Spray Paint Stencils for Interior Walls

Don’t be afraid to use spray paint inside! That’s the take-away here, honestly.

These stencils have really cool effect on interior walls. If you watch the video, you’ll get a kick out of how much fun it can be to experiment with spray paint. Although it’s in virtual reality, I urge you to take the plunge and DON’T BE AFRAID TO USE SPRAY PAINT INDOORS.

We experimented in the video with three different patterns.

When painted naively, these patterns yield ho-hum results.

Here’s an example of the scales, painted naively, and then with a twist that makes the stencil start to pop.

In the first photo, you see how you can use the scales stencil to fill the space on the wall with alternative colors. It’s pretty, but there is no dimensionality to it. Your eye responds to the color, but there are no other tricks. In the second photo, two passes were made, each time painting the bottom of the row with the nozzle pointed toward the top of the row. This makes the paint on the bottom of the row thicker than the paint at the top of the row. (See video for technique.) The third photo shows side-by-side the effects of the two paintings.

So then we asked, would the effect be different if we painted light on a dark surface, but used the same technique?

abstract random scales painting two passes

And you can see what a difference the field reversal (light on dark instead of dark on light) makes to the illusion. Now the scales appear to ‘rise up’ out of darkness; a real three-dimensional effect with a very small change in execution. Watch the whole video to see all the effects.

Next we tried a ‘tabs’ stencil (for lack of a better word). We didn’t know what to call it when we started because we weren’t sure what the effect would be. But we played with it until we found a super cool effect.

In this experiment we compare a naive single pass (completely covering stencil with solid spray) with two passes, each time spraying down the line *between* two rows of the stencil. (Check the video for precise direction on this.) This causes you to ‘lose’ one of the edges, while maintaining a hard edge at the other end. This looked pretty cool.

Then we asked, what if instead of spraying down the line *between* the rows, we sprayed down the *center* of the row each time. This causes you to see the dark patterns as gaps ‘below’ the stencil, while the lighter areas read as ‘tabs’ rising up from those dark areas. This turned out to be my favorite effect of the day. A tiny difference in execution (discovered by trial and error) made a huge difference to the visual effect.

tabs wall stencil painting decorative

Next we worked with the dots. We didn’t expect much from the dots, honestly, because the pattern just looks like polka dots. But we were surprised by how versatile this turned out to be.

By laying the stencil down twice, and doing gradients from left to right, we made something akin to the ‘tabs’ stencil, making the parts of the stencil appear to undulate, some rising above the others. Some natural random variation is helpful to the illusion here.

We tried using a little color (navy and pale yellow) with the gradients, and randomized the gradients, resulting in these two related effects.

All of these effects rely on being able to place two ‘disks’ of light next to each other that don’t share the same intensity where they meet. One disk seems to ‘hide’ behind the other. The effect on the right comes from using gradients and passing the can from top to bottom, vertically. The second effect relies on some randomness, and on passing the can diagonally over the stencils in different placements. It’s hard to replicate *exactly*, but getting a different effect at different points along the wall is part of the charm.