How to Make Letter Stencils with Flawless Precision

Using letter stencils help make precise signage or furniture painting. It also saves time as you do not need to carefully and meticulously apply paint. The question is how to accurately make stencils that allow clean lines and curves as well as prevent the dreaded bleed-through.

Paint bleeding through is a common problem in painting furniture or signages. This results in unsightly discoloration on the surface of your wood furniture.

how to make letter stencils

Usually, wood tannins cause this problem and bleed through the wood after weeks of applying the topcoat. They can be particularly difficult to block, and they can seep through even multiple coats of paint or primer.

Often, these yellow stains can ruin the aesthetic appearance of your wood furniture, especially if you have painted them light. But, there are several ways to prevent bleed-through.



How to Prevent Bleed Through

The dreaded bleed through happens when stains or tannins from wood or other surfaces seep through layers of paint or primer. Using a stain-blocking primer is crucial to prevent bleed-through.

Know Your Furniture

Most typical woods release natural oils and pigments when cut or sanded, which causes bleed-through. Other woods such as knotty pine, cherry mahogany, newer softwoods bleed more than others. Moreover, bleed through differs from one type to another

For example, padauk has a orange-red color, like a faint fire. It darkens to rich brown in the long run. This wood can cross contaminate other woods with its oil. With padauk, you can’t prevent bleed through with shellac primer but a latex- based primer.

Another type is Bloodwood. As its name suggests, it has a deep red or brown sap. The sap of the Bloodwood tree is often compared to human blood due to its color and consistency.

This unique characteristic has made Bloodwood a popular choice for decorative woodworking projects. You can block the tannin on this wood if you use water-based or gyprock primer. 

Purpleheart Wood is another type of wood that is known to bleed. When freshly cut, the wood quickly darkens to a vibrant purple color upon exposure to air.

It is also very oily, and its oil content can seep out and stain other woods when used in combination with lighter woods. However, there are ways to prevent Purpleheart from bleeding onto other woods, such as wiping the wood with acetone before applying a finish.

So, yes, depending on the wood, you will need to know the type of wood used. With this information at hand, you can choose the right primer.


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Choose the Right Primer

First, you need to choose the right stain-blocking primer. There are different types of primer available. One, shellac-based primers, such as Zinsser shellac-based primer, are considered the best stain-blocking primers. This particular shellac primer can completely prevent stains or tannins from seeping through.

Two, oil-based primers is also effective at blocking tannin bleed. You can use it on top of already painted antique pieces. But, an oil based primer takes longer time to dry than shellac-based primers. This might make them less convenient to use than shellac.

Apply Primer

Proper application techniques are also essential to achieving maximum results. The first thing you do is the prep stage your furniture with the help of scuff sand. Then apply a BIN Shellac Based Primer or dewaxed.

How many coats should you do? 1-2 coats of your chosen primer. Let it dry completely. It is also important to test for stain bleed-through by applying the topcoat paint to a small section after the primer is dry. Check the manufacturer's instructions on how long should you wait before applying paint.

Now, that you learned how to prevent bleeding through your wood items or furniture, it’s time to make your stencils out of the best materials.

Overview: Letter Stencils and Their Uses

Artists, designers, and draftsmen use letter stencils to add consistent and precise lettering to their work such as signage, posters, or other graphic design projects.

When using letter stencils in art and design, it is important to check the outcome by doing some testing. Why? Because some stencils have two layers for proper alignment.

stencil on wood

In industrial and commercial settings, letter stencils are used to label products, shipping containers, and vehicles. Magnetic stencils are also available, which work well for both industrial and home applications.

In commercial settings, computerized stencil cutting systems are used to cut stencils ranging from 1/4" text to 24" text or more. The key advantage of using stencils in is its reusability, saving time and money.

In DIY crafting, the purpose is the same but it’s much simpler. You can use three kinds of stencil to create letterings for your projects.

Vinyl Stencil

removable vinyl

Craft vinyl has become a popular choice for creating letter stencils due to its many advantages. One is the precision and consistency in lettering.

Vinyl stencils allow for crisp lines and clean edges, making them ideal for creating professional-looking designs. Additionally, vinyl stencils are highly customizable, allowing you to create and replicate unique fonts and designs.

Another advantage is its cost-effectiveness. Furthermore, vinyl stencils are durable.

While craft vinyl has many advantages for creating letter stencils, the main disadvantage is that you cannot reuse the stencil. Other than that, using removable stencils is a good option as your vinyl stencil is fixed firmly in place which is a wonderful thing as it will help prevent bleed through.

stencil on wood

Metal Stencils

Metal letter stencils, particularly those made of aluminum or stainless steel, are durable and last longer than any other stencils. Additionally, you can easily clean metal stencils, which helps to prolong their lifespan.

With metal stencils, you can create clean and precise lines. This is important if you want a professional and polished look. But, one drawback is the initial cost of purchasing the stencil itself. These stencil are more expensive than other types of stencils. Moreover, metal stencils are heavier and more difficult to handle than other materials, such as plastic or paper.

Another potential issue is the limited flexibility of metal stencils. It may not be suitable for certain design projects.

Plastic Letter Stencil

One key advantage of using a plastic stencil is its reusability. You can use the stencil multiple times to produce the same letters or design rapidly. This makes them ideal for bulk printing of your design.

plastic stencil

Plastic letter stencils are also known for their ease of use and durability. They are lightweight. They are pliable and you can use them on curved or flat surfaces. This makes them suitable for a variety of projects. Moreover, you can easily clean plastic stencils with soap and water, making them a practical and long-lasting option.

Compared to metal stencils, plastic stencils are more affordable. However, one disadvantage of using plastic stencils is that they can get messy if not used carefully.

Another alternative is a paper stencil. But this is a one-time use. You should use thick paper to prevent the paint from seeping through the paper.

Tips on Using Letter Stencils

Keeping letter stencils clean is essential for their longevity and effectiveness. Proper cleaning techniques can help to remove any excess paint and debris from the stencil. One technique is to pre-soak the stencil with a commercial water solution before cleaning it with a brush or sponge.

Another technique involves using liquid soap and paper towels to clean the surface of the stencil before and after use. It is important to wipe down the stencil after every use and let it dry thoroughly before storing it again.

Choosing the right material for letter stencils is another important factor in their durability. Mylar is a popular material for stencils because it is durable, pliable, and easy to clean.

You can also use vinyl and plastic depending on the application. Choose stencils that are made of durable materials to ensure that they can withstand repeated use and cleaning.

Proper storage and handling of letter stencils can also contribute to their longevity. Store the materials for making letter stencils in a dry, cool place to prevent warping and cracking.

Before using stencils, it is important to clean the surface thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris that could affect the outcome of the project.

How to Make Stencils Like a Pro

When making letter stencils, choosing the right material is crucial. The material used will depend on the surface on which the stencil will be used and the type of paint that will be applied. Polyethylene stencils are a popular choice as they can be easily removed after painting, without damaging the surface.

The next step is to print or draw the letters for the stencil. There are various options for printing or drawing letters. You can use stenciling software or freehand drawing.

This step is necessary if you’re using paper or a plastic film. But if you’re using vinyl, you can skip the printing or drawing and proceed with cutting the stencil if you have a cutter machine.

Cutting out the letters is the final step in making letter stencils. A cutter machine is a fastest and easiest way but you can also use a craft knife.

how to make letter stencils


Can you use water-based primers?

Yes, they can block bleed-through. But they may not be as effective as other primers are, especially if your wood furniture is located in a place where moisture is ever present such as a kitchen.

Does wood color affect your furniture?

In a way yes. Through the color of the wood, some can recognize if it’s prone to bleed through. Plus, bleed-through is more visible on light colored wood than on a dark color.

How do you achieve an aged look on furniture?

You can use sandpaper or steel wool to distress. Paint it then use sandpaper again until you achieve the look you want. For a finished aged look, you can opt to use stain. 

So, what’s the best primer for your next project?

It depends on the type of wood. Some woods are compatible with water-based primer while others are better off with a shellac primer.

What’s the best letter template for your furniture?

If you’re just doing one project at a time, use a vinyl stencil for a more practical approach to painting your furniture with graphics and phrases. But, if you’re doing it for business, invest in a sturdier and more long-lasting letter template.

Can you use HTV on furniture?

Yes, you can use HTV or iron-on. But to complete the design, you’ll need either a mini heatpress or heat gun for adhering the vinyl.


Most beginner and experiencer paints struggle with bleed-through that can affect an entire piece of furniture. Remember, wood bleed-through happens due to natural causes. To solve this problem, use an excellent stain-blocking primer that is compatible with virtually anything.

Prep work is also essential in blocking stains or bleeding through. A first coat or two of primer may not be enough especially for wood projects with severe discoloration. We hope that our tips and tutorial can help you with your next project in furniture painting.

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