Paint

A Perfectly Patterned Wall—No Wallpaper Necessary

Step aside, peel-and-stick—stencils are the best way to make an accent wall.

Sponsored
August 21, 2020

With help from our sponsor BEHR®—makers of high-quality paints in every shade—we're sharing color-filled paint projects anyone can pull off, whether you're a first-time DIY-er or a seasoned pro. Here, we're showing you how to turn any blank wall into a stenciled wonder.


I’m always looking for ways to liven up the lackluster white walls in my apartment, so I’ve tried a little bit of everything when it comes to covering them—some have been more successful than others.

After lots of trial and error, my favorite way to transform blank walls into a focal point: stencils. That’s right, the kind you use with a good old can of paint.

Maybe you've got nostalgic memories of wall stencils (I know I do): rosettes in your childhood bedroom; green ivy along the kitchen backsplash; and swirly-curly fleurs de lis in the bathroom. All so very cutting edge at the time, but not so much anymore.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“How are you supposed to overlap these stencils so you don't smear the paint on the panel you just finished painting? In the photo, it's not just overlapped, but there's actually painters tape over the previously painted panel. Are you supposed to let the prior section dry before going on to the next? It seems like that would take forever to do even a small space, plus letting your paint and roller dry out.”
— Diana B.
Comment

Luckily, there are a ton of modern stencil options on the market today, sure to have the exact motif you're looking for. Not to mention: Wall stencils are arguably easier to remove than wallpaper—just paint right over it when it’s time for a change.

Below, we’ll walk you through every step of pulling off the greatest masterpiece your walls have ever seen. Bonus: It’ll only take you a few hours.

Rocky Luten

Gather your supplies

Before getting started, you'll want to make sure you've got the BEHR Express kit and a few other tools handy.

The BEHR Express Kit:

  • BEHR ULTRA™ Paint (you may want to snag a second color as well, to give your walls a fresh base coat before you start stenciling)
  • A metal tray
  • Tray liner
  • Roller frame
  • Shed-resistant 3/8-inch nap roller cover
  • A 2-inch thin angled sash nylon and polyester brush

The Rest of the Essentials

  • Wall stencil of your choice
  • Bubble level
  • Painter’s tape
  • Tarp, drop cloth, or builder’s paper

Prep Your Wall

In order to prep for your wall-size work of art, you’re going to want to protect anything that isn’t getting the stencil treatment. Tape off the adjacent walls, floor line, and ceiling line with your trusty painter’s tape. Be sure to also lay down a tarp, drop cloth, or builder’s paper to prevent the floor from turning into a Pollock-inspired piece.

Line Up Your Stencil

The very best way to ensure you’re stenciling evenly is to line up the stencil with a bubble level every single time you press it to the wall. Once you’re sure you’ve got everything nice and even, use painter’s tape to secure the stencil right where you want it.

The Lighter the Coat, the Smoother the Finish

You've probably heard this saying a million times, but here's a million and one, for good measure: Just a dab’ll do ya. Using minimal paint on the roller is always the modus operandi, as it will prevent paint from bleeding and dripping, and minimize drying time for each section (you may need more than one coat).

Take it Easy

There is truly no need to overexert yourself when it comes to painting with a roller, and isn’t that the beauty of this project? In this case, minimal effort = maximum wow factor. So use light to medium pressure for a smooth, even finish.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Here’s the worst part of it all (and hey, it’s not so bad if this is the worst): You'll need to repeat this whole stenciling-leveling-painting process until the wall is totally covered. If you’re concerned about paint transferring from the stencil to fresh patches of your wall, wipe the stencil off in between sections to avoid any unwanted splotches.

Take little breaks, do it over the course of a few days, or power right through—it’s up to you. Then, stand back and admire your work.


What DIY projects have you tried recently? Tell us about them in the comments!

With help from our sponsor BEHR Paint, we're highlighting beginner-friendly paint projects for every room in the house—from upgrading plain wood furniture with a pop of color to brightening up blank walls with graphic stencils. For this project, we used Anonymous and Painter's White to create a standout accent wall. To make the job even easier, we snagged the BEHR Express Kit, which delivers all the supplies you'll need for any painting project straight to your door. One last tip: Always make sure to refer to the instructions on the product label or visit behr.com for the best results.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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    gigi sharp
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    Diana B
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    Figster
  • Matthew DeRosier
    Matthew DeRosier
  • Ann
    Ann
Caroline Mullen

Written by: Caroline Mullen

5 Comments

gigi S. September 27, 2020
I'm not able to figure out how to buy the kit and stencils.
 
Diana B. September 2, 2020
How are you supposed to overlap these stencils so you don't smear the paint on the panel you just finished painting? In the photo, it's not just overlapped, but there's actually painters tape over the previously painted panel. Are you supposed to let the prior section dry before going on to the next? It seems like that would take forever to do even a small space, plus letting your paint and roller dry out.
 
Matthew D. September 8, 2020
Typically you would use a a water based paint, like a creme paint, so it will dry almost instantaneously and the paint is a lot thinner. Then when you overlap the stencil over the previously painted panel it shouldn't stick... Hope this helps!
 
Figster August 27, 2020
Hi - Can you provide source for stencil used? Thanks!
 
Ann September 27, 2020
I think I found this particular stencil at https://www.royaldesignstudio.com/collections/modern-geometric-stencils/products/loose-weave-wall-stencil. Looks fun!