The Cork Coaster Rollercoaster

Let me start off by saying that I’ve been very busy the past couple of weeks, dealing with mold; cleaning and painting a number of rooms (walls and ceilings), not to mention the kitchen renovation that’s going on. Seeing as our daughter’s room needed to be treated and painted as well, we asked her what color she’d like it to be. And sure enough, the answer was yellow with black stripes - Hufflepuff style. In case you haven’t read any of my previous posts, our 10-year-old daughter is a huge Harry Potter fan and she belongs to the Hufflepuff House according to this online test. My plan for this week's project was to show you how to stencil onto walls, stenciling the Hufflepuff shield on the wall for our daughter. But after painstakingly painting vertical black stripes on the feature wall I decided not to do it as I’d have to paint over the black stripes with yellow to get the image to show properly (black on black doesn't show so well). I will do a post in the future on stenciling on walls, so keep an eye out for that :)

striped walls

Instead, having limited spare time, I figured I’d go with a more simple project this week: customizing cork coasters. We bought a new desk for our daughter as well. But her and her friends are notorious for leaving cold drinks around and I didn’t want to risk getting water marks (rings) on the new desk. So I figured if I customized her some coaster they’d be more likely to use them. Especially if they all have different designs and as an added bonus they can easily keep track of who’s drink belongs to who. 

I had some stencils lying around, some of which were ones that turned out less than perfect and no good for selling, so I used those. As cork coasters don’t have smooth surfaces I knew I wasn’t going to get crispy edged perfection anyway. 

Now this was supposed to be an easy and straightforward project, or so I thought. But boy, was I wrong! As it turns out, while all of our stencils have an adhesive backing, neither the blue All Surface ones nor the purple Fabric/Wood stencils would stick to them. And then there was the issue of the uneven surface, which made bleeding more likely.

Bleeding is when the paint, paste, or ink you use spills out beyond the design, as in under the blue part of the stencil, where it’s not supposed to go.

After a couple of failed attempts I was almost ready to give up. But then I remembered why I named this blog “The Learning Curve” - which I sometimes jokingly refer to as another definition of TLC. Sometimes we all need a reminder to be kind to ourselves when we’re learning. 

So I got back at it, testing out different paints, tools, and techniques. In the end I found a way that seemed to work. 

6 stencils 6 coasters
Stencils from top to bottom: Cartoon Cats, Hufflepuff shield (not available), Retro Art Deco (geometric), Floral Mandala, Bohemian Hippy Flower (far right), and Boho Mandala.


First off I looked online to see if anyone else had stenciled onto cork and learned that a thicker paint works better. Now, I follow a bunch of chalk painting groups on Facebook, where people take old furniture and paint and refurbish them in some pretty spectacular ways. The general way they apply chalk paint is either with a brush or a sponge, but they always dab the excess paint off their brush or sponge before applying it to the actual piece they’re painting. Now this is a technique I could use, as the usual "apply paint evenly with a squeegee" really wasn’t working here. The squeegee was just pushing too much paint through the stencil and since the stencil wasn’t adhering to the cork and the uneven surface of the coaster, it just bled everywhere. 

So I grabbed a plate, applied some paint and dipped my thick round brush in it. Then I dabbed the brush several times on a clear part of the plate to take off the excess paint, before applying the paint onto the stencil gently dabbing it on. 

The way I secured the coaster under the stencil was by using the excess of stencil that wasn’t covering the coaster adhere to the plastic table cover underneath and, off course, holding on to the stencil and coaster as well. 

The “dip-dab-dab” technique seemed to work somewhat. I didn’t have any bleeding, but I also didn’t have a very solid color print. The chalk paint I was using wasn’t doing the trick. Plus I was worried it was taking too long and the paint was going to dry in the screen, as chalk paint does have a tendency to dry very quickly. 

So I tried the same technique (dip-dab-dab as I now call it) using a sponge instead. I found out that with the sponge you have to be careful not to dab too hard as you may force too much paint through the stencil at once, which results in bleeding. The second round I was more gentle and I ended up with a slightly better result than with the brush, but it still wasn’t quite what I wanted. 

Boho Mandala Stencil and Coaster 1

Another thought I had was to try spray painting. I only had a water-based fabric spray paint on hand and I tried it, but it turned out to be too runny. So that was an epic fail. 

Back to the gentle, but not too gentle, dip-dab-dab with a sponge I went. Only this time I swapped paints. Instead of using Cadence chalk paint I went with Liquitex basic acrylics. I did the lift and peek trick I mentioned in my last blog post, and had to go several more times dabbing over certain areas. In the end I got so tired of lifting and peeking only to have to dab more and it still not being enough that I just gently rubbed over the entire stencil in an attempt to push the paint through the screen. And lo and behold, it worked!

Bohemian Hippy Flower Silkscreen Stencil and Coaster

Finally I had figured it out: 

  • Secure your coaster under the stencil - it won’t stick to it, so hold on for as long as you can and make sure the stencil doesn’t move either.
  • Put your acrylic paint onto a plate and dip your sponge into it. 
  • Dab your sponge on a clean surface to get rid of excess paint.
  • Dab the paint on the stencil - gently, but not too gently
  • Once you’ve dabbed paint on the whole surface, gently rub the stencil with the sponge to get the paint to go through the screen more. It’s kind of like you’re washing a plate ever so gently.
  • Now lift the stencil, but not all the way, and peek to see the print. If you need to do touch-ups, simply roll the stencil back on and spread out the paint on the stencil a bit more, working on that particular spot. 
  • You want to do the lift and peek a few times from different sides before you peel off the stencil completely, just to be sure you haven’t missed a spot. 

If you have a highly detailed stencil, you won’t get a perfect print. The uneven surface and the fact that apparently you can’t stick anything to cork won’t allow you to do that. But you can still get a pretty cool end result nonetheless. If you want a perfect print, go with wood coasters. More advice on stenciling on wood is soon to come...

Cup and Coaster


Thank you for reading this post, I hope you enjoyed it and learned from it. I’d love to hear from you, what do you use silkscreen stencils for?  And if you have any questions or suggestions for future posts, let me know through the comment section below.

Happy crafting!


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