Stenciling and Masking Techniques

*A guest post by Martice Smith II.

Experiment with unusual techniques for bold impact in your art work. I was inspired by Art Journal Courage to create a journal page that explores positive self-image and incorporating various stenciling techniques. Layering stencils, creating masks and exploring resists are explained in this tutorial.

Materials List:

  • Silhouette(s) cut from a magazine
  • 9″x12″ watercolor paper (140-lb.)
  • Acrylic paints (the ones I’m using are from Deco Art): Peach Silk, Quinacridone Magenta, Soft Jade, Ultramarine Blue
  • variety of stencils
  • paintbrushes: round, fine liner + foam / stencil brushes
  • water soluble pencil
  • jar of water
  • baby wipes

masking techniques
STEP 1: Paint Base Color and Add First Stencil
Paint a large area with pastel green (Soft Jade). Loose brushstrokes work best. NO need for perfect lines, here!

masking techniques
STEP 2: Next, Layer Two Stencils Together
I’m layering Bloom True and Scribble Scratch (both from StencilGirl Products).

(Scribble Scratch stencil on the bottom, Bloom True placed on top.)

Use a foam brush to apply paint through both stencils (Ultramarine Blue). Set journal aside to dry. (Notice how the words are in the shape of the flower! So cool!)

masking techniques
STEP 3: Cut Out a Couple of Silhouettes From a Magazine
Decide which one looks better in your composition. Full figure or half-figure?

masking techniques
STEP 4: Bring a Sense of Atmosphere to the Page by Painting the Background With a Couple of Muted Colors
Scrape on a light color (Peach Silk) and use a fine liner brush to scribble some words on top (Quin. Magenta). Paint Soft Jade on the left. Let dry.

(Notice that Scribble Scratch stencil looks similar to my brush lettering. This was an intentional approach because I wanted to create a unified design.)

Next, decide where you want to place the silhouette.

masking techniques

STEP 5: Load a Foam Brush With Paint, Pounce Around the Silhouette
The silhouette acts as a mask – keeping everything that’s under it untouched.

Pounce along the edges of the mask (Soft Jade).

masking techniques

Remove the magazine silhouette to reveal the new figure!

Shade the right side of the figure with a water soluble pencil.

Soften the edge by tracing over it with a clean paintbrush and water. (This makes the silhouette stand out from the background, giving it more definition and depth.)

masking techniques
STEP 6: Outline the Lotus
While the silhouette is drying, let’s work on defining the lotus.

Take a fine liner brush and paint the outline of the lotus (Quin. Magenta). Vary your lines and allow them to flow with ease. Thin and thick brushstrokes gives a more expressive feel.

Add a mixture of water and paint to the bottom part of the lotus, allowing the paint to pool and drip.

Next up: We are bringing out the stencils!

masking techniques masking techniques
STEP 7: Stenciling and Working in Details
Paint a thin layer of paint under the figure (Ultramarine Blue).

Lay down a stencil (Text and Texture) and rub through it with a baby wipe to remove some of the paint.

(TIP: Vary your pressure – the lighter you rub, less paint is removed; the harder you rub, more paint is removed.)

Look for other areas, within your composition, where you can include visual texture using stencils.

To make your eyes move up towards the silhouette, I used the triangles from the Rose Window and Border stencil. These small details add up to creating a dynamic piece, full of layers and surprise elements.

masking techniques

Martice Smith II

STEP 8: Write Quote and Embellish
Add any extra writing or journaling with a pencil or waterproof ink pen.

I’ve incorporated my signature graffiti style (underneath the lotus petals) and added a quote that reads “No mud, no lotus” by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Dots created with different colored paints are my favorite!

Image transfers gives a strong graphic element to your composition. (See the number 5 in the lower right corner.)

Practice with many techniques to discover which ones are your favorite. Try combining them to create something fresh with unexpected results and most importantly, to make it uniquely YOURS!

For more artistic inspiration, tips and techniques, check out these titles:
Art Journal Courage Art Journal Freedom

Martice Smith II’s signature style has a bold, urban edge infused with mixed-media, fashion, graffiti + photography. (Yes, this means vibrant colors + grungy textures!) As an internationally published multi-medium artist, she loves sharing her art passion by serving as an educator for several companies and design teams.

Through tutorials on her blog, Martice helps thousands of creatives live their soulful, colorful dreams to the max, by showing how to embrace their soulful magic.

Recently published in A World of Artist Journal Pages and was juried into Incite 3: The Art of Storytelling, and in online publications.

Connect with Martice at, on Facebook and Instagram and join the party in her MUSEletter!

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One Response to Stenciling and Masking Techniques

  1. MEKOfoSHO says:

    Love this post Martice! All your personal bits make it just the most wonderful tutorial.. Can I have it? Hahaha j/k TFS