How to Stencil on Canvas

Home decor can be extremely expensive, and you know that I love to change the look of my home for every season and holiday. You can still have a great looking home on a budget by creating your own personalized home decor like signs and other wall art. I usually use my Cricut to cut vinyl designs to place on canvases, but vinyl can get expensive if you want to use a lot of different colors on one sign. A good way around that is to cut the design on one piece of vinyl and paint it on a canvas. In this tutorial I am going to show you how to paint a stencil on canvas step by step, without bleeding!

To stencil on canvas you need:

  • canvas- I’ve used many different sizes, but in this tutorial I am using an 8×10.
  • a stencil or vinyl to cut a stencil- You can download my adorable 8×10 SVG Hocus Pocus sign in this post. If you don’t have a cutting machine, you can use this tutorial to transfer a design on a canvas with a pencil!
  • paint and paint brushes- In this design I used black, purple, and orange.
  • Mod Podge and paint brush or foam brush
  • credit card or other scraping tool to place vinyl on the canvas

I will have a tutorial up on Sunday to show you how to use a regular cheap canvas and reverse it. Canvases are stretched over a wood frame, so there is a beautiful decor piece just waiting for you to uncover! Follow me on social media using the buttons in the sidebar to keep up with what’s going on here on the blog. To make sure you don’t miss a post, including the reverse canvas tutorial on Sunday, follow me via email. Enter your email address below, and you’ll get an email each time a new post is added.

Enter your email address so you don’t miss a free printable, tutorial, or other great post!

Cut & Reverse Weed the Design

Cut your design on a piece of vinyl. I had a piece of clear indoor/outdoor vinyl which I was never going to use. It came in a pack that I ordered years ago. I have zero clue what anyone would do with clear vinyl, so I thought why not use it for a stencil. You can use contact paper, and I know that a lot of people do because it is a lot cheaper, but it bleeds a whole, whole lot worse. I’m an incredibly huge miser, and I still encourage you to use real vinyl.

The vinyl stencil on canvas is cut from clear vinyl.

To use a vinyl design as a stencil, you need to reverse weed it. That means remove all of the pieces of the design, like the letters and shapes. You can just throw them away, but keep any inner portions like the insides of O’s, D’s, 8’s, etc.

Place the Stencil on the Canvas

Once the design is weeded, it’s time to place it on the canvas. Carefully lift the vinyl off of the paper backing because it’s a lot easier to rip since it’s a bigger with intricate designs in the middle and easily folds, sticking to itself. If that does happen, let the rest of the design go back down on the backing, then gently peel the pieces that are stuck together apart. Since I was reversing my canvas, my sign was painted while it was off the wood frame. If you’re doing the same, put your frame back on top of the canvas. Then place the vinyl stencil on it so that you can make sure it is centered correctly. You don’t want a crazy, off to the side design. All of your hard work will go to waste!

Once the main part of the stencil is on, put the inner parts of the letters on. If you have a particularly intricate design, you can use tweezers to place small parts. Try to center the pieces the best you can. For my design I placed the center of o’s, d’s, and other letters along with the handle of my coffee mug, so you won’t just have letters to place separate from the main vinyl, so don’t forget to check it all.

Placing the center of an o in the word "hocus" in my stencil on canvas.

Adhere Stencil on Canvas

It is very important to make sure the stencil is firmly adhered to the canvas before it’s painted. That is a huge factor when it comes to the paint bleeding underneath the stencil. Use a credit card or other scraping tool and firmly go over the vinyl. I spent a good 30 minutes going around each letter and shape. Of course you don’t have to spend that much time on it, but I was making you this tutorial so I wanted it to be perfect. Sometimes I can be a perfectionist. When I say sometimes, I mean all the time. You don’t have to pay too much attention on the other areas, just around the openings.

Using a credit card to scrape across the vinyl stencil on canvas to adhere it firmly to it.

Now that the stencil is on the canvas, you can seal it with the Mod Podge. Use a small paint brush and brush it along the edges of the design. You don’t want large globs of it, just brush it along the sides of the letters and shapes.

Brushing matte Mod Podges along the edges of the letters and shapes of the stencil on canvas.

Paint the Stencil

Allow the Mod Podge to dry, then begin painting the design. The best way to minimize bleeding under the stencil is to dab the paint on instead of using up and down brush strokes. I wanted a stripe of purple in my witch hat, which wasn’t cut as a separate section on the stencil. To do that I just left a gap in the hat, just above the brim to go back and add the purple.

I painted all of the black, then went to the orange, then purple. I went with black over the Hocus, Pocus, and Focus. Then orange on the thinner font in the middle and purple for the little stars and the hat stripe.

Dabbing orange paint over the words in the stencil on canvas.

Remove the Stencil

When you’ve finished painting, remove the stencil. Take the main part off then go back and remove all of the middles of the o’s, a’s ,e’s, etc or vice versa.

If you do have any bleeding, you can smooth it out with the color that has bled, or you can use white and paint over it.

Your painted canvas is complete!

Your sign is ready for its new home! I made this particular sign for our Halloween coffee bar. It is there now, but I’ll be adding more things to the area over the next few days. For now this is what it looks like.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Make sure you pin it or share it using the buttons at the bottom at the post so you have it when you’re ready to paint your canvas. Share it with your friends and family who love decorating and crafting as much as we do!

More Decor Tutorials

If you enjoy making home decor, you may enjoy these posts: a burlap wreath tutorial, this super, super easy bow tutorial for wreaths and other decor or this wreath bow tutorial, a spiral deco mesh wreath tutorial, and this tutorial for aging galvanized metal for farmhouse decor. There are a lot more tutorials and free printables here on Life as a LEO Wife, so stick around, browse, and pin decor until you’re heart’s content!

For my blogger friends make sure you share the posts on our three link parties, Happiness is Homemade, You’re the Star Blog Hop, and Traffic Jam Weekend. If you’re not a blogger and you love finding new posts for crafts, recipes, home and seasonal decor, gardening, fashion, and more, make sure you visit those parties each week because there are tons of posts shared that I know you’ll love!

Until next time friends, have a blessed week!