set of French doors with a decorative stenciled border
Photo: Kolin Smith


Our nation's first settlers brought with them the European tradition of stenciling floral and fruit patterns on walls to mimic the look of pricey wallpapers. Today, stenciling is still a cheap way to add charm to a room. If you've never worked with stencils before, painting a decorative border around a doorway is a project any novice can tackle. Though you can certainly work with precut stencils, you'll get a more customized look if you design your own, as we did here. Follow along as senior technical editor Mark Powers creates the pattern, cuts the stencils, and stipples on just enough paint to let the wall color show through for a look that's both old-world and up-to-date.
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    Tools List

    • 30-foot tape measure
      Measuring tape
    • black marker
      Fine-tip permanent marker
    • straightedge guide
    • self-healing cutting mat
      Self-healing cutting mat
    • X-Acto knife
    • electric stencil cutter
      Pane of glass and electric stencil-cutting pen for cutting curved lines. Get one at crafts stores or Amazon
    • small plastic putty knife
      Plastic putty knife
    • small paint tray
      Paper plate or small bucket or tray for holding the paint.
    • stencil brush
      Flat-tip stencil brush. Get a size that suits your pattern's scale and shape. We used a No. 8 brush, which has a diameter of inch.

    Shopping List

    1. Stencil film
    Sometimes called template plastic or acetate.

    2. Painter's tape
    for delicate surfaces.(It won’t remove the wall paint.)

    3. Repositionable mounting spray
    4. Old newspapers

    5. Latex paint
    Use a flat or satin finish to achieve a timeworn look.

    6. Lint-free cloths
    or sturdy paper towels for cleaning stencils and to dab when prepping the stencil brush.