When shopping for stencils, if at all possible, visit a real stencil shop. The online stencil catalogs and websites are great, but nothing compares with standing in the middle of a stencil shop, surrounded by the real thing. Then you can really see what the stencil looks like, and how big it is, instead of visualizing from printed dimensions in a book.
I am, of course, the expert on this, having stood in a real stencil shop exactly once. I traveled many miles to do so, and I could have stayed there all day (and probably would have, had the owner not thoughtfully reminded me I had a family to go home to that I hadn’t seen in 3 days!).
But, if you can’t visit a real shop, or if you do but they don’t have the stencil you’re dreaming of, here are some tips for shopping through those catalogs and Web sites.
- Remember, you don’t have to use the colors shown! Now you may laugh at this, but I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had to remind clients of this simple fact. They’ll say something like, "Well, yes, I really love that design, but those colors don’t go with my kitchen". It’s paint folks. You can have it any color your heart desires. Honest.
- Check the Dimensions! I’ve been guilty of this many times. When visualizing a stencil in a room, I imagine it the way I want it to look, then find out the actual stencil dimensions are far different that what I was imagining. Some companies, like Designer Stencils, will do custom sizes of their designs if needed, but most do not. So double check before you order!
- Support the Stencil Designers! The stencil designers I know are not getting rich. If you think designer stencils are too pricey, try designing and cutting a few 5 overlay stencils yourself. Then imagine finding and hiring a reputable laser cutter, printing up catalogs, marketing your designs, designing more stencils, etc, etc. etc. Let’s face it. They are the ones who make stencil artists and plain old stencilers like you and me look really good. And if we don’t support them, they might not be around next time we need them to make us look good!
- Support the Stencil Shops! Stencil shops are wonderful places. They share the art of stenciling with the community around them through their inventory, their walls, and their classes. If you are fortunate enough to live near a stencil shop, help support it. Take a class, improve your skills, and pick out the perfect stencil for your living room. If you aren’t so fortunate as to have a shop nearby, ordering from one of the online shops can be a great way to save on shipping costs when your project requires designs from more than one company.
- Ask about discounts and watch for sales! Most of the stencil designers and shop owners I know are really very nice, and many are kind enough to offer discounts to professional stencilers. It doesn’t hurt to ask. And be sure to check our News and Sales for the latest sales and promotions.
- Beware of eBay bargains!. I love shopping on eBay, and you’ll often see stencils listed there. But you should be aware that there may be some copyright/licensing issues involved if the stencils you’re bidding on are used. So my advice is stick with the new ones, and even then, compare the retail price with the price on the designer’s own site. I’ve been hearing stories about people paying more than retail because they get caught up in the bidding frenzy. Do some research people! The real prices are as close as the designer’s Web site, and links to those sites are as close as our Search Engine or Designer Directory.
And now that you’ve been properly warned, here’s a link for stencil listings on eBay. Happy bargain hunting!