How to Stencil a Tray

Dress up a wooden tray with a painted stencil design, creating a one-of-a-kind accessory.
A DIY stenciled tray on a black table.

Stenciled Tray With Candles

Stencils can give an old tray new life with beautiful patterns and colors of your choice.

By: Janell Beals

Materials Needed:

  • wooden tray
  • stencil
  • paint in two complementary colors
  • sanding pads, medium and extra-fine grit
  • ruler
  • painter's tape
  • tack cloth
  • paintbrush
  • small artist brush
  • polyurethane

Gather Materials

Select tray, stencil design, paint colors and additional materials. Tip: Consider using a stencil featuring a single damask motif or other pattern to center on tray surface.

Stencil and paint brush resting on a wooden tray.

Gather Materials

Select tray, stencil design, paint colors and additional materials. Tip: Consider using a stencil featuring a single damask motif or other pattern to center on tray surface.

Sand Tray

Remove protective finish from tray surface, using medium-grit sanding pad, to allow new paint to adhere. Tip: Begin with unpainted tray to eliminate this step.

Wooden tray being sanded.

Sand Tray

Remove protective finish from tray surface, using medium-grit sanding pad, to allow new paint to adhere. Tip: Begin with unpainted tray to eliminate this step.

Prime Tray

Apply primer to all surfaces of tray with brush. Let dry two hours.

Wooden tray painted with primer.

Prime Tray

Paint entire tray with a good primer. Let dry for two hours.

Sand Tray

Using an extra-fine-grit sanding pad, sand away any rough spots prior to painting. Wipe tray clean with tack cloth.

Tray being sanded for the second time.

Sand Tray a Second Time

Using an extra-fine-grit sanding pad, sand away any rough spots prior to painting. Wipe tray clean with tack cloth

Paint Tray

Apply selected paint color to all surfaces of tray with brush. Let dry four hours.

White wooden tray being painted gray.

Paint Tray

Paint the tray in your chosen color and let dry for four hours.

Sand Tray Between Layers of Paint

Sand away any rough areas or brush marks using an extra-fine-grit sanding pad. Wipe tray clean with tack cloth.

A sand block being used to refinish the tray.

Sand Between Layers of Paint

Use an extra-fine grit sandpaper to sand the tray between layers of paint.

Apply Second Coat of Paint

Brush on second coat of paint to all surfaces of tray. Let dry four hours.

Apply Second Coat of Paint to Tray

Apply Second Coat of Paint to Tray

Brush on second coat of paint to all surfaces of tray. Let dry four hours.

Center Stencil on Tray

Position stencil design on tray. Measure placement to ensure design is centered. Secure in place using painter's tape.

Plastic stencil over wooden tray.

Center Stencil on Tray

Measure from the center of the tray out and affix stencil to desired place with painters tape.

Paint Design With Stencil Brush

Paint design onto tray with stencil brush using a dry brush method to ensure sharp paint lines. This is done by dipping tip of brush into paint and removing excess paint on paper towel.

Paint brush being blotted on a paper towel.

Paint Design With Stencil Brush

Paint design onto tray with stencil brush using a dry brush method to ensure sharp paint lines. This is done by dipping tip of brush into paint and removing excess paint on paper towel.

Fill in Stencil Design

Dry brush stencil cut outs with paint using a stippling method, which is tapping the brush repeatedly over stencil opening. Press down stencil while stippling to prevent paint seepage.

Stencil being filled in with paint.

Fill in the Stencil Pattern

Fill in the stencil pattern on the tray by repeatedly tapping the brush over the stencil opening, pressing down firmly on the stencil to keep the paint within the borders.

Run Stencil Design to Tray Edges

If using a design that will run up to edges of tray, bend stencil at tray edge and hold in place while stippling.

Close-up of stencil being held down.

Don't Cut Corners

If using a design that will run up to edges of tray, bend stencil at tray edge and hold in place while stippling.

Complete Stencil Design

Use small paint brush to fill in any unpainted sections of stencil design. Let paint dry four hours prior to applying protective finish.

Stencil pattern being filled in with a smaller paint brush.

Finish the Stencil Pattern

Fill in any unpainted areas of the stencil with a small paint brush.

Cover Tray With Protective Finish

Apply protective finish to entire surface of tray with brush. Let dry two hours.

 A finished gray and white stenciled tray.

Finished Tray

Paint a layer of clear coat lacquer over paint to protect from spills. Let dry for two hours.

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