Drywall Stenciling

Add decorative accents to walls and ceilings with stencils and medallions.


The easy decorative process shown here is sometimes called plaster stenciling, but that name is not completely accurate because it's actually accomplished with drywall compound.

Some stencils are a single-layer design; others require multiple applications to achieve full effect. Line up succeeding layers by using the registration holes in the edges of the stencils.

If you don't want to change the design's color from the white of the drywall compound, you can protect it from dirt by spraying or brushing on a coat or two of shellac. This clear finish is compatible with most wall finishes and should not cause a problem when you want to repaint your wall in the future.

You can also color drywall compound before application. Look for bottles of universal tints at the paint store that are compatible with water-base products. The color will probably lighten significantly when the compound dries, so experiment until you get the shade you want.


The project time depends upon the amount of area to be covered; multiple-layer designs require at least a day between applications

Precut stencils, level, tape measure, drywall knife

Using a level, aligning registration marks, spreading drywall compound

Wall is completed and painted.

All-purpose joint compound, masking tape

Step 1

Tape the stencil to your wall, using a level to make certain that it's either level or plumb. If you're using a design that requires several applications, put a pencil point through the punched holes on the stencil's edge to draw registration circles onto the wall.

Step 2

Keeping the stencil flat, fill the recessed areas of the stencil with all-purpose joint compound applied with a drywall knife. For the crispest results, scrape the stencil clean with your knife, leaving the compound only in the open areas.

Step 3

Gently peel back the stencil to reveal the design. Allow plenty of time for the application to dry thoroughly before adding the next layer. If you make a mistake, simply scrape the wet compound off the wall and try again.

Step 4

Register the second stencil by matching the holes along its edge to the circles you drew on the wall in Step 1, then tape it in place. Repeat the process of filling the stencil with drywall compound and wiping it clean.

Step 5

Peel back the stencil to reveal the completed design. After it dries, you can prime and paint it, if desired. A dry-brush painting technique is especially effective in accentuating the plaster design.

Pouring Medallions: Step 1

Mix the plaster according to directions on the label, and place the mold on a level surface. A quick spritz of cooking spray serves as a mold release. Pour in the plaster, and smack your fist on the table next to the mold to dislodge air bubbles on the mold's surface. (The bubbles would produce pits that ruin the surface of your casting.) Using a paint stick and a sawing motion, screed the back of the mold to remove excess plaster.

Pouring Medallions: Step 2

When the plaster is dry, gently flex the rubber mold to remove the castings. Scrape the edges of the casting with a utility knife blade to remove thin pieces of plaster that extend past the edges of the design. If you need to sand an edge, choose drywall screen because it won't clog as easily as regular abrasives. Air-dry the medallion for 48 hours, then attach it to your walls or ceiling with joint compound or construction adhesive.

Comments (3)
paula vogel wrote:

Looks much easier than I have done before. Could do this for cloth, like curtains.

4/22/2016 09:45:19 PM Report Abuse
wrightt58585 wrote:

Great instructions, thank you!

12/19/2010 09:24:58 AM Report Abuse
peggyridgeway wrote:

Love this! We will try this with our stencils at http://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtisticStencils

9/28/2010 03:26:20 PM Report Abuse
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