Stabilize the stencil

Use painter’s tape or spray adhesive to secure the stencil to the surface, so it doesn’t move.
Spray adhesive will guarantee security that the stencil won’t move, or the brush won’t catch the edge and result in paint bleed underneath. Lightly spray adhesive to the back of the stencil and position on the surface.
Remove any residue from spray adhesive with a damp paper towel or using one of the cleaning solutions used to prep the surface. Being 100% honest, removing all the spray adhesive is hard. There will be some of the spray adhesive that will be left behind. It won’t ruin the stencil. After you clean the stencil, place it on a piece of wax or parchment paper before storing the stencil. These steps hold true regardless of if you’re learning how to stencil on wood or any other surface. Keeping a clean stencil is crucial if you want it to have a long life.
When using painter’s tape, make sure you tape all sides, including corners ( if you can). A dowel or a pencil end is handy to hold the stencil down in the area you are painting because it prevents the stencil from lifting while you paint.

Offload paint and work in layers

The main rule for how to stencil, is this – offload the paint. Every dip in the paint. Every time.

Offloading means removing the excess paint from the applicator onto a paper towel or rag. The brush should be almost dry to the touch. A little paint goes a long way.
This method is called dry brushing.
The trick is to use a dry brush (or roller) and work in layers. Slowly building up the color will result is a clean and professional finish.

Tap tap tap that paint

Apply paint at the edges of the stencil and work towards the center with a light up-and-down motion  tap, tap, tapping. Avoid using a side-to-side movement or pressing too firm; this will cause bleed.
Naturally, if you are using a foam roller, you won’t use an up-and-down motion. But you still want to start from the edges of the stencil and work towards the middle.

Patience

The finish is exciting. You want to peek and see, but trust me, don’t. Wait a few minutes for the paint to dry, then lift the stencil. Wet paint around the edge of the stencil can bleed or drip when lifting the stencil off the surface. It’s worth the extra few seconds to be patient.

 

Clean the stencil

After you remove the stencil, clean it carefully, and store in the reusable bag to the next time