Friday, September 26, 2014

How to stencil a star-spangled wall

I'm back with another finished DIY project, one of my favorites thus far: a black-and-gold, star-spangled feature wall.

I've had some requests for a little tutorial, so here you go, complete with before and after.

The before was a boring, blank, "half-wall" that you see right when you walk in the front door.

It's a total snooze-fest, especially in contrast to the funky decor on the other side of the room:

And come on, with this dapper dude selling the decor? Perfection.

I've had my eye on some bold graphic wall treatments for a while, toying with a stark black-and-white geometric pattern. I played around with some ideas using Photoshop, but my kind and tactful Facebook friends unanimously voted them down, saying (more or less) that it was an assault on the eyeballs.

I still love them, but ... point taken. Then I started seeing a lot of eight-point metallic stars in home decor, and my wheels started turning. I set out to stencil them on my very own living room wall.

It was quite the project, seeing as how I had to work everything in between my kids' naps, but it was a project so worth doing. Here's how to get the job done, step by step.

1. Prime. Since I wanted a black wall, I knew the surface beneath had to be completely smooth without any color variations. I used a tinted primer in a deep shade of plum so nothing would show.

2. Paint. To make the metallic stars pop, I wanted a matte black paint. I used chalkboard paint for that effect, and it worked beautifully. Since I already had a pint of black semi-gloss, I painted it over the primer and under the chalkboard to be sure everything would turn out super dark and smooth. This step was probably unnecessary, since the chalkboard paint covered everything so nicely.

3. Measure. With a repeating pattern, there is no room for error. Much to my chagrin, I had to face my old nemesis: math. I measured the wall, horizontally and vertically, then figured out how to evenly divide the wall. In this case, it turned out to be every 9 inches, again both horizontally and vertically. Next I got out a long ruler with a level and marked everything out with chalk — convenient, seeing as how I used chalkboard paint. I first drew vertical lines, then made little marks every 9 inches where the stars would go.

4. Test. I needed a visual cue to let me know that I was on the right track, since I couldn't judge the final product by tic marks alone. I found a graphic of an 8-point star online, printed several and cut them out, then taped them to the wall. It worked beautifully, so I set to work.

5. Stencil. I bought thick sheets of vellum at the craft store, conveniently located with all the other stenciling materials. I took one of my star cutouts and traced the design on a sheet, then cut it out using an X-acto knife. Using painter's tape, I taped it to the wall at my markings.

Now here's the tricky part: I had intended to use metallic craft paint because it's cheaper and has a beautiful shiny finish. Sadly, it wouldn't stick to the chalkboard paint. Latex and latex do not mix, and it wiped right off. The professional way to do this is to go to a specialty paint store and have them custom make metallic paint, but with lots of little kids always around, I had no time for that nonsense. So I went the ghetto way: I dug up some spray paint from the garage, sprayed a few squirts into a paper cup, and used a sponge brush to apply it to the wall.

The end result was gorgeous, but the process was a huge pain in the butt. I had to pop outside each time I filled the cup — which was frequently, because I could only put a few sprays in at a time. I got anywhere from 2-5 stars with 5-8 sprays. Then I'd move the stencil and back out I'd go, spray in the cup, and run back in and paint before it dried. In hindsight it would have taken me less time to drag the kids to Sherwin-Williams, but nevertheless, the job got done.

After the paint dried, I wiped the wall down one final time to remove the chalk, and finito!

I can't tell you how much I love this wall. I go in and stare at it several times a day. It just has a feeling to it, and you get that right when you walk into my home. This look probably isn't for everyone, but if you are looking to go bold, you can't go wrong with dark colors and bright metallics.

In the end it was completely worth the time, and the aggravation was only slight. Without the distractions of children and other duties, you could totally knock this out in a weekend. If you primed Friday night and painted Saturday morning, you could be stenciling by Saturday night and done by Sunday. And totally happy with it until the end of time ... or until you get bored and decide to start all over again.