How to 3D stencil, it’s easy!

Hero shot of the daffodils focal image, overr the 3D stenciled background. Artwork features shades of greens and yellows with white and black accents.
6″ x 6″ Daffodils on mixed-media paper.

I adore Spring and all of the bulb flowers that come out at this time of year. My allergies, not so much, ha! When I was a girl my Grandfather grew literally hundreds of daffodils. I used to love seeing them all in bloom. I have my own little patch I planted years ago, and every year when they flower, I take an obnoxious amount of photos of them to share on social media. Needless to say when I received this TCW2199 Daffodils Sign Stencil, I just knew I had to use it!

Collaged image comprised of five different spring flowers such as daffodils, hyacinths, and violets in shades of purples, blues, greens, and yellows.
Some of the spring flowers that bloomed in and around my yard this year

The Crafter’s Workshop provided me with some product to create this project. The opinions I share are solely my own.

Today’s simple step-by-step process teaches you how to easily create 3D backgrounds quickly using only one stencil with a couple of different art supplies and layers.

HOT TIP: For a cohesive appearance, use analogous colors that are next to one another on the color wheel). For this project, our fearless leader Jaime, challenged us to use the Pantone Color Institute’s Spring/Summer 2022 Wellspring collection (as shown in the following screenshot).

Our Color Challenge is the image of the Pantone Color Institute's Wellspring collection for Spring/Summer 2022, featuring eight shades of greens, yellows, blues, and purples.
The Pantone Color Institute chooses the color and color palettes of the year. 2022 is Very Peri.

Step One: I used previously painted mixed-media papers to stencil my backgrounds on to. These backgrounds use a mix of cheap craft paints and acrylic paint, nothing fancy, just some left over paints from a prior project smeared onto pages rather than washing them down the sink. This is a great earth friendly tip to help save our planet and your paints for future projects, and it gives you some pre-painted pages to start with later. I decided to split the Wellspring color collection into two different color sets (known as color ways) so that you could see the same technique in two different sets of colors. I began by using the blue, green and yellow shades as my first color way.

Step Two: Using a cosmetic sponge and TCW9001 White Gesso, pounce off the excess gesso first, then dab the gesso through the entire stencil, reloading with gesso as needed. For these backgrounds, I chose to use stencil TCW882 Fantasy Tile by our designer, Julie from Balzer Designs. Dry the gesso and the stencil fully before proceeding.

Step Three: Reposition and align the dry stencil over the dry gesso. Now, slightly shift the stencil by gently sliding the stencil incrementally to the right (or a different direction if you prefer). You want to be able to see some of the background color and some of the gesso peeking through, while keeping the stenciling as perfectly aligned with the stencil cut outs as much as possible.
HOT TIP: If you like, tape the stencil down so it doesn’t move while you work, this frees up your hands so you can use both of them while working.

Close up detailed image of the Fantasy Tile stencil over the white gesso background. The stencil has been slightly shifted to the right, ready for the next layer of stenciling.
I shifted the stencil slightly to the right to reveal a little of the background color and the gesso.

Step Four: Using your choice of either stamp pad inks or acrylic paints, apply the inks or paints using your preferred method. I recommend using ink applicator brushes for stamp pads, or a cosmetic sponge for acrylic paints using the same method listed in step two, above. (See my Easter Card post from a couple of weeks ago about how to best use ink applicator brushes). For this step, I chose three different shades of green and blue inks to do the stenciling. I chose these shades because they are slightly darker than the background colors, which gives me more contrast in my artwork. Apply the inks randomly across the entire stencil. Once complete, do not remove or lift the stencil, as you will need it perfectly aligned for the next layer. Allow the inks or paint to fully dry before proceeding.
This is what the second layer of stenciling looks like, but don’t move your stencil yet because you need to do one more layer!

Flat lay image of the second layer of stenciling completed. The stencil has been removed to show you what the ink layer looks like over the white gesso background.
Three colors of green and blue inks were used to do the second set of blended color stenciling.

Step Five: Using a black ink gel paint pen (gel pen or acrylic paint pen), outline the stencil cut outs. This provides the definition to the design and really helps it to pop off the page. Be careful when removing the stencil, so you don’t smudge your pen work! You may even want to let the stencil sit for a while to allow the paint to dry before removing it. When dry, lift the stencil, and voila! You have created a three dimensional stenciled background, bravo!

The completed three dimensional background. Flat lay image of the background with the stencil now removed to show the completed background.
The completed three dimensional background stenciling.

Step Six: For my focal point image, I chose to use our TCW2199 Daffodils Sign Stencil and use just a couple of the daffodil images to create the focal image to be placed on to the background. I began by using Stabilo All water soluble aquarelle pencils to outline the stencil. I did this so that I would know where to apply the watercolor paint in the next step.

Flat lay image taken at a 45 degree angle, showing the outlined focal image of the daffodils with the stabilo Aquacolor pencils and the Daffodil stencil laying adjacent to the outlined images.
I used Stabilo All pencils to outline the daffodils.

Step Seven: I used our ColorSparx powders mixed into water in a paint palette to create watercolor paint. I chose to use the colors of Gamboge (yellow) and Terre Verte (dark green) as watercolors to paint the daffodils for the focal image. I used a size 8 round brush to paint the images imperfectly (I wanted to keep a loose feel for the focal image to contrast with the very structured, stenciled background). When dry, I outlined the stencil shapes with the same black paint pen to make the images stand out, and then I cut the focal image out by leaving a slight white border around the edges of the focal image. This helps the focal image stand out against the background while coordinating with the white gesso.

Image of the completed daffodil focal image laying on my work table with the two bottles of Colorsparx powders laying to the top right of the image.
The completed daffodil focal image.

Step Eight: I attached the focal image to the background using TCW9011 Matte Gel Medium and I added some black shading around the image and the edges of the background stenciling using a black stabilo aquacolor pencil softened with the paintbrush and water. I cut off the outside edges off the background and put them aside for later use.

The completed daffodil artwork in the green, blue and yellow colorways from the Pantone Wellspring S/S 2022 Collection.
The completed daffodil artwork 6″ x 6″ on mixed-media paper.

Next, using the same methods and techniques listed above, I created another artwork using the second color way consisting of blues and purples.

For this focal image, I used TCW2416 Waterlily Sign Stencil, and chose to use one of the waterlilies, one of the dragonflies, and a little of the water. The Colorsparx powders I used for this focal image were Cerulean Blue, Orchid, and Fuchsia.

Hey, remember those off cuts I reserved for later use? They were laying on my table together and I thought it might be fun to weave them together. What do you think of using them as a background or a focal point base? What do you do with your off cuts? Don’t forget it’s Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, find some fun projects to do that reduce, reuse, and recycle!

Want to see a brief step-by-step process video for this project? Hop on over to my YouTube Channel to view the video (1:01 min). I really hope you found these step-by-step instructions and photos to be helpful and that you feel confident enough to try this on your own. If you have any questions or feedback, please don’t hesitate to post them below.

I’d really love to hear what you love about this post please leave me a comment, below! Have a great day and happy making, we *LOVE* to see your projects, so please be sure to tag us using our hash tag of #ilovestencils !

Michaela Butterworth
The Crafter’s Workshop Design Team Member

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2 thoughts on “How to 3D stencil, it’s easy!

  1. I am thrilled to see this tutorial on how to make 3D looks with a stencil. I’m curious to know what green and blue inks you used. Are they pigment inks? thank you!

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