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Decorating With Raised Plaster Stencils

by Victoria Larsen

(Note from NH:   Though this article deals with raised plaster stencils on furniture, these marvelous stencils can also be used on walls, ceilings, or virtually any solid surface in need of a little decorative "splash"!)

Plaster stencil on chestRaised plaster stencils are a unique decor option...

The newest craze in wall decor is now finding its way in to the handcrafted furniture industry by providing a simple and inexpensive way to create raised designs in styles ranging from simplistic to highly ornate.

How is it being done? With specially designed stencils. Though the process can be done with common craft stencils, they typically do not create a raise high enough to even be noticeable.

So-called "plaster" stencils are sometimes not made of plaster...

“Raised Plaster” stencils are cut of very thick, heavy-duty mylar that in just a few moments and with very little effort, create a raised design on finished or un-finished wood pieces using a variety of mediums.  Some are even made from heavy plastic foams!

You can also make your own plaster stencils...

Mediums found to be very successful in this application range from common Wall Board Joint Compound (also known as “wall mud”), to products that include plaster combined with wood fiber (Brand named “Fix-it-All” or “Quick Fix” depending on the area of the country it is sold in) to any variety of wood putty. All of these products can be found in your local home or hardware stores.

When using pre-mixed joint compound products or dry compound “Fix-it-All” or “Quick Fix”, the addition of white or wood glue is beneficial in creating a permanent adhesion of the product to your project piece, making it durable and rock hard.

The recipe is as follows:

2 cups of joint compound combined with 1 cup of wood or white glue.

or...

2 cups of powdered drywall compound combined with 1 cup of white or wood glue and enough water to create a frosting-like consistency.

The application process is as simple as frosting a cake.

Step 1. Simply tape the stencil to the desired area on your piece.

Step 2. Using a flat edged pallet knife (with about a 2” wide blade) spread the mixture over the top of the stencil openings then scrape smooth to remove any excess.

Step 3. Carefully remove the stencil by un-taping 3 corners, leaving the last corner taped to provide stability, then pulling the stencil gently toward that last piece of tape.

Any smudges can simply be removed with a wet cotton swab.

Angel stencilA rougher texture in the design can be achieved by either not scraping the stencil smooth before removal, or by laying your pallet knife flat against the openings then creating minor “lifts” in the compound that will dry to create “peaks and valleys” in the design.

Plaster stencils can be pre-colored...

Colorings can be added to any of the above products with any “pure pigment” medium such as Powdered Fabric Dye, Pure Pigment Paints, Stucco and even concrete colorings. Be aware however, that including liquid colorings may thin your medium. We recommend dry, powdered colorings for best results.

When adding colors, do remember that the color you see in its “wet” form, will dry lighter so adjust colors as necessary. It is advisable to color a small amount of compound and allow it to dry to see the likely finished result.

If you are planning to simply stain and varnish your piece, use wood putty products rather than compounds to create a more natural, wood toned raised design.

Design possibilities are endless with the use of stencils. Many ornate styles are on the market manufactured by companies specializing in stencils. These specialty, extra thick stencils can be found by simply doing a search for “Plaster Stencils” on the Internet.

ornate stencilYou will find designs in the form of "friezes" (central designs) that can be used on doors, front facings and fascia boards, molding and border designs to create straight borders or framing designs. The design to the left is called the "Bennington Frieze Stencil", 7"x12", available at VictoriaLarsen.com

Ornate stencilYou will also find very small designs for use on smaller, more delicate projects or smaller areas. The designs to the right are "Raised Plaster Small Designs Leaves".

If you create your items for sale, you will broaden your market simply by making your product ever more appealing to not only the upscale consumer, but the general market as well.

Not only have you now added more value to your item, but you did it literally for pennies since the compound and stencils are very reasonably priced, creating many, many items from a single purchase. It certainly becomes the most cost effect means of creating ornate designs available today. Not only in time and effort, but also in expense.

About the author: Victoria Larsen has been a wall stencil designer for over 15 years.  Her products and ideas have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Better Homes and Gardens and Women's Day, not to mention innumerable craft and decorating websites.  You can visit Victoria online at http://www.victorialarsen.com.

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