How to Use a Vinyl Stencil on Barnwood or Reclaimed Wood

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Today’s post is a follow up to my post Why Does Paint Bleed when Using a Vinyl Stencil? In that post, I showed you how to use a vinyl stencil to get a perfect design every time. The takeaway from that was sand the surface well and use tiny amounts of paint. After posting that article, I got a lot of reader questions about how to stencil on rough wood such as barnwood, pallet wood, or reclaimed wood. Today, let’s tackle that.

Why Is it Difficult to Stencil on Rough Wood?

Most crafters who use barnwood or reclaimed wood want to save the texture of the wood, and don’t want to sand it. The uneven surface makes it difficult to get a good seal of the stencil and paint will bleed everywhere. I’ve seen some crafters use Mod Podge over the whole board before applying the stencil, but that discolors the wood and leaves a shiny finish over the wood.

Supplies Needed

How to Stencil on Rough Wood

  1. Cut your vinyl stencil using your Silhouette Cameo or Cricut. Weed the design and apply transfer tape. I prefer to use the hinge method to apply the vinyl designs. First, align the design and tape across the center.How to Use a Vinyl Stencil on Barnwood or Reclaimed Wood with your Silhouette Cameo or Cricut - by
    Next, remove the paper backing from the left side of the design and apply it to the wood.How to Use a Vinyl Stencil on Barnwood or Reclaimed Wood with your Silhouette Cameo or Cricut - by
    Remove the painter’s tape and the paper backing from the right side of the wood and apply it.How to Use a Vinyl Stencil on Barnwood or Reclaimed Wood with your Silhouette Cameo or Cricut - by
    Last, remove the transfer tape.How to Use a Vinyl Stencil on Barnwood or Reclaimed Wood with your Silhouette Cameo or Cricut - by
    If you look close, you’ll notice that my vinyl stencil doesn’t stick well to my wood. How to Use a Vinyl Stencil on Barnwood or Reclaimed Wood with your Silhouette Cameo or Cricut - by
    You can see in this picture that if I painted this, it would run under the stencil and make a huge mess. Due to the uneven wood texture, the vinyl simply doesn’t stick well.How to Use a Vinyl Stencil on Barnwood or Reclaimed Wood with your Silhouette Cameo or Cricut - by
  2. My solution is to apply a coat of Mod Podge to the area I want to paint. (Mod Podge is basically watered down glue. If you don’t have some on hand, make your own with Elmer’s Glue and water.) The Mod Podge glues the stencil in place and seals the edges so the paint won’t bleed. Apply Mod Podge with a foam brush and allow it to dry. How to Use a Vinyl Stencil on Barnwood or Reclaimed Wood with your Silhouette Cameo or Cricut - by
  3. After the Mod Podge dries, apply paint with a foam brush. Remember to use a tiny amount of paint! How to Use a Vinyl Stencil on Barnwood or Reclaimed Wood with your Silhouette Cameo or Cricut - by
  4. Peel the stencil before the paint is dry. How to Use a Vinyl Stencil on Barnwood or Reclaimed Wood with your Silhouette Cameo or Cricut - by

To finish up your sign, add hanging hardware to the back. Don’t have a source for barnwood? Did you know you can order it on Etsy? Click here.

Love this tutorial? Save it to Pinterest:

How to Use a Vinyl Stencil on Barnwood or Reclaimed Wood with your Silhouette Cameo or Cricut - by

84 thoughts on “How to Use a Vinyl Stencil on Barnwood or Reclaimed Wood”

  1. I’ve just started making signs using vinyl stencils that I cut with my Cricut. Barn wood is by far the hardest wood to work with because of the uneven surface, so I was excited to try the modge podge. I must have done something wrong because when I tried to remove the stencil the modge podge stuck to the stencil and pulled off parts of the paint with it. Have you ever had this problem? I really wanted this to work.

  2. OH thank you. I live on the beach and collect all kinds of driftwood planks to use for signs and JUST ordered a cricut cutter, excited to try this!!

      1. Hi Christine, I have a Cricut and I too downloaded this font (love it!). How do you get the long tail before the man name and heart in the middle and then the long tail on the girl name? I’m lost. Thanks for your time!!

        1. Hi Kristi! There should be instructions in the zip file you downloaded, or Type * (asterisk) for the heart. Type | (vertical bar) for the solid heart doodle. Type _ (underscore) for the open heart doodle. Type [ ] (brackets) for the swirls. Hope that helps!

  3. I love this method and have used it several times already. However, I tried using it on a painted wood surface and my painted, stenciled letters (and the modge podge) peeled away from the wood as I removed the vinyl paper. Any suggestions on how to use this method on a painted wood surface?

  4. How do you take an image from the library and turn it into a stencil? I have a quote and image I want to put on wood. Vinyl doesn’t stick (or at least not “forever”), so I thought I could create a stencil. While some images lend themselves well to this, letters do not (you lose the interior “fill” pieces in letters that have circles, loops, etc.). I saw one tutorial that used the knife tool to cut and thereby connect the interior pieces, but I’m not sure that’s the look I want. Can you help?

    1. Correct, you would point edit the fonts to eliminate the center pieces. You could also use adhesive vinyl and just transfer the small bits with your design using transfer paper.

  5. this was a very informative tutorial. I just got my cricut explorer air 2 as a gift from my hubby. Can’t wait to try your method . I decorated a few planter containers with vinyl yesterday for herbs and can’t wait to make signs for our home and friends ! Thank you so much

  6. This is exactly info that I was looking for….just learning Cricut. Newbie question…after ithe paint dries, do you treat with anything?
    Thank you!

  7. If you have a “Habitat for Humanity” ReStore – check there for old wood fence boards! I found a great deal! My husband made some great bird houses and I stenciled “Home Tweet Home” on the tall back board!

  8. Finally!!!!! I’ve done several signs but have struggled to get the crisp lines! Tried it last night and voila! Crisp lines! Thank you Thank you Thank you!

  9. I just found this tip about LITERALLY 5 minutes too late…..
    I just painted a door mat….I used the vinyl (631) as a stencil, and even thought to use something to help it stick since the mat was ribbed…..I actually had some stencil adhesive and thought it may do the trick…NOT sure why I didn’t try the go to for everything…MOD PODGE! OH WELL….I know it didn’t work well…will know for sure how bad when it dries….but I only paid a dollar for the mat at dollar tree….will try it again with the mod podge 🙂 Thanks for the tip!

  10. Hello! My issue is that I cannot get the vinyl stencil to stick to the wood at all. I’ve sanded it a bit, but no matter how much I try to press the stencil on over the transfer tape, the stencil never sticks to it…I don’t want to get rid of the beauty of the wood, but I also can’t make signs unless I can get the stencil to stay on the wood! Help! haha

  11. I want to make sure I’m understanding this correctly. When you are painting, are you actually painting onto the mod podge that you used to glue down the stencil?

  12. Do you use a certain kind of pait for your lettering? I’m also new to vinyl… Do you have any good tutorials on putting your design on transfer tape..?

    1. You can use wall paint, chalk paint, acrylic paint, and more – it just depends on what type of “look” you are wanting. No, I don’t have tutorials for applying transfer tape, but I’m sure you can find several on YouTube.

  13. I tried this technique (on a painted surface) and it resulted in my stenciled on paint and mod lodge all coming up with my stencil. ????
    Any suggestions?

  14. My problem with using vinyl is every time I go to peel it off the wood, it leaves a sticky residue. Do you know how to prevent this and/or how to get the residue off without ruining my sign?

  15. I have had my Cricut for a year now…just about all that everyone discussed has happened to me! I watch a lot of You Tube videos and read blogs like this….I have one thing to add….I do a lot of rustic signs on pallet and barn wood one technique I saw on you tube has been my saving grace and that was once your stencil is on rough wood…use poly acrylic (I believe it’s Rustoleum and I got it at Walmart)in all open spaces, anywhere it could potentially bleed…it’s clear and dries seals the vinyl and if there are any places it will bleed it will bleed clear! After it dries I do take a 150 grit sandpaper and just scuff the areas I used the poly on…it’s an extra step but I feel it helps the paint stay better…..oh and one more thing if you want to avoid the gooey feel on your board be sure not to leave your vinyl on longer then you have to…the longer you leave it on the more it creates that gooey feel all over your board! Good luck to all and thank you Christine for your awesome help!

    1. Thanks for sharing! I choose to not use poly on my rough wood because it takes away from the rough wood characteristic. Although, I do know that this doesn’t matter as much to some crafters.

  16. I am new to using a Cricut. Mine is an older model with a cartridge and an overlay. I have researched and watched videos but I am still confused on a few things. How do I get the really cool fonts? I know you said download on computer but how does that help with my Cricut? Is it because I have a Cricut that is outdated? I have used mine for a few small projects but I have never really been happy with the fonts which are the ones on my cartridge. Any suggestio , tips, hints or ideas would be greatly appreciated ????

    1. Hi Tammy! With older models Cricuts like yours, you are limited to the fonts on the cartridge. If you can swing it, Cricuts have come a long way in the recent years. I’d highly recommend upgrading yours. (I’m a former cartridge and overlay user, too!)

  17. I’ve really struggled with this bleeding issue on barnwood. I’ve tried Modge Podge, but it hasn’t worked very well for me. What about using a spray paint to prevent bleeding under the vinyl??? Have you tried that before?

  18. Will the paint peel off because of the glue underneath it? I have some antique barn wood and a stencil that I want to use but have been afraid to start the project. I’m excited to see this method but just wonder if the glue where it was painted will peel. Also, I don’t have a vinyl stencil but rather a plastic stencil. So, I’d have to figure out how to anchor that down better. Any advice? Thanks.

    1. No, the paint won’t peel off from the glue underneath. I have two suggestions you could try: 1) Repositionable tack for stencils or 2) Using spray paint. Spray paint is great for plastic stencils, just use light coats. Best of luck!

  19. I have used contact paper to make stencils. On wood signs I have had the problem of it not sticking down and had some bleeding, should I use Mod Podge to get it to stick down good? Also use contact paper on canvas and had some bleeding on it also. Contact paper is cheaper to use than vinyl.
    Have had my cricut for 3 years but my son was the one that always used it.
    Now I am trying to teach myself.

  20. I know this is an old post, but hoping someone will see this.
    I make wood American flags. I buy my myler stencils from other companies. They range in thickness from 5mil to 14 mil thick. I always have problems with some bleed. I follow the suggestions on using a pouncer brush, of sponge, or a small sponge roller. Very little paint on brush or roller, and apply 2-3 light coats.
    Most of the time, I leave my wood unsanded(1 x 2’s from lowes or HD). That helps maintain the rustic look. Then I lightly burn wood with a torch to make it look older. Then I stain (red, white, blue)before assembly
    I use plywood for the union, so most of the time, it’s smoother then the stripes. I have fewer problems with bleed here.
    I want to use an adhesive, with my stencil, but afraid it may ruin the wood if I inadvertently, leave the adhesive on too long. I’ve searched for bleed problems with mylar stencils, but everything refers to vinyl stencils.
    Any suggestions working with mylar stencils to avoid bleeding?
    Thank you

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