How to Make Stencils From a Rubbing

There are so many beautiful intricate carvings on old furniture and decor. What if you could capture that in a rubbing and turn it into your very own stencil for other projects? Keep reading, I’m going to tell you how I make my own stencils from a rubbing in 3 easy steps.

Two pencil rubbings from an eastlake washstand engravings. A pencil and a scissors sit on top of a paper with two pencil rubbings.

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Antique and Vintage Furniture and Decor Have Ornate Carvings Waiting to be Captured

The more ornate the furniture and carvings the more I love it. Recently I was building a Shower Cornice and decided to do a rubbing of the Eastlake carvings on my vintage washstand and mirror frame to create my own stencil pattern.

I’m not a stranger to creating a custom stencil though. I created How to Train Your Dragon stencils when I did a dresser makeover for my oldest son.

In a way, using the carvings of old furniture and decor could be used in the same way you use rubbing plates. By simply using the texture of the carving it creates the texture on paper for you. I’m just using it in a different manner to create a different kind of art by creating a stencil design.

Pencil rubbing created with a printer paper and pencil held up against the antique washstand carvings.
These stencils took me literally 10 minutes to make.

Watch this on Youtube:

The Step by Step Instructions for Creating Stencils from a Rubbing of Eastlake Carvings

I love to paint designs and I’ve used all kinds of ways to get the look I want. But creating a custom stencil is an easy way to get straight lines right from the get-go.

It’s also a fun way to incorporate that old-world charm of yesterday when you use rubbings of carvings. Let’s get to the step-by-step instructions so you can start creating your own custom rubbings and stencils.

Tools & Supplies to Create Your Own Stencils from a Rubbing

These are the exact tools and supplies I use to make my custom stencils.

I used a small piece of tape in some of my rubbings just to hold the paper up for me. I'm using a pencil and a piece of paper on carvings to create pencil rubbings on my eastlake washstand.
You can use a small piece of tape to keep the paper aligned.

Additional Optional Supplies for Custom Stencil Projects

These items are helpful if you’re applying your stencil and creating a wooden project. These custom stencils from a rubbing can be used on practically any surface, however. So, choose additional protective products for whatever material you’re using.

Step One – Finding Your Design to Print Out or Draw

Typically I use Google search to find a design I want to print out. This is the strategy I used when creating the How to Train Your Dragon Dresser for my son. However, today we’re talking about strategy #2 which is creating stencils from a rubbing.

I have an Antique Eastlake washstand that will become the bathroom vanity in my guest bathroom. And as I’m working on this bathroom makeover the idea struck me to use the carvings on my Eastlake washstand and create a stencil.

I used this technique to mimic the carvings of the Eastlake-style furniture in designing my Shower Cornice.

A pencil rubbing make using the engravings on an Eastlake washstand that will become my bathroom vanity.
I chose to make my rubbings from my antique Eastlake washstand.

A Whole New World of Possibilities for Vintage and Antique Inspired Stencils

Now I’m looking at every piece of ornate furniture as another possibility for creating a rubbing and turning that into a stencil I can use in art!

Not all carvings are optimal for creating a rubbing or a stencil simply because they aren’t easy to imprint on paper with a pencil. Curved or rounded and protruding designs don’t work as well as engraved carvings where wood is taken out vs added on.

But now I will forever look at furniture as a way to create my own unique kingdom of stencils!

Step Two – How to Create Rubbings from Antique Furniture Carvings or Engravings

For this step, you’ll need a Pencil and a Piece of Paper. Thin printer paper is best for creating an accurate rubbing.

  1. Take a pencil and a piece of paper.
  2. Hold it up against the carving you wish to copy.
  3. Move your pencil back and forth applying slight pressure at an angle. But not so much as to puncture the paper.
  4. You will quickly start to see darker outlines of the carving show through the rest.
  5. Allow those outlines to guide you to capture the whole carving into one complete rubbing of the design.
  6. Cut the main part of the rubbing out from the rest of the paper. Keep the margin about 1″ around the design.

Step Three – How to Create Stencils from a Rubbing

For this step, you’ll need a Laminator, Laminating Pouches, X-Acto Knife, Clip Board, and your Rubbing.

  1. Take your cut-out rubbing and put it into a laminating pouch.
  2. Run it through your laminator.
  3. Allow it to cool for 3-5 minutes, or whenever it’s cool to the touch.
  4. Take a moment to examine the rubbing and choose which parts should be cut out and which should be left intact for the integrity of the stencil.
  5. Use your X-Acto knife to cut out the design so you’re left with a design to your liking.

Step Four – How to Use a Custom Stencil to Paint a Design

For this step, you’ll need your Stencil, a Pencil, an Eraser, a Fine-Tip Marker, Paint Brushes of varying sizes, Acrylic Paint, Paper Towels, and a Cup of Water to clean your brush between colors.

  1. Lay out your stencil or stencils and decide where you want to place them.
  2. When you have an idea about their placement you can use a bit of scotch tape to hold your stencil in place or hold it with your hand.
  3. Using a pencil, lightly trace the outline of your stencil.
  4. Then go back over that with a Fine-Tip Marker.** This step is optional but is helpful if the pencil is hard to see on a particular surface. I do it after the pencil because the first layer is easy to mess up. And pencil markings are easy to erase.
  5. Remove your stencil.
  6. Start slowly painting in your stencil design. Move the position of the piece to make it easier to paint harder detail areas.
  7. When the design has been painted let it dry completely.
  8. Coat your project with a protective top coat like Polycrylic. Or use 1-2 layers of furniture wax.
Stencils after they've been traced and painted in with a small detail brush and Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams.
My stencils were used to create this Shower Cornice in my Bathroom Makeover.


  1. Google or design a pattern or template of any kind you’re wanting. Example: I wanted to create stencils for the Scandinavian Rosemaling designs used in Frozen for Arendelle Castle. So I would google those images and find the one I want.
  2. Save the image to your desktop.
  3. Open the file and print it out in a size that is usable for the project you’re doing.
  4. Laminate it.
  5. Use an X-Acto knife to cut the design out which creates reusable stencils.

Creating your own custom can be done using literally any image in 3 easy steps.

  1. On cardstock, draw or print out a design, picture, pattern, template, etc.
  2. Laminate it.
  3. Cut the design out using an X-Acto knife.

You can make a stencil out of just about any solid material, including fabric if that’s all you had on hand.

Some of the most popular materials to make stencils are:

  1. Mylar Sheet
  2. Plastic Sheets
  3. Cardstock
  4. Deli Paper
  5. Cardboard
  6. Laminated Paper

If you have the ability to print and copy the process is very simple. You simply print out any design, picture, pattern, or template, or you can choose to draw one as well. Printing out on Cardstock will get you the best results, but it isn’t necessary. Then using an X-Acto knife cut out the design to your liking. You can laminate your printout to make it last for multiple uses.

So many options come to mind including some popular options like leaf rubbings or creating crayon rubbings. Another popular idea is to make rubbings using wax pastels.

I use rubbings to create my own custom stencils, but they can be art all by themselves.

An Ikonart stencil is a stencil created by a company for screen printing designs. Screen printing is a fabulous way to get a design you can use repeatedly onto any kind of fabric, though most popularly used for T-Shirts.

The technique of creating a picture or pattern by forcing ink or metal on to a surface through a screen of fine material.

The Dictionary

Absolutely. 100%. If you have a Cricut you would use an SVG File to create a stencil. However, if you don’t happen to own a Cricut Cutting Machine custom stencils are not outside of your reach. All you need is a printout of a design you love, an X-Acto knife to cut it out, and a pencil to trace it. If you want your stencil to be reusable simply laminate it before you cut the design out, or take it to your local Staples or Hobby Lobby and have it laminated for a couple of dollars.

  1. Create a new Google Doc.
  2. Type in the Number you wish to create a stencil of.
  3. Change the Font and Font Size to your preference.
  4. Print it out on printer paper or 80 lb. cardstock.
  5. Laminate it to create a reusable stencil.
  6. Cut your numbers out using an X-Acto knife.

Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope I have given you some inspiration, ideas for creativity, and maybe a push to create your very own stencils from a rubbing. It really does add so much character and charm to projects when you customize them to suit your style and taste.

Don’t forget to come back for more great projects like these DIY Projects.


Meet the Author

Hi, I’m Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→

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