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How to Stencil a Ceiling Medallion

Flatter your fixture with a lacy frame that suggests old-world plasterwork. With the help of a stencil and craft paint, you can do it in a flash

Some decorative painting projects require lots of time and artfulness, but this one is so straightforward that it's fine for beginners. The secret is a flexible, semicircular stencil, which you use twice to create a full-circle medallion. There are plenty to choose from; here, decorative painter Ingrid Leess used the Georgian Ceiling Medallion (about $55; Cutting Edge Stencils), which stencil designer Janna Makaeva based on historic plasterwork. "This stencil would suit a pendant fixture, too, or no fixture at all, to add interest to a plain ceiling," says Leess, who trimmed the center of the stencil to fit this large ceiling-mount fixture.

Before choosing a stencil, she recommends folding large sheets of paper into quarters and cutting out rough templates to determine the right size for your project. Though this medallion goes up one half at a time, "the whole thing took only 45 minutes," Leess says. Add 15 minutes to practice the technique on poster board beforehand, and you're still done in an hour. Not bad, given the dramatic impact on the ceiling—and the room.

Shown: For a unified look, choose a paint color that echoes the finish on the light fixture.

Step 1

Prepare the Stencil and Paint

Photo by Julian Wass

If you have a large fixture, you may need to trim the center of a half-medallion stencil to fit. Mist the stencil with repositionable spray adhesive, and press it onto the ceiling; a couple of bits of painter's tape can be a reminder not to roll over the edges. Pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of metallic craft or latex paint onto a styrofoam plate.

Step 2

Roll on Two Coats

Photo by Julian Wass

To keep paint from bleeding under the stencil, use an almost dry roller. Load the roller until it absorbs most of the paint, and remove excess by rolling it over a folded paper towel several times; it's better to have too little paint than too much. Move to the stencil, rolling with light to medium pressure. Peel back a stencil corner to check that you're satisfied with the coverage.

Step 3

Use a Lightly Loaded Stencil Brush to Add Highlights

Photo by Julian Wass

To give the medallion a bit more luster and depth, add highlights with a lighter color paint, using a stencil brush and a pouncing motion. Blot the brush on a folded paper towel before stippling some of the cutouts' "spines." If you like the effect, add a few more.

Step 4

Peel Off the Stencil and Repeat

Photo by Julian Wass

Gently remove the stencil. No need to clean it; just reposition the stencil on the other side of the fixture, lining it up with the pattern you've created for a seamless circle. Apply two coats of paint, pounce on highlights if you'd like, and remove the stencil. Now turn on the light and enjoy.