The History of Stenciling

Cave Paintings

If you take a look at the history of stenciling, one thing should becomes clear. For centuries, this kind of decorative art form was used to make drab walls more exciting and colorful. It’s been used for centuries as a decorative pursuit.

Art Form

Stenciling as an art form goes back as far as prehistoric man. There’s evidence in caves in France and Spain that show Neanderthals blew pigment around their outstretched hands to make a mark on a cave wall. This happened as long ago as 9000 years B.C.

Great examples of this art form include the advertisements outside of the Coliseum in Rome and the walls in the village of Pompeii.

Stenciling relevance

So you might be asking yourself how is stenciling relevant in today’s world? Well, there are more than a few places where this art form can brighten up your surroundings.  For example, stenciling is a great way to cover over the remnants of the past.

We’re talking particularly about wallpaper. If you’re looking for a more elegant way to decorate the walls of your house, you should start by ripping out that 1970s standard and replacing it with stencils.

Middle Ages

Back to our history for a moment. Stenciling really started to take off in the Middle Ages when it was carried on trade routes into Europe. At the time, this technique was used to create religious scripts and pictures that were sold to tourists on pilgrimages.

Modern Uses

Let’s deal with some modern uses for stenciling again for a moment. If you’ve got a boring old dresser, a few stencils can liven up the piece and give it a completely different look. Stenciling can also be used as molding in places like a bathroom or on a vanity. It’s a great technique to use in your washroom to give old furniture a brand-new look that will turn your guests’ eyes.

New World

When European immigrants settled on North American shores they brought stenciling with them for the first time to the New World. Early on in the settlement of North America, artists would travel from city to city stenciling on floors and walls for food and lodging.


With the advent of wallpaper that already had a design on it, stenciling fell out of favor. However during the 1970s and 1980s, it enjoyed a resurgence that goes on to this day. Today, gilded walls and ceilings are two of the more common uses for stenciling.



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