Different Types of Stencils for Crafting

7 minute read

Craft stencils are a versatile tool for crafting, allowing you to create intricate designs and patterns with ease. From alphabet and layering stencils to background and coloring stencils, there are various types of stencils available to suit your needs. Here are some of the best craft stencils for beginners, along with different types of stencils commonly used in paper crafting.

Monochrome card with a stenciled image of a mountain and the sentiment "shine bright"

Best Craft Stencils for Beginners

Different Types of Stencils

Stencils are a versatile and essential tool for adding intricate designs and patterns to your creations. In this guide, we will explore the different types of stencils available for crafting and card making, including their unique features and how they can be used to elevate your projects. Understanding the various types of stencils will open up a world of possibilities for your crafting endeavors, no matter where you are in your journey.

Floral journal page featuring yellow and pink stencil flowers, made with Altenew layering stencils

1. Layering Stencils

Layering stencils are designed to create multi-dimensional and layered effects in crafting and card making. These stencils often come with multiple layers or patterns that can be used together to build up intricate designs and add depth to projects. They are great for adding dimension and interest to backgrounds, focal points, or entire card fronts.

Colorful handmade card with geometric shapes made with builder stencils

Shape stencils include geometric shapes, animals, flowers, and more. These are great for adding decorative elements or focal points to your handmade projects. Some shape stencils have multiple layers, while others are big enough to be used as background stencils.

Handmade card featuring stamped butterflies and flowers, colored in with Altenew butterfly coloring stencil set
Masculine handmade card featuring heart hands, made with Altenew coloring stencil set

2. Coloring Stencils

Coloring stencils are perfect for adding color and texture to paper crafting projects. These stencils feature open designs that allow for easy coloring with various mediums such as dye inks, watercolor, markers, ink sprays, or embossing paste. These are ideal for creating vibrant and artistic backgrounds, focal points, or borders on cards and other paper crafts.

Gate fold card by Jennifer McGuire, featuring Altenew stencil set
Pink tulips on a handmade card, made with Altenew tulips coloring stencil set

Altenew coloring stencils are part of a unique line of stencils curated to be used with their corresponding stamp sets. These stencils will provide a base for adding color and character to the images in the stamp set.

Discover the Different Types of Stencils

Fun handmade card featuring a lacy tile background stencil from Altenew
Pink and green floral card featuring a few coloring stencils and background stencils

3. Background Stencils

Background stencils are versatile tools for creating interesting and textured backgrounds for crafting and card making. These stencils often feature larger patterns or designs that can cover the entire surface of a project. They are great for adding depth and interest to backgrounds, as well as for creating unique and eye-catching base layers for cards and other paper crafts.

Vibrant birthday card with colorful circles, made with Altenew mask stencils

4. Mask Stencils

Mask stencils are designed to create precise and controlled areas for coloring, stamping, or other techniques in crafting and card making. These stencils are typically made from a thin material that can be easily repositioned or removed without damaging the project. They are perfect for creating masking techniques, layering effects, or adding dimension to designs.

Geometric stencil set from Altenew with a couple of handmade card samples
Handmade card with double rainbow stencil set

5. Builder and Scene Building Stencils

Altenew’s line of builder and scene-building stencils include uniquely designed stencils that help make the crafting process easier. Simply apply color through the stencil, flip the stencil over, then apply a different color. You’ll have a complete design, pattern, or scene instantly! From cubes and hearts to sweater patterns and mountain scenes - the possibilities are endless with this type of stencil.

Unique handmade card with the die-cut word "joy", made with striped stencils and letter stencils
Colorful floral handmade card made with alphabet stencils

6. Letter Stencils

Letter stencils and alphabet stencils allow you to add custom text and sentiments to your handmade cards and other paper crafting projects. These types of stencils feature a variety of fonts and sizes that can be used to create personalized messages, names, monograms, or titles on handmade cards, scrapbook pages, or other paper crafts. They are great for adding a professional and polished look to projects without the need for freehand writing or stamping.

Floral handmade card with an ornate frame, made with Altenew 3D embossing folder and coloring stencil set

7. Border Stencils

Border stencils are designed to add decorative edges and borders to creative projects. These stencils often feature intricate patterns or designs that can be used to create beautiful borders on cards, envelopes, or other paper crafts. They are perfect for adding a finishing touch to projects and can be used to frame focal points, add interest to backgrounds, or create unique borders.

Ink blended ombre greeting card with an image of a sun setting behind a mountain

Different Uses for Stencils in Crafting

Craft stencils can be used in a variety of ways to enhance your crafting projects. Here are some must-try stencil art ideas.

Faux painted mountain scenery on a handmade card, made with Altenew scene building stencil set and ink blending tools
  • Painting: Use stencils to add intricate designs and patterns to your paintings, home decor, or even DIY sewing projects.
DIY scrapbook page featuring Altenew scene building stencils
  • Scrapbooking: Create unique scrapbook layouts by incorporating stenciled elements such as borders, shapes, backgrounds, and letters.
2 handmade cards with a stenciled grid pattern, made by Jennifer McGuire
Simple handmade card with stamped and stenciled lemons and a punny lemon themed sentiment
  • Card Making: Add visual interest to your handmade cards with stenciled backgrounds, motifs, or sentiments. Plus, they’re great for quick and easy handmade cards that you can make in less than 5 minutes!
Handmade card with a leaf pattern embossed on the background using embossing paste and background stencils
  • Mixed Media Art: Incorporate stencils into your mixed media artwork to create layers, textures, and focal points.
DIY home decor featuring scene building stencil and a die cut bird perched on branches
  • DIY Home Decor: Personalize your home decor items such as furniture, walls, and accessories with stenciled patterns and designs.
DIY journal cover with stenciled Moroccan style patterns

Learn How to Stencil and Create Easy Stencil Art

Craft Stencil Ideas for Beginners

Using different types of stencils in your handmade creations saves time and allows you to be creative. Here are a few handmade card ideas featuring various craft stencils that you can easily try.

DIY friendship themed handmade card made with vellum and background stencils

Use vellum or other specialty paper to create a unique handmade card using background stencils!

Handmade Christmas card made with Altenew alphabet stencils and hot foil plate

Add some color and shine to your alphabet stencils by hot-foiling them! Altenew offers stencils with coordinating hot foil plates, dies, and even embossing folders, so make sure you check them out.

DIY calendar decorated with some stenciled honeycomb patterns

Use background stencils and border stencils to create a DIY calendar!

Monochromatic card featuring mushroom images and a mushroom punny sentiment

When in doubt, go monochrome! With our coordinated ink families, you can easily create monochromatic cards with different stencil types.

DIY bookmark with a stenciled mandala image

Make a DIY bookmark for your book-loving friends and family using unique layering stencils and background stencils.

Monogram card with the letter A and a 3D embossed floral background

Try making a monogram card with letter stencils! A clean and simple 3D embossed background will help you complete this project.

Heart window card with a stenciled and embossed butterfly, made with Altenew stencils and embossing paste

A window card is always a good idea! Make it pop by adding a stenciled image (use embossing paste for some yummy texture!) as your focal point.

Green and gold DIY greeting card with stenciled and embossed dots and a die-cut leaf

Here’s another handmade card made with a background stencil and embossing paste (tinted with embossing powder). Shiny, shimmery, and beautifully textured - what more could you ask for?

Partial stenciled background on a clean and simple handmade card

Do some partial stenciling using your favorite background stencil or builder stencil! This will give a minimalist vibe to your handmade cards.

DIY Christmas card with stenciled pinecones and black and gold washi tape

Invest in layering stencils that are also standalone. This allows you to create various designs using just one or both stencils. 

Floral handmade card with stenciled whimsical flowers and foliage

Layering stencils are perfect for creating repeating patterns or designs easily, which means instant background for your handmade projects.

A simple DIY holiday card with the stenciled word "joy", made with letter stencils

Make your alphabet stencils pop by adding washi tape strips around the borders.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

When using stencils for crafting, it's important to choose the right paper to achieve the best results. Here are some popular options for stencil paper. Cardstock paper is a sturdy and versatile choice for stenciling, suitable for various crafting projects. Watercolor paper is also great for stenciling with paints, inks, and embossing paste, providing a textured surface for artistic effects. You can also try colored cardstock, vellum, woodgrain, and other crafting paper.
Using craft stencils is a straightforward process that allows you to achieve precise and professional-looking results. Here's a basic guide on how to use craft stencils effectively.
  • Prepare your cardstock or paper. If you’re stenciling on a surface, ensure that it is clean, dry, and smooth for best outcome. 
  • Secure the stencil in place using low-tack tape, stencil adhesive, or ultra sticky mats. This will prevent the stencil from shifting.
  • Select the appropriate medium for your project, dye inks, watercolors, embossing paste, markers, ink sprays, etc.
  • Use an ink blending tool, stencil brush, sponge, or dauber to apply the chosen medium evenly over the stencil design.
  • Carefully lift the stencil away from the surface to reveal the stenciled design, ensuring not to smudge the freshly applied medium.
  • Clean the stencil using wet cloth, wet wipes, or a stamp cleaner. If you use embossing paste, wash it with water and mild soap right away.
  • If desired, reposition the stencil to continue the design or layer additional elements for a more complex composition.
Making your own stencils allows you to customize designs according to your specific crafting needs. A quick way to create a DIY stencil is by using the negative die-cut piece from your favorite background or cover dies as a stencil.
Use baby wipes or stamp cleaner to remove any residual ink or medium. For a more thorough cleaning, a gentle soap with lukewarm water may be used. Lightly pat the stencil dry with a clean cloth and return it to its original packaging or a storage sleeve to keep it clean. Store flat and away from direct heat/sunlight.

Learn How to Clean Craft Stencils

Masculine handmade card with a leaf burst stencil design and die-cut


By exploring different types of craft stencils and learning how to use them effectively, you can elevate your handmade projects with professional-looking designs and intricate details. Whether you're creating handmade cards, scrapbook pages, personalized gifts, or home decor items, craft stencils offer endless possibilities for expressing your creativity.

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