Two starburst stencil projects for your bathroom — including a free pattern

stencilled bathroom wallTrixi and Jon aimed to renovate their 1970s home on a shoestring — it’s the times, you know — and heck, doesn’t it make for a much better story to get all creative rather than just throw lots of money at the problem. In this story, I spotlight two readers who made hand-cut stencils — in atomic starburst patterns — and painted them onto their walls with bright gold paint. At first glance, most everyone thinks they used wallpaper — but no, they saved a lot of money with their homemade stencils instead. Read on for tips and even a free pattern made by another reader.

pink stencil bathroomFor her bathroom remodeling project, Trixi cut her own stencils to mimic the atomic pattern on her vintage bathroom light. She explains:

The template for the stencil was made out of solid plastic stencil sheets from Michaels Crafts. We just mimicked the pattern from our atomic bar light that’s in the bath, and used a finer tip artist knife to cut it out. I used gold acrylic fabric paint, which was very easy to clean-up if I had to step away for any length of time. If it dried onto the stencil tools, I just peeled it right off and kept going. It took the better part of a day to do the stenciling – but even that was fun!

stencil bathroom In 2010, I also featured Karen’s $708 pink bathroom renovation — and she, too, created an affordable wall treatment with home-made stencils. Her starbursts are more diamond shaped and, I’d say, add height to the bathroom. Karen explained:

To make the starbursts all you have to have is an exacto knife, a stencil sheet, and a preferably metal ruler. Make a cross the size you want the height and width of the finished star. The vertical line should be somewhat longer (about 1?-2?) than the horizontal line. Then take your ruler touching the top point, move it out about a 1/2 inch or so (I just eyeballed it as to how thick to make the stars) on the intersecting line. Do the same on all the points using the same mearsurement. Then make an X between the cross. Make these lines the same length all the way around. Then repeat this step except move your ruler out a little less: Take your ruler touching the top point, move it out about a 1/4 inch or so. Do the same on all the points. The vertical/horizontal cross should be the same thickness and the X should be the same thickness. Then just use the exacto to cut the lines. That’s about it. It’s really super easy. If you are unsure just practice on a plain piece of paper until you get it right. This design is so simple because it is all straight lines, no curves, which are more difficult. I hope this is easy to visualize. -Karen

She adds:

I just did 3 on a page and rotated the page upside down on every other one I would do.

April 2012: Jim and Kathleen used this stencil design, too, in the 1960 pink bathroom. They used metallic silver paint for the starbursts… and even outlined the bath/tub shower surround in metallic paint, too. Looks great!

In the comments on that story, my friend Denise — who also is an active commenter — and moreover, is a decorative painter, provided tips for doing your own stencilling:;

Getting a crisp edge definitely is about not over loading your tool and not working with a heavy hand. The point is to not drag your tool from the open space over the edge, if the edge is lifted even the slightest bit it will catch the paint, lay back down, and create a rough edge. Practice on a painted board to get the feel of the right amount of paint on your tool and how light or heavy handed you should go.

These are tools often used for painting a stencil:

First you want to spray the back of your stencil with stencil adhesive, I use a spray glue but be careful if you do as it can be too sticky and leave a glue residue.

Stencil brush — dab into a little paint or glaze, swirl a lot of it off onto toweling, apply by swirling onto stencil with a medium hand, working from the stencil edge into the cut space.

Cosmetic sponge — dab into paint, dab off on toweling, dab onto cut out area working your way to the edges.

Roller Sponge — roll into paint, roll off on toweling, roll without much pressure over cut space of stencil, rolling in different directions. Do not press hard, it will squeeze out of roller and go under stencil.

I also like to use a worn out smallish brush especially if you have a tight or narrow stencil. Apply some paint, swirl off onto toweling a bit and then brush from the stencil edge into the cut open space, this gives a little bit of a cross hatch when looked at up close rather than a mottled look that the swirling in the stencil cut will give you.

You can also stipple into the cut out space with a flat bottom stencil brush but this is more time consuming.

Hope this helps!!

Karen said that she bought the stencil paper and paint at Hobby Lobby.

Get the starburst stencil pattern:

Finally: Reader Nancy even made a pattern of Karen’s stencil, which she has shared out into our retro universe. She says:

Hi – I made a starburst template, following Karen’s great instructions! Feel free to use it. One image is a higher resolution that the other. Go to my photobucket and scroll down:

Happy stencilling!

  1. Kathi says:

    Do we know the name of the wall color Jim and Kathleen used for their walls? I’m hoping to do a silver starburst on a similar shade but can’t for the life of me find the perfect shade!

  2. Maureen Bajeyt says:

    I’m so excited! A stencil example to print-out. Our house had pink bathroom tile with this design on some tiles. Unfortunately, there was damage and rot throughout and we demoed the bathroom. But, I always liked that starburst pattern. Since wallpaper can be insanely expensive if you include labor – this looks like a do it yourself project that will be fun!

  3. Jenny says:

    Thanks for this! I’ve been looking all over for a template for a starburst! This is PERFECT! And thanks Nancy for making a stencil of it! Yeah!!!

  4. Patti Cannan says:

    I just stenciled the stars onto the wall behind my bookcase headboard, (a peachy pink wall) and used silver metallic. It is AWESOME! I can’t get over what an impact it made. I made one star on paper re Karens instructions (8×10) then reduced it on the copier by 75% and 50% so they’d all be the same, then traced them onto the stencil blank and cut them out. You could also use the stencil with a clear gloss paint on a flat wall. Wouldn’t that be cool!

  5. John Taylor says:

    I love the atomic star burst look at her bathroom. Now this is what I call, “Design on a Dime”. I am going to borrow your idea for my Bathroom and perhaps even a wall in my kitchen. Thanks for the tips, you all are the tops. JT

  6. Becky from Iowa says:

    Hey, Creative People (I’m not; really trying to learn, though)

    Any suggestions as to an iconic stencil shape for a seafoam green bathroom, with a “beachy” them (I’ve got old, hand-made seashell mirrors, shell lamps, lucite soap dishes and even a–be still, my heart!–lucite TOILET SEAT (new; on ebay) with seahorses and shells and so forth in it.

    I don’t think atomic stars would work, but I’m drawing a blank on on a good 50’s–60’s traditional motif I could stencil in silver…

    Thanks for your suggestions, and the inspiration in the photos above!

  7. MissTrixi says:

    Karen made that wee pink bath look magical!

    As mentioned above, a steady hand and patience helps limit bleeding. AND yes, a blunt end stenciling brush is a must!

    I had a few touch-ups that I corrected with some Q-tips and extra pink wall paint. I also kept the touch-ups to a minimum as I also wanted SOME bleeding to add a more organic element (not very atomic of me, I know 🙂 ). I used 2 different templates, and flipped the smaller ‘trio of starbursts’ design throughout for diversity. I also allowed for random ‘negative’ space, avoiding letting a pattern emerge as I knew my lazy bones could not maintain a perfect pattern throughout.

    Also to Karen: I am highly jealous in the most well meaning way of the fixtures in your bath. To die!


    1. vintigchik says:

      Thanks. We have twin bathrooms 🙂 The fixtures were fun to find. I found them in separate places and they are different companies, but they match perfectly. You house looks great. I wish that much of mine was done. More work to so though. I love the rustoleum idea for the kitchen. I am considering it. Thanks again!

  8. Jennifer says:

    I have been looking for this stencil for a space above my doorway (it faces north. North Star…) for years. Thank you for the nice surprise.

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