Have a yard sale piece that needs a project? Why not stencil it? Here’s a simple tutorial on how to stencil wood with step-by-step instructions.

how to stencil wood

Raise your hand if you have a project going on.

Right now.

At this very second.

Raise both hands if you have more than one. Or more than two. Or maybe 17 consecutive projects that you have either started or plan to start or have sitting up in your guest room closet yet unfinished.

Oh, good.

Come sit by me.

Right now we are in the middle of building a fence and adding a brick rain gutterway and building organizers in Westleigh’s closet and adding new window latches to the front room and refinishing this dresser and sewing a pillow and distressing baskets and several other projects that shall remain nameless.

See what I mean.

So many projects? So little time. Good thing this one was easy and only took me three Gilmore Girl episodes to finish.

Here’s how to stencil wood and makeover a dresser with a little paint and imagination.

how to stencil wood dresser



white acrylic craft paint

stencil (I used this one here)

stencil brush

stencil adhesive

small painting brush

step 1: paint the dresser

This is where we started.

This is what the dresser looked like.

It came from a thrift store with a damaged wood top and sides and it was originally painted white.

For this project, I wanted a new base coat and something with a little more depth, so it was painted SW Sandbar.

You know I love a good gray paint so CLICK HERE to see my favorite gray paints that I use over and over again. (#4 is my favorite).

how to stencil wood SW Sandbar

Here’s the dresser with its first coat of paint.

It’s darker than it looks in the pictures.

This room gets tons of natural light, so it appears lighter.

how to stencil wood with stencil

step 2: choose your stencil

I wanted to add flowers to the dresser, but I wasn’t sure if I could paint them how I wanted them, so I found this stencil with the perfect flower pattern.

You can see it here.

I ordered it online from Michael’s. It actually comes with two different sheets. There’s an outline of the flowers and the basic floral pattern you see here.

how to stencil wood mini stencil

I used the top sheet and cut it into smaller pieces to make it easier to work with.

I placed them on the drawers to get an idea of where they would go and what the pattern would look like.

how to stencil wood stencil adhesive

step 3: best tip ever for how to stencil wood

This is my BEST tip if you are going to stencil wood.

Repositional Spray Adhesive.

This is the spray that I got at Hobby Lobby.

For a flat surface like wood, it made the project SO MUCH EASIER.

If you want to see how to stencil other surfaces than wood, CLICK HERE to see how I stenciled concrete. 

how to stencil wood with acrylic paint

Simply spray the back of the stencil, then press into place. I only sprayed the back of each of the stencils once and it was sticky enough to use over and over again.

Simple tip: make sure to spray LIGHTLY. You don’t want to overspray and have it dripping down the sides of the dresser.

Here’s the stencil mid-stamp without me having to hold it. It stays in place and makes the entire project so much easier.

how to stencil wood stencil brush

step 4: add paint

Take your stencil brush (you want to make sure you have a brush with a flat head to prevent paint from seeping under the sides of the stencil) and lightly pounce the paint into the corners of the stencil.

I wanted my dresser to have a faded vintage look, so I only used one coat of paint and applied a light coat.

One thing that I want to point out with this stencil project is that there’s not that much contrast between my two paint colors, so just between us?

It made stenciling easier.

If you want to learn how to stencil on wood with high contrast project (for example—like a navy dresser with a white stencil pattern) then you would start by painting the base coat on the stencil, letting it dry and adding two coats of the white. It will take a lot longer than three episodes of the Gilmore Girls because you have to let the paint dry between stencils, but your pattern will be clean and crisp.

Step 6 how to stencil wood: add additional stencils

I also added the smaller floral stencil to the three top drawers.

Quick tip for how to stencil wood: depending on how vintage you want your dresser to look, you may need to go back and touch up the stenciled areas to give it more definition.

I did that with the flowers to make them a little crisper.

You can also leave the flowers a little faded if you like, too.

Stenciling gives you a lot of options for a project.


Step 7: add decorative details

I love the look of the stencil, but I thought the dresser needed a little more pattern to make it stand out.

Use a small paintbrush and your acrylic white paint to add these.

Here are some of the decorative details I added:

  • I painted dashes along the raised edges of the drawer
  • I touched up the flowers to make them stand out more
  • I added dots underneath the dashes to add another pattern
  • Next, I added dashes to the corners of the drawers
  • And lastly, I drew in vines with tiny leaves


Step 6: seal finish

You’ll want to make sure and seal the stenciled finish on the dresser so it doesn’t chip or wear off.

This is my well-used can of Polycrylic.

It’s my go-to sealer. If you use a sealer on the project, you want to make sure it’s water-based. Water-based products will dry clear and not yellow over time like oil-based products have a tendency to do.

It comes in satin, semi-gloss and gloss. Choose the finish that you want and paint a coat on with a brush.

Step 7: add hardware

After the dresser is dry, add hardware.

Here are the crystal knobs that I added.

See the knobs here.

See the drawer pulls here.


And now?

Here’s the painted dresser.

Can you even believe the difference?

Let’s look at the before and after one more time.

Here’s the before how to stencil wood picture.

And here’s the after.

Isn’t she the cutest dresser you’ve ever seen?

And all it took was learning how to stencil wood, a little paint, and a lot of imagination.

Here are just a few of the things I learned along the way to make this project easier:

  1. If you have wipes, keep them close to you. You’ll need them to wipe away any excess paint.
  2. Keep the stencil coats light, you don’t want too much paint or it will glob on the dresser.
  3. If you want to know how to prevent stencil bleed, stencil with the brush straight on, not at an angle and make sure to use the stencil adhesive to prevent the stencil from buckling or pulling up.
  4. Using craft paint when you stencil cuts down on drying time and makes the paint dry faster.

And now?

This stenciled dresser is finished.

One project down.

I only have 16 more to go. 🙂

PS Here are just a few more of my favorite furniture projects:

Here’s a video of the project I created over on my YouTube Channel.

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.


  1. Image for Courtney Courtney

    I love your drop cloth in the title picture!! I have a few of those also. At first I thought it was a new rug😊 love what you did to the dresser. Thank you for all you genius ideas!

    1. Image for Kathleen Kathleen

      KariAnne (and Courtney!) That is exactly what I thought at first! And now you inspire me even more to start creating one as I paint on canvases ... with more drop cloths on my shopping list! Love the look, the colors, everything ~ and it would make a great rug in my dining room/extremely cramped “studio!” I was actually going to write you for the source on that one! Hahaha! 🤗😉

  2. Image for Pamela Pamela

    KariAnne the dresser looks fabuloso! And here 's why.... You respected her for what she is. She is a beautiful older dresser, not a modern one. She deserved to wear some lace and be purdy in her olden golden years, not trying to do a facelift on an old girl. Now if I can only remember that when it's time to decide whether or not I want/need some freshening up!.. :D

  3. Image for Jenn Jenn

    Oh my yes on the projects! I kind of get on my own nerves with it...my poor husband; he is a saint!! I guess after 18 years of me and all my ideas to make things better he’s just used to it! The dresser is perfect!!

  4. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    Oh, my goodness! I am soooo in love with this!! And those dots and swirls make it perfect!! And I could raise both arms and legs right now on the project list...bathroom(2) makeovers, new windows, new garage side door, painting, replacing screens on the back porch, landscaping, to name a few..whew! I feel ya! Happy weekend!

  5. Image for Barbara Barbara

    Lady! Do you ever eat or sleep? I thot I had a lot going plus just started keeping our new 8 month old grandson (I’m 71). So much joy! You go girl!!

  6. Image for Carrie Carrie

    So cute! Little touches that made a huge difference! Sidenote, we painted our bathroom SW Sandbar and one wall SW Naval and I LOVE those colors. So yes, your dresser is darker than shown (and proves the power of natural light)...love the subtle contrast. Can't wait to see your other projects. :)

  7. Image for Romeogirl Romeogirl

    That is the cutest dresser - great detail in legs and I love your tone on tone stencil. Beautiful! I make my husband crazy with multiple projects and I'm so relieved (really!) to know its not just me.

  8. Image for Sandra Vigil Sandra Vigil

    It’s Gawgeous 🙂. I love the extra details you added with the dots and leaves. I get that projects are never ending, but at least you won’t be bored. Enjoy your summer🌞🌻!

  9. Image for Lynn W Lynn W

    Love the dresser and this made it more special! Love the kind of projects that a show can be on for entertainment 😊

  10. Image for PJ PJ

    This is so sweet. I'm a bit envious that you see dressers like that at a thrift shop. It seems the stuff I see at local yard sales and stores looks like the same junk I get rid of. There's something about where you live and what the thrift stuff looks like in your area. Nice tip about the repositional spray too. Bless you and take care.

  11. Image for Lyn Lyn

    This is so lovely. I haven't attempted stenciling for many, many years. My daughter just completed a 1/2 bath remodel she did by herself. The ceramic flooring was in excellent condition - just ugly. She had a stencil made the same size as each tile. She painted the entire floor white, then stenciled it in black. It looks stunning. Yesterday she completed the project by wallpapering it. So inventive, unique and pretty, just like your dresser. You are such an inspiration.

  12. Image for Brenda Brenda

    So pretty! And you only have 16 more projects to go? I'm embarrassed. Totally embarrassed. I'm a quilter. We have names for our projects that we've started. They're called U.F.O.s. I can't tell you how many I have.....I might need intervention. Just saying. Congratulations on a job well....DONE!

  13. Image for Karen Mary Karen Mary

    Oh, that dresser is take-your-breath-away beautiful! I absolutely am in love with it! I'm painting a monster TV cabinet today, and installing a backyard fence and painting steps and planting bushes. Tomorrow I'm painting the house foundation and lattice under a porch. Always "biting off more than I can chew!" But what a fun habit! :) Thanks for sharing the dresser. Made my day!

  14. Image for Barbara Barbara

    Just beautiful! Love the dresser itself and you certainly gave it a fantastic update!! I also use lots of Polycrylic- I apply it with a blue sponge that Dixie Belle paints carries. I need to try stencils soon!

  15. Image for Maureen Provost Ryan Maureen Provost Ryan

    Karianne, This is one of your Most Successful Projects ever! Bravo! Great job! Very inspiring! Thanks for always having something practical, positive and/or poignant to share!

  16. Image for Marlene Stephenson Marlene Stephenson

    Oh. wow, isn't that dresser beautiful, it was a pretty old piece before you started but now you have made it so much more. Thanks for sharing, have a great weekend.

  17. Image for Yarlette Yarlette

    What a beautiful transformation The dresser looks amazing. Makes me wish I could find a similar dresser so that I could do this. Love this. You are so talented.

  18. Image for Rev. Suzanne Taylor Rev. Suzanne Taylor

    You do such nice work, KariAnne. You dressed the dresser in a lovely floral that would be welcome anywhere. Great job!

  19. Image for Maria Maria

    Oh that is a beauty!!!! I really like how you not only stenciled but also did some freehand painting to really make it unique. Oh, and next time i stencil something I need to try using the adhesive:) Thanks for sharing this project!!!!!!!

  20. Image for Carol@BlueskyatHome Carol@BlueskyatHome

    I love how your dresser turned out. It has a beautiful old-world look. Love the knobs too. I stopped using spray adhesive when I started using the adhesive tri~mesh stencils from A Maker's Studio. Makes the process go much easier and no sticky residue from the spray adhesive and no bleed through. You should try them. You would love them.


    This antique dresser is absolutely beautiful! The stencils you used are so pretty and those glass knobs and handles are lovely! You always do such a great job with everything you do. Thanks, too, for the step-by-step stencil instructions. You have encouraged us to try some stenciling! You make it look so easy! Thanks, KariAnne!

  22. Image for Stacey Stacey

    This is an amazing transformation! I am currently looking for pieces to repurpose for my new craft room the hubby built me. These are great tips that I'm sure will come in handy! Thanks!

  23. Image for Robin Plummer Robin Plummer

    You did a lovely job on the paint and stenciling to this dresser. I bet that dresser is so proud of herself now!! My husband has an old sideboard that belonged to his grandmother and he is sanding and staining it. I want to paint it so bad and it would be so much prettier if I could just get him to paint it. That is another project for me, ha ha.

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