avoided. The spray would not have been strong enough to hold the stencil around a corner or over moulding and that is where most of the bleeding occurred.

I attached a few extra pieces of tape to the stencil and, in some cases, held the stencil down until the paint had dried. Boring.

As I mentioned earlier, I had a few other projects that I was tending to while I worked on this stencil project. If I hadn't had other things to work on, these waiting-for-paint-to-dry-moments, would have been terrible.


Removing a few stencils with nail polish

Removing small portions of the stencil was less daunting work than correcting the bleed-lines. I was displeased with a few of the stencils that had become a bit misshapen due to the fact that the stencil had moved and was crushed against a door jam.

I thought that by removing a select few, the wall would look better. Working before the paint could dry thoroughly, I took a cotton ball with a dab of fingernail polish remover and wiped the stencil mark away. If you apply the polish remover quickly and gently, it shouldn't remove the base coat paint, which in my case is the bright white wall.


The final results.

I would eventually decide to only stencil two walls. At first, that decision was troubling to me. I hate to give up on any project and I had so loved the look of the hallway that was pictured in my mind but, after weeks of effort, it would have been foolish of me to attempt to stencil the tiny spaces above and beside the doors. I would need to be satisfied with what I had accomplished.

If you are thinking about stenciling a hallway, I hope that my experience was helpful and will help you avoid a few pitfalls. Overall, it was a fun project. I'm pleased that I attempted it. I wish you much success on your project.


How About You...

Maybe I Should Have Wallpapered...


Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on May 06, 2015:

I most certainly wish you much luck, Kelly!!! I'm pleased that I ans. many of your questions. I just jumped in and, although I'm happy I did, I learned from my mistakes along the way. Yes, please keep me posted on your progress. Your stencil idea sounds beautiful. I love the idea of adding stencil to the ceiling. How that could make a room!

Great luck to you!!

Kelly Kline Burnett from Madison, Wisconsin on May 05, 2015:

You answered many of my questions about stenciling. Your project turned out terrific!

I have wallpaper in a bathroom and it is a small area without much interruption such as molding, etc (the bottom portion is already tiled). I wanted to do an old world type damask stencil and also do something to ceiling in the adjoining bedroom to add cohesiveness.

Will keep you posted on my progress.

Now after your article I am thinking of expanding to a guest bedroom upstairs and trying my hand first with that.

Wish me luck - I will surely did it!

Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on February 07, 2013:

rajan, this was, indeed, a tremendous amount of work. I hope that your project is much easier and it turns out lovely.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 06, 2013:

I can see it's been a lot of hard work but looking at these pictures it's turned out a fab job. For anyone wishing to do a stenciling job at home, your hub is going to be very useful.

Voted up and awesome and pinned.

Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on January 17, 2013:

That is a wonderful memory to have!! Indeed, it was labor intensive and frustrating, perhaps I should have done my stencil project with a buddy. Thanks so very much for sharing your story, for sharing and, most importantly, for stopping by.

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on January 17, 2013:

Beautiful! I could almost laugh and cry as I read this. When I lived at home I helped my mother stencil (entirely) three whole rooms. (living room, den, dining room) and the hall. We used five different stencil patterns to achieve a layered Victorian parlor effect. It was labor intensive, messy, and frustrating. Once it was done though, the result was amazing. It did not look like a plain little plaster house anymore. I would gladly do it again! Great hub! Voting up and sharing!

Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on January 16, 2013:

Hello purl3agony and thank you for the compliments!

Donna Herron from USA on January 16, 2013:

I love how this looks! I don't have the guts (or energy) to try this, but I applaud your idea and the finished projects looks amazing!

Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on December 14, 2012:

grandmapearl, while I read your comments, I'm laughing and smiling to myself remembering my frustrations ;) As I mentioned, I thought this would be an easy project, I'm handy, I can paint..well, If I had read someone's account before starting, I would have abandoned the idea f stenciling a hallway, just like you! You and I will have to consider our next diy project carefully. I wish you well, G

Connie Smith from Southern Tier New York State on December 13, 2012:

Hi alife, having stenciled before and encountered the very same problems that plagued you, I can safely say I have not stenciled anything since. Nor do I have any plans to do so. Once was enough! But I really like the way yours turned out--very impressive. You added a real punch to that hallway. I'm glad that you shared your experiences with others. Had I read this article years ago before my stenciling attempt, I would have been a much wiser DIYer! Voted Up and Useful.

Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on December 12, 2012:

If you do consider attempting it, Bill, consider it again -then go take a nice long walk instead!

In truth, I'm glad I tried it, really. I love trying new things regardless of the outcome. The joy is in the doing and learning. This project tested me, but I think I passed. Best Wishes to you for a delightful holiday, G

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 12, 2012:

I have never done this, and in truth I never thought of doing it. I'm impressed by the job you did. It looks so time-consuming that I wonder if I even have the time to do it. Great suggestions!

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