How to Layer a Crazy Mix of Stencils on a Wall

In February 2018, I went on a three-week painting binge … in India!

Yes. I painted stencils all over three walls, canvasses, carved wood, backplates for sconces. It was the best three weeks ever. Despite having a bad cold, and terrible hacking-coughing 10 feet up on a ladder. But hey, I stenciled to the tippy-top of those 10 foot walls!

Crazy Mix of Stencils on a Wall

India Apartment Guest Room

This was one wall I painted. Imagine this as the background of … SOME DAY … a four-poster daybed of carved wood with fantastical India motifs. Painted light gray. Draped with sheer sarees cascading down the posts. And slathered with kantha quilts and pillows in bright pinks, oranges and blues with just a touch of that mustard color.

Some day this will be a fully-complete guest room. For now, it’s my husband’s office when he’s in Chennai, India. And this wall probably isn’t what he was expecting! But he still has a more professional plain white wall for his GoToMeeting and Skype calls from the desk in the corner.

How to Layer Stencils On a Wall

So … here’s a step by step of how to “build” a stenciled wall like this. I will warn, there’s some measuring to do. A yardstick or measuring tape does the math for you.

First, decide which stencils you want to put where. Which stencils do you want on the bottom, in the middle, on the top? Here was my mock-up. I had an idea in mind, and wanted to see if I still liked it on the wall:

Stencil Layout and Measurements of Backgrounds

Which stencils do you choose? Here was my rule of thumb – I tried to go for contrast in different ways:

  • The stencil at the bottom is “denser” and will be filled with a lot more paint than the “lighter” trellis pattern on the top. So I balanced a denser/heavier pattern with a lighter pattern.
  • The paisley and trellis patterns have curvy lines, so I chose a blockier geographic type stencil for the border in the middle.

So those are some ways you can get contrast. You can also pair big stencil patterns with small patterns. Mix florals with straight-edge geometrics.

Now, decide if you want different color backgrounds behind your stencils. You don’t have to do backgrounds. Different backgrounds add extra dimension, but they also add extra time and difficulty. If you want, you could just paint the stencils, with the wall the same color behind all stencils. But if you want different background colors, measuring is important.

As you see above, I started taping the wall to mark where background colors would be painted. I measured the bottom section first, then I measured for the border in the middle. I drew pencil lines on the wall. You can see these lines just barely in the photo above near the middle border area. You will have to keep moving the blue lines from one side of the pencil lines to the other, and tape over areas you just painted, so be careful. Paint should have enough time to dry so you don’t pull it off with the tape.

How to Choose Colors

Look at other things in the room. This is in India, and eventually this guest bedroom will have a bed covered with bright colors, and walls with bright art:

Guest Bedroom Colors

Guest Bedroom Colors

I decided to play up the pink, and bring the grays and silvers to the top of the wall to give the eye a rest from the color crazy that will eventually fill much of the room. And for contrast to the feminine pinks and curves, I chose the mustardy-turmeric-curry color for the border.

Here’s a view of the rug in the room which also has these colors:

India Guest Bedroom Rug

Here’s the wall taped off and ready for painting the background colors:

Taped for Background Color Painting

Painting Background Colors

I can’t just run to the store for paint in India like I can at home by Chicago. Well, I CAN – there is an Asian Paints within walking distance of our apartment. Asian Paints is like the Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams of India. But, I already had many sample sizes of Asian Paints. Some of them were older. Pro painters would probably groan at what I did. I wanted a light warm pink background on the bottom but I didn’t have pink. So I chose the creamier/ivory Asian Paints latex colors and dumped them all in a container. Then I added drops of Emperor’s Silk Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan until the pink was where I wanted it:

Mixing a Pink Paint

Mixing a Pink Paint

Starting with warm creamy ivories and adding red made a warm dusty pink. I was channeling the Pink City of Jaipur.

I had limited supplies, so I mixed this in a Frog Tape container!

Frog Tape

Asian Paints paint sticks to everything, plus I don’t know where the water drains from our India apartment or the effects of paint going down our drains. So I didn’t clean the container, I just threw it out. There’s a few guys who live near the community garbage bins who make money from pulling garbage and recycling it. They watch for us. They LOVE our garbage!

I wanted an uneven, plaster-y look on the wall. So I spread light amounts of paint on a trowel – honestly, a cheap and BROKEN plastic trowel, the only thing I had available in India – and troweled the latex paint on the wall.

Troweling Latex Paint

The broken trowel got annoying. I had to be careful to not make sharp scratches with it. But, it worked okay. I eventually had to break off the broken part.

Broken Plastic Trowel

I moved the trowel every which way like drunken hashmarks, for an uneven application. It went very fast. I let some splotches of the original white paint show through. Because the trowel applied a light layer, the paint dried fast.

Soon, I was choosing colors for the next step, stenciling:

Which Metallic to Paint

Hmmm, which to choose?

Though it’s hard to tell from the pictures because it looks pink, I chose the orange in the middle. I forget which paint it was now. It’s a metallic that has orange & pink. The stencil is the Rani Paisley Stencil from Royal Design Studio in furniture stencil size. You can also get it bigger in wall stencil size.

Painting Paisley Stencil on Wall

You can see I finished one entire section – background + stencil – before moving up to the next section.

Painting a Border

Unfortunately I did not photograph every step of the border section. It got dark out. This room is lit with two lousy lightbulbs. I could barely see with my eyes wide open.

There was some fancy moving of the tape several times. Remember you have to move the tape or you will have an unpainted area behind the tape! I had to remove some tape and put it over the pink area, then paint the border background. The background is the mustardy-curry color. Then I used a metallic copper color to paint stencils over the curry color. Here’s a close-up:

Stencil Border Detail

Honestly I think I was doing all this at 2 a.m. Because jetlag. And, you can see I did crazy stuff with a skinny border line for extra credit or something, even though there’s no teacher to impress, it’s just myself.

I don’t even know how to explain how to measure to get the curry color background behind the big geometric shapes, and the pink background behind those skinny lines. That really needed to be a video to show you. Just … measure twice, then measure again, and measure again. Test a small area first before painting the whole thing. Test in an area that’s usually behind a door, curtain or cabinet, somewhere not seen so well. You can always paint over it and start over if you measured wrong.

Or sometimes a better idea is to not drive yourself crazy with all this measuring in the first place. Why didn’t I think of that.

At some point it was light out again. And it must have been hot, because the ceiling fan is running.

Now it’s time to paint the top. And climb up the ladder and try not to get hit by the ceiling fan!

Stenciling in India

You can see here, the pink on the bottom relates to the pink in the floor tile, and the dark copper in the border relates to the copper in the ceiling fan. Also on the other end of the room, there are dark copper wall sconces and some curry/tamarind color on the wall. So these colors get repeated around the room.

Mixing More Colors

Now, I wanted a silvery gray background on the top. I stared at the wall for awhile and wondered if I should go bold, really BOLD, and paint bright color on the top too. But honestly, all this color is pushing it for me personally. And it’s feeling more feminine than what I’m comfortable with. So I decided to tame things down just a little bit by painting tones of silvery gray on the top.

I pulled white latex paints with cool undertones from Asian Paints from my stash of sample paints. Then, mixed Aged Nickel Stencil Creme from Royal Design Studio into the Asian Paint whites. The Aged Nickel has shimmer and sheen so it added a metallic glimmer to the latex paint.

Mixing Silvery Gray Paint

I was also hoping I wasn’t compromising the Asian Paints with this mixing, but as I write this, the paint has been on the wall for a year, my husband has visited the apartment recently, and the walls are fine. The colors I added are a very small % of the paint.

Mixing Silvery Gray Paint

Like I did with the pink background, I troweled the silvery gray paint on with the broken plastic trowel. It’s a light layer:

Troweling on Silvery Gray Paint

Then, I stenciled the trellis stencil with straight up Aged Nickel Stencil Creme for a tone on tone look. The stencil is the Raj Indian Trellis Stencil from Royal Design Studio.

Raj Trellis Stencil

Things are getting shadowy again, so another day has gone by.

On the Third Day, She Styles!

Finally finished! We don’t have furniture for this room yet, so I pulled in sofa cushions from the living room and styled them up like a Moroccan floor seating situation. Just pretend there’s chai tea or mint tea.

Styled Up

Even a tassel I found in Marrakech has the colors of this room:

Indian-Moroccan Style

Guest Room in India Apartment

As the sun sets again, the colors deepen and get mysterious. Time to relax and enjoy!

Colors of the Guest Room

See another stenciled wall in this same apartment in India – it’s a “headboard” behind the master bedroom bed. It’s a very different look! Visit the post that shows how I painted this with stencils and metallic paints:

Painted Headboard Wall Finished





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2 Replies to “How to Layer a Crazy Mix of Stencils on a Wall”

  1. Hello from a fellow Chennai blogger! I’m visiting your blog after a long time. And I see what a wonderful work you’ve done with stencils. I have used the wooden stamps so many times on different surfaces but I need to experiment with stencils. This post is certainly a motivating one. Thank you!

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