Make Your Mark

from Paint Décor
Perk up your kitchen designs, or any other room, with a decorative painting idea: letter stencils.

The perfect treatment for making a statement of style and trendy design,
painted monograms can embellish nearly any space — dressers, planters, pillows, and more — to create one-of-a-kind, personalized decor.

The myriad monogram options available let you accomplish a custom look in no time. “You don’t have to be a designer to achieve something different,” artist Vicki Nail says. She mixes computer-generated stylized letters (printed from a basic word processing program) with Internet-purchased stencil motifs, such as a leaf-and-fan design, a damask border, and a corner medallion.

“You can buy stencil material and cut your own stencils if you feel competent,” she says, but some stencil suppliers will custom-cut artwork you provide. Or you can simply select ready-made fonts, indicate dimensions, and they’ll supply a stencil. Choose transparent polyester film or vinyl stencil material, depending on the nature of the surface to be monogrammed and how many times the stencil will be reused. Cost depends on size, design complexity, and ready- versus custom-made orders.

In either case, Nail says “test, test, test” any surface before stenciling. Adhesive-backed vinyl stencils work well on wood and fabric, adhering readily for beautiful, crisp edges. Nail uses low-tack spray adhesive on the backs of transparent polyester stencils to temporarily affix them to the surface. Rubber cement thinner or stencil cleaner helps remove the adhesive during cleanup.

“You can monogram any surface that the stencil will wrap around,” Nail says, although hard, flat surfaces are easiest. For more flexible curved areas, she says, “support the material from behind.” Also remember to trim the stencil so it lies flat on the surface you’re monogramming. Center as you would any other design by matching surface and stencil center points, or by measuring equal margins from top to bottom and left to right.

There are no set rules for the paint, except that it should coordinate with the room’s decor. Nail uses crafts paints, purchased at crafts stores, but water-base house paints or textiles paints work equally well. For fabrics, if the surface is washable, mix textile medium into the paint according to the manufacturer’s directions, or use special fabrics paints to extend wearability.

After you’ve prepared the surface, choose a stencil brush: The thinner the area you have to paint, the smaller diameter brush you’ll use. Dip the brush into a dab of paint, pat it on a paper towel until almost dry, then begin pouncing in an up-and-down motion, being careful not to push the brush under the edge of the stencil. “Keep going over it to get the intensity you want,” Nail says, explaining that the paint looks darker after the stencil is removed. Test your technique on a sample board before painting the actual surface.

Once you find convenient stencil resources, you’ll appreciate the magic of monogramming. Experiment with shading and color, and embellish with trims such as fringe, buttons, ribbon, or rickrack. Adding initials to decorative accessories, furniture, walls, and virtually any decor accent you can imagine makes the items more meaningful.

Letter Perfect
The Internet is an excellent and convenient resource for finding ideas, stencils, and supplies. We like Stencil Planet.

Stencil Planet can make a stencil from almost any artwork you provide. Simply follow the step-by-step instructions at the Web site, and you’ll receive custom-cut stencils within days. Choose your design from the selection provided or submit your own font file. A child’s desk might call for the Fun Stuff font, a dining room chair might command Edwardian Script, and a whimsical studio shelf might show well in Curlz type. Also explore borders, scrollwork, medallions, and other stenciled designs that could further embellish your monogram. Or create letters by hand or print stylized fonts from your computer.

To determine the stencil layout, you need to know the width and height of your surface. Your custom-cut stencil will be sized proportionately.

Stencils may be ordered in either vinyl or transparent polyester film. Choose the one that will work best based on the surface you intend to monogram.

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