Stenciling With Painstiks

by Karin McElvein

I had often worked with stencils using Gladys Grace’s stencils and paints. One day I wanted to do a stencil postcard and discovered the colors that I wanted to use were dried up. I already had purchased paintstiks, but had only used them for rubbing a design on fabric. A eureka moment occurred as I said to myself, let’s use the paint sticks. They actually were easier to work with than the paints!

In order to do my project, I used Shelly Stokes’s book Paintstiks on Fabric published by Cedar Canyon Textiles. I also went to Laura Murray Designs where she has a free set of instructions using paintstiks.

All Cedar Canyon products are now marketed in retail stores or at You can also go to Cedar Canyon Textiles’ retail locator to locate a store near you that carries the supplies.

Paintstiks and rubbing plates may also be purchased at Dick Blick.

Paintstiks: Paintstiks are oil based paint. They will skin over when not in use, thus the paint seems to dry out. To use, you must remove the skin. This can be done by pinching it with a paper towel or using a small knife to peel it away. Do not remove any more than you need to.

Fabric: To make the postcard I used a very smooth, tight woven cotton fabric made by Springmaid that I had purchased for printing photographs on fabric, but for this project I am going to try to use a solid pink cotton quilting fabric. I need to make a baby quilt for my nephew so I can use this block as the center.

Brushes: I use regular stencil brushes and use a different one for each color. After removing the skin on the paintstik, I either use the brush directly on the stick, or rub the paint on to a piece of parchment paper which I use as a palette. If you want a lighter color you need to mix the colored paintstik with a blender stik. To get a light pastel rub the blender stik on your palette and add the darker color to it by rubbing a little in and then mixing it with your brush.

Stencils: Gladys Grace stencils are nice because they are layered so you can cover up part of it while stenciling another part. But any stencil can be used. You can make a simple stencil using freezer paper. You can also create a landscape using torn freezer paper. After I finish the stencil I will make a border using this technique.


1. I taped the fabric to steady in on a piece of freezer paper to protect the surface. I then taped the stencil to the fabric to keep it steady. I added some iridescent gold paint by taking the stencil brush and rubbing it directly onto the brush from the stick. When stenciling, always brush from the edge of the stencil on toward the fabric. The gold was too light so I repeated the process with yellow ochre.

I then put some brown on a new brush and went around the edges to add shading.

2. For the second stencil I began with the yellow ochre and then topped it with some gold to add highlights. I again went around the edges with some brown. I then used the ochre and gold on the 2a stencil, the cheeks. I was then to use a light red to add blush, but my red was too dark so I rubbed the blender on the parchment paper and then added some red to create a light pink.

3. The third stencil added the brown for the pads of the feet, the black eyes and nose and brown for the inside of the ear. Of course the mouth is red.

4. Next the blue is added in several stages for the ribbon. It is touched in black to add depth.

5. The balloons are done last. I chose the same red, gold and blue and left them lighter in the middle. The string I did with a pigma pen.

6. To do the border, I tore some freezer paper so I had a rough edge. To apply the paint I brushed the blue from the paper on to the fabric to create the border.

Finished Stencil

Let dry for at least 3-5 days to let the paint cure. After it dries, it needs to be heat set to make it permanent. Lay brown paper or parchment paper on your ironing surface, place the fabric paint side down, and press over the top. You may also use a pressing cloth. Once heat set the fabric is washable, but may not be dry cleaned.

Clean Up: Brushes may be cleaned with soap and water or a citrus based household cleaner. Turpentine can also be used. Shelly Stokes says to not use Styrofoam cups or trays with the solvents or they will dissolve. Stencils may be cleaned by laying them on paper towel or an old towel, mist it with undiluted citrus solvent, and use a soft paper towel or cloth to wipe the paint from them. Be careful not to damage your stencil. Clean the front and the back if it is a permanent stencil.