Building a Theme & Using Stencils

In this lesson, I go through the process of  choosing and using a stencil to inform my background. One journal background is demonstrated in the videos and the second one, from the Faith Journal, is shown in step-by-step slides

Center Spread-hope-journal

Here is the supply list of what you need to paint your background:

  • Acrylic paint  in the colors of your choice ( I prefer Golden Fluid Acrylics)
  • Template/s of your choice
  • Paper towels
  • Paper for blotting
  • Protective covering for table/work area
  • Spray Bottle for water
  • 2 oz paint spray bottles in colors of your choice
  • toothbrush
  • Journal Pages 
  • Scissors

Here is the video below of the demo for the background shown above:

The password for this video is: background

This next video shows how I dealt with the edges after the paint dried:

The password for this video is: background

Below is another example of the this technique from my Faith Journal:

29. trust spread finished, back flap-valerie-sjodin

Here is the process in slide form of the background for the above pages:

1. gears stencils, craftersworkshop.com1. Template chosen for theme: Trust it will all work out.

2. gears stencils set in place2. Lay out the template on space where pattern is desired.

3. trust-gears stencil and color choices3. To make a more neutral background without using neutral colors, I chose colors close to opposite of the color wheel, specifically for this background: Permanent Violet Dark, Phthalo Turquoise, Nickel Azo Quinacridone Gold

4. trust-gears stencil and sprays3. Spray over template/stencil and lift template off.

5. gear stencils sprayed4. You can see the colors, subdued but not just a plain neutral on the overspray of the white area, which is used as a transition from a busy to restful part of the design.

6. gears with pencil line for cutting5. If a shape edge is desired, draw around the edge of the template pattern with a pencil, where the cut lines will be.

7. cutting gears flap6. Cut on drawn line. Refine with small scissors if necessary.

27. Trust-gears close-up finishedThe background serves as a base for further lettering, doodling, and collage.

If you would like to learn more about cutting and embellishing edges, check out the

Embellishing Edges and Text Workshop!












  1. marywerner@me.com

    LOVE hearing your thought process – helps me to understand so much better.

    • Thank you Mary. It helps me know what people find helpful, for future classes

  2. Ana

    Great lesson! Following your thought process is a great help. Additionally, the inclusion of color theory and using contrasting colors to form a neutral is super super helpful! Finally I understand the practical side to of the color wheel! Likewise, your demonstrating the cutting process and going with and outside the design “rounds off” the lesson! I will be coming back to this lesson again for reinforcing the concepts learned!

  3. Ana

    If you had created an outline or table of contents for your Hope journal, what would it look like? I am curious about how you developed the themes for each page spread and decided what was included. You journals are so inspirational.

    • Thank you Ana. What I generally do is find and compile quotes for a theme journal such as the “Hope Journal” and type or copy them into a Word document with the authors’ names. I have a collection of quotes and books, but I also Google the theme and add “quotes” to it. One of my favorite sites is: http://www.brainyquote.com/. I also search on Pinterest and have my own “Inspirational Quotes” board. Then I go through the quotes and find ones that fit together and decide which page they should go on, and make a note of that in the margins. I use post it notes to write the quote or part of it, and then stick those on the pages. That way it is easy to change the quotes around and it gives me an idea for the flow of the journal. Nothing is set in stone, and I give myself permission to change things around. So I don’t use an outline, but I guess you could add that step to my process. In the Lettering and Doodling Hope class I show some of that process in a video.

  4. Judie

    I am enjoying your art tutorials immensely. I live in Wyoming with not much access to craft stores near me. Can you tell me where to find the stencils you used in this lesson? I see the TWC brand but don’t get anything when I search on the internet. Thanks!!!

    • Hi Judie,
      I didn’t find most of my stencils locally either. If you Google “Crafters Workshop Stencils” in the search box, a list of suppliers will pop up. I have perused and ordered from various vendors, so I don’t recommend one specifically, but have had good service and found good choices of stencil patterns. Hope that helps.


  5. Shawna

    Valerie, can you please tell me the name of the stencil that has the different sized ovals (top of this page)? I can’t find it anywhere. Thanks!

    • Shawna, The stencil is made by The Crafters Workshop and the number is TCW241. I don’t know the name of it. If you Google The Crafters Workshop you should get a number of distributors come up. You can check them out, putting the number in their search boxes and see if it’s still available..

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