Outdoor Stenciled Rug

Thanks to my husband, we have recently built an outdoor covered area. I call it a pergola, but it has a covered roof, so I think that disqualifies it as a pergola. It’s more of a covered porch, I suppose. I really wanted to add some color to the otherwise neutral space, as well as add a cozy-factor to the wood and stone. However, this area does get a lot of rain and dirt when it’s windy, so I needed something that was very weather-proof, and not so expensive that I was afraid to put it outside. 


Finished covered porch…desperately in need of an outdoor rug, right?

Yes, I still have the plastic on my cushions…who buys white cushions for outside?

I LOVE stencils! So, it is no surprise I figured my best bet was to stencil an inexpensive piece of indoor-outdoor 6 x 8 carpet from Home Depot, and make it my own with some paint and a stencil. I could not be happier with the outcome. I get a lot of compliments on it, and most people can’t believe it’s covered in craft paint, even when looking closely. To say that it has met the challenge of weather and wear is an understatement. This rug has been left outdoors in some serious storms and, even after being completely saturated in rain and dirt, it always rinses easily with NO signs of trauma. We use the blower to blow off the porch and rug in most cases, which works instead of vacuuming. The paint has not chipped or worn either, thanks to the fabric medium (described below). So yes, I highly recommend this project, for indoor or outdoor use.

*Note: The carpet is lightweight which means it blows around easily when it’s windy. I hot-glued flat metal washers to the bottom of the rug around the perimeter to give it some weight. There is probably something better to use, but I needed a quick fix at the time and already had the metal washers in my garage. Not 100% fool proof, but it definitely helped.

Getting Started

For this project, I purchased my stencil from Hobby Lobby. I have also made my own stencil in the past using a file folder, which can be done easily as well, and is next to FREE! I went for a two-tone approach using navy and teal. If you take this approach you will need two stencil brushes. Initially I taped off parts of the stencil because I thought I might add white as well. After seeing the two-tone blue, I decided not to paint the omitted sections at all. You’ll need to decide if you want the stencil to extend to the edges of the rug, or if you will tape off the perimeter for a border, which is what I did (except for the side I started before remembering to do that…oops!). I recommend taping off a border for a clean edge.

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Supplies Needed

  • Indoor-Outdoor Rug
    – Purchased Foss Hobnail Taupe 6×8 Area Rug from Home Depot for $17.87
  • Stencil
    – Stencil Ease “Chestnut Hill Filigree” from Hobby Lobby for $16.99
  • Fabric Medium
    – Delta Creative Fabric Medium from Hobby Lobby for $5.99; Michael’s carries Martha Stewart Fabric Medium as well
  • Craft Acrylic Paint – several bottles
    – Multiple Brands; < $1 each
  • Stencil Brush(es) – 1 for each color you will be stenciling with
    – I recommend using either 3/4 inch or 1 inch diameter brush; $3-$5 at Hobby Lobby
  • Drop Cloth
  • Paper Plate(s) or Cardboard for blotting brush
  • Painters Tape (Optional; Used to tape off border and/or omit parts of stencil)
  • Blow Dryer (Optional: Used to speed up the drying process)

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“Chestnut Hill Filigree” stencil by Stencil Ease

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Paint, Fabric Medium, Stencil Brush

DISCLAIMER: Since this a retro-tutorial (meaning I completed the project before I started my blog) my step-by-step pictures don’t match up exactly with the steps. Thankfully it’s not that complicated….I think you’ll figure it out! I’ll do better next time!

Here We Go!

1. Prep your work space

Lay a drop cloth under your rug to avoid any paint from seeping through. If you want to add a border, do that now. That is, a border to be left UNPAINTED. I think taping off a border makes it look a bit more finished. My border is the width of the painter’s tape I already had…about 1 inch. Alternatively, you could also tape off a border to be painted if you want to get even more creative.

Note: I painted my first stencil before I remembered to tape the border.

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2. Mix your paint with the your fabric medium

Mixing your paint with a fabric medium will allow the fibers to absorb the paint so that it does not dry hard and brittle. My craft paint and fabric medium were both purchased at Hobby Lobby. I used Craft Smart acrylic paint in Navy, Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint in Cloudless for the teal color, and Delta Fabric Medium. Michael’s carries Martha Stewart Fabric Medium, which has good reviews, as well. I mixed 2 parts paint to 1 part fabric medium. I mixed my paint in little plastic disposable cups…one for each color. You will also need a stencil brush. These come in various sizes and feature a flat, blunt brush tip. I chose about an inch in diameter, which allowed for good coverage, but still precise enough to avoid getting paint in unwanted areas.

3. You’re ready to stencil

Level and tape the stencil. Once you’re prepped, align the stencil on the rug so that it is square with the edge of the rug, or the tape if you are taping off a border. Add a couple of pieces of painters tape to the stencil to hold it in place on the rug. The tape will help to keep it in place initially, but will not adhere to the rug all that well. Before you start painting, ALWAYS make sure your stencil is level and square. This will prevent the pattern from slanting with each subsequent stencil. You can use a tape measure to measure the distance of each side from the edge of the rug. If you made your own stencil, you will need to be creative and careful to line up your stencil evenly throughout the project, making sure to keep it level. Getting the first row stenciled evenly, the subsequent rows should be easier. IF you find that your row is starting to slant and is no longer level, make small adjustments with each new section to bring the rows level again. It’s easy to get off track if start to rush through the process. The good news is that a busy stencil pattern hides a lot of mistakes and most likely no one will notice. (You saw my one untaped border, right?)

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Blot, Blot, Blot! When it comes to painting, or “dabbing”, remember less paint is better. You can always add more. So you want to dip the brush in the paint just enough to cover the blunt tip of the brush. Then you want to blot the brush on a paper plate or piece of cardboard to remove all excess paint. This is a very important step for 2 reasons:

The paint should be evenly applied to the rug in thin layers for an even look when it dries. You do not want goopy, thick paint, which will appear uneven and blotchy when dry. The fabric medium dilutes the paint so you only need a little at a time for the paint to be absorbed by the rug.

Blotting excess paint also prevents bleeding or leaking under the stencil. You will have much better luck with clean stencil lines if you use less paint. Applying thick paint allows excess to spread and bleed under the stencil.

When you start to stencil, you’ll want to hold down the piece of the stencil you are working with. Yes, this means you will be painting all over your fingers. You can use your thumb and forefinger to hold down the stencil in the area you are painting. Then just dab with quick blotting movements, rather than brushing the paint across the rug. Since you are only applying a small amount of paint to the brush at a time, you will need to re-dip and re-blot often. Sometimes what is left over on the blotting plate will work for several “refills” before you have to dip the brush in the paint cup/bowl again.

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Be sure to let the painted area dry before immediately moving the stencil to the next section. This is where I recommend using a hair dryer. The paint should dry fairly quickly (slightly moist is good enough) after a few seconds with the hair dryer.

Moving the stencil to the next area: To move over to the next section, pick up the stencil and carefully lay it next to your painted section. You want to be careful not to slide it across the paint, which might smear if it is still wet. If you bought a stencil, there should be little cut outs or arrows that allow you to line up the stencil with the last painted section.

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4. Touching Up

Once you are finished, remove the stencil and tape. Give the last painted sections a couple of minutes to dry, then stand back from the rug and look marvel at your masterpiece! If you find any blotchy or missed areas, you can go back and touch up as needed. Then take some Advil for your back, shoulders and hands, and congratulate yourself on a job well done! Now you have yourself a custom-designed area rug you saved mega bucks on! It’s always worth it in the end, right?

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Good luck!

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