Did you know you can repair your stencil if you damage it?
Most stencilers have accidentally damaged a stencil at some point.
- If you cut your own stencil and your blade slipped, you do not have to start over.
- If, while cleaning your stencil, you tore or bent part of it, you don’t have to throw it away.
In this short tutorial, I intentionally damage a stencil. Yes, really. 🙂 You can see in this picture that I cut through this stencil, detaching the bridge between the leaves in the design.
I will now teach you how you can repair your stencil.
(NOTE: This post contains affiliate links to some of the items I used in this project. That means you will help to support my blog if you make a purchase after clicking the links. There is no added cost to you!)
Step 1 – Don’t Panic!
Seriously, it’s just a stencil and it is repairable.
Don’t let the damage stress you. Walk away from it for a few minutes if you need to. My first damaged stencil almost made me cry and I threw it away because I didn’t know I could repair it. I don’t want you to go through that.
Again… breathe. It’s okay. We can fix this!
- If you were in the middle of cleaning the stencil, cover it with wet paper towels. This will keep the paint from drying further.
- If you were cutting the stencil, put the cap on the blade and set it down. Go do something distracting and de-stressing for a few minutes.
- If you were in the middle of stenciling, walk away for a few minutes and take your brush with you. Wrap the brush in a damp paper towel to keep the paint from drying out.
Step 2 – Assess the Damage
How bad is it?
It is very likely you can repair your stencil. I have torn stencils while cleaning. It usually happens when I am in a hurry. Sometimes it is not a tear but a section that gets a fold in it. The damage is usually just a small section, like one of the fragile bridges.
Sometimes I over-cut a stencil. That happens when I have been cutting for too long without taking breaks and my hands get tired. Remember to take breaks. Rest your hands. Stretch your hands, shoulders and neck. Focus your eyes on distant objects. An over-cut usually means you cut across a bridge or beyond a corner. Damage from cutting usually isn’t severe because you’re doing such small movements with the blade.
I damaged a stencil while actually stenciling only once. It was on fabric, a sweatshirt, which has some “give” even when stabilized. I was using a swirling technique instead of a pouncing technique and I bent a bridge.
Unless a pet or a small child has swiped your stencil, the damage is likely in a very small area and you can repair your stencil.
Step 3 – Start with a Clean and Dry Stencil
Most damage happens while cleaning.
Do your best to get the stencil clean and make sure it is completely dry.
I have found that I get the best cleaning results when I soak the stencil with Simple Green. I lay the stencil in the sink (or in the shower/bathtub for large stencils) and spray Simple Green on the stencil. Cover it with paper towel and soak the paper towel with more Simple Green. Let it set for half an hour. Pull off the paper towel and use your stenciling brush with light to medium pressure in a swirling motion to remove the paint. Apply more Simple Green as needed. Rinse thoroughly.
Here is a video of the stencil I used to make the Stenciled Damask Floorcloth. My life was pretty busy when I made that floorcloth and it took me four days to stencil it. I never cleaned the stencil until the end of the project. This video shows you how easily the paint came off after soaking it in Simple Green for half an hour.
Step 4 – Repair Your Stencil
Using a sturdy clear tape such as heavy duty shipping tape, cut a piece to a size that will cover the damaged area.
Carefully affix the tape to the stencil to cover only the damaged area.
Turn the stencil over and do the same thing on the other side to sandwich the damage between two layers of clear tape.
Using a firm edge of something (such as a credit card) burnish/rub the two layers of tape to the stencil on both sides.
Using an X-Acto knife, cut the tape away along the edges of the stencil openings.
If the damage is a fold and it doesn’t look like it will lie flat you can either try gently folding it in the opposite direction or cutting it out completely and let the tape take the place of the section you cut out.
Step 5 – Finishing
Your stencil is now repaired! You can now get back to your project. When cleaning your repaired stencil, it is possible your tape may detach from the stencil. If this happens, remove the tape or cut off the part that has peeled away and repeat the repair steps in this post.
I wrote earlier “Unless a pet or small child has swiped your stencil, the damage is likely in a very small area.”
What if the damage really is much more catastrophic than a small tear?
- If the stencil is beyond repair, how do you feel about buying it again?
- Did you cut the stencil yourself? You could cut it again. Yes, that’s frustrating but you can do it.
- Did you get far enough into the stenciling that you could leave the stenciling as-is and do something else to accent the stenciling?
Try not to give up. The finished project will be beautiful because it is a part of you!