3-Piece Tree Stenciling Tutorial

In this tutorial, Kevin will be stenciling a 3-piece tree in metallic copper.  Kevin is a student of physics and chemistry.  He would be the first to say that he is not an artist, but would like to demonstrate how anyone, “artistic” or not, can stencil.  He even set the ambitious goal of using a second color for the birds.  We think it turned out beautifully!


Stencil (we used Olive’s Art Deco Tree with Birds)


Paint (we used craft paints – metallic copper, green and silver – available at craft stores)

Paint Tray (we used a mini tray, but any paint tray will do)

Mini Roller (available at hardware stores like Home Depot and some craft stores)

4-inch Dense Foam Rollers (available at Home Depot)

Stencil Brush – optional (not pictured, available at craft stores and some hardware stores)

Painters Tape (not pictured, low tack blue available at hardware stores)

Q-Tip with water (not pictured)

Paper Towels (not pictured)

3M All Purpose Spray Adhesive (not pictured, most “all purpose” or “low tack” spray adhesives work well)



Prep Work

First, prep your wall.  Make sure it is clean.  Use low-tack painters tape on your molding or floor if you are planning on having the trunk of the tree flush with the edge.

Cut the bottom border off the trunk (the piece you will start with) of your stencil with scissors or a ruler and box cutter.  You can leave the border if you don’t need the base of the tree to be right at the edge of your molding or floor.

























Spray your stencil with spray adhesive.  The Art Deco Tree with Birds is symmetrical, but if you are stenciling a different tree, make sure you spray the correct side.

DO NOT SPRAY INDOORS unless you have a drop cloth on the floor.  Spray adhesive has a large spray radius and will leave a sticky film on the floor.  If possible, take the stencil outside to spray.

Follow the directions on the can.  Once you have fully coated the stencil, let it dry out for about 60 seconds or longer before placing it on the wall.

If you are doing multiple trees, you can reuse the adhesive-coated stencil a few times before spraying again.

If you do not want to use spray adhesive, you can use painters tape around all the edges.  But we highly recommend spray adhesive to minimize paint leaks.

Place the trunk stencil on the wall with the bottom straight and right up to the edge of the molding or floor.




To get it as flat on the wall as possible, pat it down from the center and out.









Place a stack of paper towels next to your paint tray.

Cover your roller with paint and roll off the excess on the paint tray.

Then roll it over the stack of paper towels.  *Using very little paint on your roller will ensure minimal leakage.


Begin Stenciling

Roll lightly and evenly over the stencil.  DO NOT use too much pressure.  This will cause leaking.

In this case, we will be doing 2 coats of paint.  Metallic paint is much thinner than regular paint.  *Doing 2 coats of paint is preferable to putting pressure on the roller in an effort to get better coverage.  The first coat should only take a few minutes to dry, so there will not be a lot of waiting.  DO NOT remove the stencil before doing a second coat.



Before you remove the stencil from the wall, make sure to use the registration marks (little holes to mark with a pencil that will be used for lining up the next piece).

Carefully peel the stencil from the wall.  You can do this while the stencil is still wet.  Then let the paint dry for a few minutes so you don’t smudge it with the next stencil.




Using the registration marks, line up your second stencil piece.  There will be a slight overlap on the trunk.  Remember to pencil in the upper registration marks on the second piece.  Repeat the stenciling process with the same number of coats used for the trunk piece.

Adding a Second Paint Color:

For this stencil, Kevin wanted to show the birds in a different color.  He decided to go for an oxidized copper look, but to stick to metallic paint.  He chose a light sea green and mixed it with silver to make the hue more subtle.  In this case, he stenciled the green right over the copper.

Once your base paint (the copper, in this case) has dried out a little, take a stencil brush and coat it with your second paint color.  Make sure to dab it over paper towels before applying.






The key to preventing leakage when using a brush is to dab (never swipe) perpendicular to the wall.  Make sure you can see which shapes are part of the bird and dab your second color over only those parts.  If you get paint on an area that is not the bird, dot a paper towel over it and it should come off easily without taking off the color underneath (which should be dry).  For this stencil, the birds are mostly on the top piece, but their feet and tails come down onto the second piece, so remember not to remove the second piece before applying the second color.


Fixing leakage areas:

Removing your stencil from the wall while the paint is still wet is useful if you have any spots where the paint leaked behind the stencil.  It can still be fixed, however, if the paint has dried somewhat – you’ll just need to press a little harder.  As you can see in the photo, there was noticeable leakage around one of the leaves.  This was due to a bubble where the plastic was not perfectly flat on the wall.  With paint, stencils and uneven wall surfaces, this can happen to anyone.  The Fix:  grab a wet Q-tip and “erase” the spots (see photos).


Fixing noticeable lines in the overlap area (of the trunk, in this case):

If your paint is not completely opaque, you may see a darker line where the trunk overlapped from the second stencil piece.  The Fix: Run your roller (or stencil brush) over the area to soften the line.  Spread the paint up and down the trunk and the line will disappear.


Once the paint is dry, line up the last stencil piece using the registration marks.  Repeat the same number of coats, allow time to dry and do your second color for the birds.



















Peel the stencil from the wall, fix any leakage spots and you’re done!

We chose to use very inexpensive craft paints for this stencil to show that it can look great no matter what paint you use.  It only took one small bottle ($2.17 from Michael’s) of the copper craft paint to stencil the entire tree.  You can also do a whole row of trees with just one stencil!

Purchase Art Deco Tree with Birds.