Friday, April 27, 2018

Seth Apter: Stenciling Techniques

Hi stencil lovers. Seth Apter back with another guest post on StencilGirl Talk. Today I wanted to talk technique – specifically, how a few small tricks and tweaks can have a big impact.

Seth Apter: Stenciling Techniques with StencilGirl stencils

One of my mottoes with mixed media is more is more. I can (and do) easily spend hours creating a background. After doing that, the last thing I want is a simple stenciled design sitting on top of a layered, dimensional background. For me, every component along the way needs to be equally complex in development and design.

Seth Apter: Stenciling Techniques with StencilGirl stencils

The four, simple techniques in this post can help you do just that.


Many times, artists choose one color of ink or paint to use with their stencil. Stopping there, however, often leads to a flat and uninteresting effect. With shadowing, as illustrated below, multiple colors are used instead.
Seth Apter: Stenciling Techniques with StencilGirl stencils

You can completely stencil your first layer with one color. After that, replace the stencil on your design and loosely go back over with 1, 2 or 3 other colors. More than 4 total often leads to a muddy palette. The key word is “loosely” as you always want some of the lower layers to show through.

Tip 1: Dye inks work very well with this technique.

Tip 2: Start light and work your way through progressively darker color layers.


Often when a design is stenciled, it looks as if it is sitting on top of the layer rather than being integrated into the background. Outlining the design is the perfect solution.

Not only does this connect your stenciled design to the rest of your work, it also serves to make the stencil pop off the background. Much like a frame around a work of art, an outline guides the eye to see what is within and adds a level of finish to your work.

Tip 1: While you can follow directly along the edges of your stenciled design to create the outline, sometimes it is most effective to be loose and messy.

Tip 2: Change up the color or design of your outline within the same stencil to highlight certain areas and to get more complex effects.


When we think of stenciling, we generally think of color being the added element. But why not think outside the box and add detail design work via a rubber stamp?

After you have added color through your stencil with ink or paint, place the stencil back over the design. Choose a rubber stamp with an abstract design and press the inked stamp through the stencil, adding the detail from the stamp to the stencil design itself.

Tip 1: Use an uncounted stamp so that you have the flexibility to press the design into even a small opening in the stencil

Tip 2: Stamps with smaller, detailed designs tend to have a bigger impact.


One of my favorite techniques, bumping your stamp will add depth, dimension, and interest to your stencil designs.

Add your choice of color through the stencil. Move the stencil slightly off from the original placement to the left or right and/or to the top and bottom. Add a different color through the stencil. This adds shading to your design as if coming from a light source.

Tip 1: Practice different color combinations. Some combos have a strong impact and some fall flat.

Tip 2: Stencil designs that have very small, close openings do not work as well as stencils that have gaps in between the stencil cuts.

Hope you will give these techniques a go. They are both simple and fun to do but can really raise the bar on your stenciling.

For more mixed media and art journaling inspiration from Seth Apter, visit his website and blog!


  1. What a great post of stencil techniques! I'll be bookmarking this to try out some of these techniques!

  2. I especially like your suggestion to use a stamp with the stencil after painting.

  3. Thanks for sharing some great techniques Seth.

  4. this has me realizing it is time to step up my stenciling techniques! I have always loved the "bumping"; I look forward to incorporating more of these into my work. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Thanks Seth you always have great Ideas!

  6. Seth, thanks for sharing some great techniques.

  7. Seth, I really enjoyed the techniques you showed. I too really like the bumping technique and have used it before with great success.Ill have to try it again.


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