The Single Most Important Factor

What’s the single most important factor when it comes to stenciling? Knowing if the art supply you’re using will give you a crisp image or not. You’re about to see very loose stenciling all the way to very crisp!

Video password:rainbow

Download the video here. Need help? Check out this page.

Runny or fluid art supplies can create a very painterly look, like what you saw done with watercolors. Using a thicker (like heavy body paint) or drier art supply creates a crisper image.

If you’re willing to “take a 3 year old to the symphony” you can get a crisp look using a runny art supply by using a very small amount and/or a very light touch.

One of the great things about stencils is how many different looks a single stencil can create. As you’re playing, you can mix and match crisp layers and loose painterly layers!

Now it’s your turn to play! Grab a stencil and experiment with your art supplies to create loose abstract looking stenciling, some crisp stenciling and notice which ones you like the most!

I’ll see you in the next video where we’re combining something runny with something not to create a different look as we explore edges.

While you’re creating, I hope you’ll grab your camera and take a picture because we would all love to see it! Share it with us all here in the comments below!

Supplies used in this lesson: I encourage you to substitute whatever you want whenever you want! A word about pricing- if a supply seems bizarrely expensive, substitute with another supply. I’ve found prices, especially on Amazon can really fluctuate.


Course Overview


  1. Lovely play today! Surprised at the depth of colour with my student set. It’s great the way you always stretch my ‘zone of usual’, Carolyn – enjoying both the dabby and draggy, the wet and the dry!

  2. This technique surprised me because I was skeptical that watercolors would work at all! As I was brushing on the colors, they looked too pale so I kept adding layers. And keep the reds and greens and the blues and oranges away from each other. And I had to switch to a flat brush when the point of the round brush I started with kept wanting to creep under the stencil. I was shocked to remove the stencil and find all of those bright colors and pretty good stencil definition. The result is much brighter than the photo. I think next time if I want crisp stencil definition I’d spray the back of the stencil with Pixie Spray to hold it in place better. What a fun practice and technique – thank you!

  3. Loved Experimenting with watercolour, never tried it before as I always thought it wouldn’t work. Like the loose messy look, definitely more play needed to experiment with how much water I like to use. Wanted to upload my photo I’d taken on my mobile but it says it’s file size is too big, its 15mb and I don’t know how to make it smaller, if that’s even possible 😭

    1. I love that you’re noticing how much water you like to get the look you want Elizabeth! One thing you can check is your photo settings on your camera. One example on my phone is the raw photo option. With it on, the files are 25mb and if I don’t have that on it’s 2mb. Hope that helps!

      1. Thank you for the photography tip. I had a look at my settings at it was HD. Have retaken the picture and it’s uploaded! So pleased I can show you. Its not a masterpiece but it was fun!

  4. Great video, Carolyn! And I just happen to have that stencil! 🙂 I plan to USE WHAT I HAVE, but I was looking through your supply links and saw that Inka Gold also comes in tubes. Have you used those before? I imagine they wouldn’t dry out as easily. Just thought I’d ask in case I “get a wild hair” to buy some to try. Thanks! 🙂

  5. Thank you thank you thank you for explaining why my stencils wouldn’t be sharp! It’s not that the paint can’t be watery, but that you have to do it carefully, dabbing carefully… up and down instead of horizontal strokes, and little bits at a time. Yay!

    1. Love the way you’ve used color add do much to the pattern on that stencil Lianne! So glad you’re understanding more of why stencils do what they do! Look forward to seeing more of your play!

  6. I have been playing with stencils and mask for years, never knew why it would leak so much and now I know. Carolyn I’m so happy to be taking this class.

  7. Thank you Carolyn for showing me I can be brave and adventurous with stencils. I’ve always limited myself because I was intimidated by the fear of failure with stencils, but now I feel free to explore and have many oops! This activity was terrific. I incorporated Hi-Flow Acrylics, regular acrylic paint, Inka Gold, and watercolors. The only surprise was how crisp for the most part the Hi-Flow Acrylic paint turned out. However, I really liked the painterly look of the watercolors. Thank you so much for stretching me Carolyn!

    1. So happy you’re having such fun with your stencils Sabrina! I love all the variation in your play! The areas of soft edges contrasting with the crisper ones- and wild that the Hi Flow were crisp!

  8. Hi Carolyn and everyone else! Carolyn, I appreciated your subversion of the usual mantra about stenciling: Dry! Dry! Dry! I enjoyed dabbing acrylic ink through my stencil with an edge of a piece of make-up foam. I didn’t like the result, though, so I messed around with the page, adding transparent inks, until it looked better to me. (See image on the right.)
    I usually like to make backgrounds by combining inks on two or three edges of make-up foam and smushing the colors together on the page. (See image on the left.)
    The image on the bottom is made with my favorite stenciling technique: Versacolor stamp ink applied with Yoseng 8 Finger Ink Blending Brush (available at Amazon). These little brushes are so much easier to use than stencil brushes! With the slightly moist Versacolor ink, there’s no pouncing needed. You just dab some color onto the brush, then smooth it onto the stencil. Easy and fast! (I don’t know, though, if another kind of stamp ink would work as well.)
    Best place to get the Versacolor inks is rubberstamps. net.

    1. There is such fun in using wet things in stencils Barbara! And when you play with wet and dry things, you can get so many different looks with one stencil! Thanks for sharing your play – it’s fantastic that you know what you like and don’t like when you’re playing!

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