shaded stencil flower

Stenciling Tutorial: Gradient Shading or Ombré Stenciling

Gradient shading on a stencil might look difficult, but it can be done by just about anyone. Gradient shading or ombre stenciling gives the effect of light to dark/dark to light (or one color blending into another).  This technique is especially nice for flower stencils, since many flowers in nature have ombré petals.

*If you have never stenciled before, we suggest practicing your technique on a large piece of cardboard so that you can go to the wall with total confidence (the stencils are reusable, so don’t worry about getting paint on them).

1. Get all of your materials together:

a) Protective cover for your table (newspaper works)stencil tutorial
b) Elmer’s spray adhesive (or another brand that is “all purpose or “low tack”).  You can also use painter’s tape.  We prefer spray adhesive because it helps prevent paint leaking behind the stencil.
c) Paint – you can use craft paint (the red bottle) or any interior wall paint (Home Depot sells small sample bottles for $2 – $3)
d) A sponge or bristle stencil brush (We like the sponge because it’s very easy to use and it covers space quickly).  You can buy these at craft stores like Michael’s
e) Paint tray – anything flat will do (paper plate, plastic takeout top, etc.)
f) A stack of paper towels to blot your brush on
g) A cup of water and some Q-tips for corrections (if needed)



ombre stenciling2. Pour your colors onto the paint tray.  For this example, we will be stenciling a large peony flower.  For ombre stencilinggradient shading, you really only need two to three colors (dark, medium, light, or just dark and light).  We chose red and white, but wanted a more peachy tone (rather than plain light pink), so we added an in-between peach color.

3. Adhere your stencil to the wall.  We used spray adhesive, but you can also use painter’s tape.



For the ombré effect, it is easiest to gradually add white paint to one or two other colors.  But you can create a more vibrant flower (or whatever stencil you like) by using only color.  There are many colors that blend together beautifully, but some, however, do not (that is, unless you want browns/grays in your flower).


Think of the rainbow if you want to mix colors together.  Use colors that are next to (or close to) each other in the rainbow spectrum.

Red with Orange/Yellow/Pink/Purple – red blending into a blue can work, but it has to be the right blue (more on the purple side, not the green side)

Yellow with Red/Orange/Greens – if you want yellow to blend into blue, choose a blue that’s more on the green side.

Blue with Purple/Green/Greenish Yellow/Purplish Red


Do not blend:

Reds/Pinks/Purples with Greens

Oranges/Yellows with Blues or Purples




4.  For this stencil, we are going from darker in the center to lighter around the edges.  Dab the sponge brush in the red with a little bit of the peach.  Make sure to blot your sponge/brush well on the paper towels before taking it to the wall.  If there is too much paint, it could seep behind the stencil.

ombre tutorialgradient stenciling


5.  Take your brush to the wall and dab lightly in the center of the stencil.  Don’t press too hard, or again, this could cause leaking.  *IMPORTANT:  It is vital that you use a dabbing motion as opposed to a sweeping motion (like you would if you were using a regular paintbrush).  A sweeping motion could cause paint to build up in the cutout shapes and then leak behind the stencil.  That’s why stencil brushes are made with a flat top – perfect for dabbing perpendicular to the wall.

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6. Continue to apply the paint, going evenly outward, adding more of the medium color with each application (peach in this case).

7.  Once you have gotten to the point where you are using only the medium color, you can begin to add the white (or the lightest color).


shading a stencilred to white shadingombre stencils

8. Continue applying paint, adding or subtracting white so that it blends nicely.  You do not need to worry about exact amounts of a certain color every time.  Keep adding colors as your own eye sees fit.  *NOTE: You should try to finish stenciling in one shot – dried paint doesn’t blend.

9.  Once you have finished, you can go back and do extra blending if need be.

10.  When you are satisfied, slowly peel the stencil from the wall.

ombre stenciling techniquesstenciling techniquesombre stenciling tips

11.  If you see any spots where the paint bled behind the cutouts, fix it ASAP (it’s easier to clean up if it’s still a bit wet).  Dip a Q-tip in the cup of water and carefully rub it across any noticeable leak spots.

And you’re done!  Take a look at our Flower Stencils and get inspired.

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