Stencil Size & Color

Chances are you can make almost any design work for your particular needs. Larger wall spaces, darker rooms and higher ceilings allow the use of stronger designs and coloring. Smaller panels or walls, lighter rooms and lower ceilings generally do better with smaller or simpler designs and softer hues.

Breaking the stencil designs into five categories may help with your decision regarding the size of the pattern, depending on whether you plan to use the application on table linens, walls or some other creative endeavor.

Petite Stencils ~ Although these designs average only one to two inches in height, they can be used in a variety of ways. Table runners and other linens may first come to mind, but these designs could have originally been used for accenting frames, women’s accessories and other smaller decorative items. You may also consider this size for panel work or to enhance crown molding.

Small Stencils ~ Running between two to four inches, this group of designs work well in areas where a smaller design is needed. Suitable for stenciling window curtains and larger table linens, these designs also work well for creating ceiling panels. Another excellent use for this size of stencil is to accent crown molding or run it continuously around a room with lower ceilings.

Medium Stencils ~ The most versatile size of stencils, these designs range from around four to eight inches and work as well for eight-foot ceilings and larger curtains, as they do for filling smaller frieze areas. Another good option is to run them above or below picture rails in bedrooms, or any room where the rails are the only wood treatment on the walls.

Large Stencils ~ Larger rooms, especially ones with high ceilings, are perfect environments for bigger designs, which would be anything over nine inches in height. Portieres, either in conjunction with – or as stand alone applications – are also beautiful ways to bring these designs to life. If one of these designs is desired and you have a small room in mind, consider stenciling one dominant wall or applying more muted and softer colors.

Spot & Panel Stencils ~ Spot stencils are just what they sound like, a spot of design rather than a repeating border. Panel Stencils are designed to fit in areas like the wood trimmed panels in a Bungalow dining room. They are usually quite easy to adjust to any desired length.

For more handy tips that can be used to help you choose colors that go well together see the fun section “Color Your World” pages 62-71 of our book, Stenciling the Arts & Crafts Home.

The first color you will have to decide on will be the color of your wall. Don’t just assume white, off-white or some pale tint of color will be the best option. Instead, ask yourself a few questions. What size is the room? What time of the day does this room get the most use and who will be using it? Consider the direction the room faces and will the amount of natural light it receives make a difference? Here are a few guidelines you can follow, but if you really want a periwinkle bathroom, you can have one, you just may alter how much the periwinkle dominates the room by how you answer these simple questions.

Color can also affect the appearance of a room in others ways. For example an 11-foot high ceiling can handle a darker color that gives it the illusion of being not quite as high, but you probably won’t want to use that same dark color on a low ceiling in a finished basement. I have a odd little bathroom in my office that has white painted wainscot paneling to about 4.5 ft and 11 ft ceilings. It is like a shoebox on end. To bring the ceiling down, the walls above the wainscot and the ceiling are painted the same color, which is darker than the white wainscot. To bring it even lower, a tall stencil design is painted right above the wainscot. All of this fools the eye, keeping it from being drawn endlessly upward. Had I run a border around the top of the wall, it would have only emphasized the disproportional height and more likely than not, gotten lost in the process.

Here’s an old interior designer trick. Consider working off the colors from something that will be in the room, say the drapery or upholstery fabrics, or a collection of pottery. It is much easier to match the paint for your wall to an item than to find the perfect item to match your unusual shade of magenta. Painting the walls the same as the background of some fabric and incorporating the other fabric colors into a stencil and other decorative items in the room works wonderfully. It’s a simple way to pick out a color scheme.

Color wheels can be a helpful guide to selecting color combinations. Sometimes colors that you would not believe could possibly work together can produce wonderful results. If you are uncertain about your combination, buy and extra color or two and play with the various colors on paper until you get the combination you love. Just keep in mind that unless you are going with a monochromatic scheme, your colors will look best if they are in the same value range.

By now, you likely have all kinds of ideas spinning around in your head and you are even more confused about picking out colors than when we started. Take a hike, literally. The whole idea surrounding the decorative arts of the Arts and Crafts Movement was to incorporate the soothing effects of nature into the home. Go visit Mother Nature and observe her in a whole new way. Check out the trees, the rocks, and the water. What colors dominate the landscape? When you start paying attention to the colors that surround you, you’ll be surprised how talented that old girl is.

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