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 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
“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
The recipe is as follows:
2 cups of joint compound combined with 1 cup of wood or white glue.
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.
A 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 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.
You 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
You 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