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How to Decorate Your Staircase with Stencils Using Cricut

How to Decorate Your Staircase with Stencils Using Cricut main article image
Posted on March 1, 2021 by Nancy Laws

I have always loved the look of tiled stair risers, but I’m a little intimidated by the process of picking out a tile, renting a tile cutting saw (those things look messy with all of that water going everywhere!), cutting the tiles, getting them to stick, and the worst fear of all…grouting!  Have no fear!  By using a little paint and a stencil, you can eliminate all of those worries and it won’t set you back hundreds of dollars either.  Follow along with these easy steps and you will have beautifully stenciled stair risers in no time at all.

Materials you will need for this project: 

  • Mylar stencil blanks that fit your specific cutting machine (this one was used in this article) or poster board will do if you aren’t worried about reusing the design
  • A Cutting machine (I used the Cricut Expression)
  • Cutting mat (12” x 24” size is recommended, but your pattern can be adjusted if you only have a 12” x 12” mat)
  • A design or font specified as a stencil (The Stencils Patterns design from Creative Fabrica was used for this project)
  • Lightweight adhesive spray or tape; acrylic paint(s) in your color choice
  • A stencil brush or pouncing sponge; water-based polyurethane.  

Step-by-step how to customize your staircase

Step 1: Measure your stairs’ risers width and height. (It is a good idea to measure each riser just in case they are different sizes.) This will determine how large you will make your stencil.

Note: If you don’t have a 12×24 inch cutting mat, you will need to do some math to size your project  into sections.

Step 2: If you haven’t already downloaded your design, do that now and open it up in your machine’s cutting software. Make sure your design specifically says it is a stencil.* Size the design to be about a half- inch smaller on all sides than the dimensions of your riser.  You might have to play around with your measurements to make it look the way you want. Example:  my risers are 39 1/2 inches wide and 6 inches tall. I want my design to fit into the area. I ended up having to cut my file as 3 separate stencils; each one being 12 inches wide and 5 ½ inches tall. You can either cut the design one time and reposition the stencil across the riser, or you can cut however many you need and tape them to the riser at one time.

stencil design loaded into the cutting program

*Cutting Tip: To make sure your stencil turns out perfectly, find a small design that has some of the same intricacies of the design you’ll be putting on your risers (or wherever you are going to stencil). The stencil blanks are not extremely expensive, but there’s no reason to ruin a whole 12” x 24” sheet with a bad cutting depth.  Once you have your settings worked out, proceed with Step 3. Make sure to save any practice cuts that are usable. You might find another project where that stencil could come in handy…you never know.

Step 3: Lay your stencil blank onto your machine’s cutting mat. If your mat has lost some of its stickiness, you can use a lightweight spray adhesive to secure the stencil blank. Make sure to hold the can far away from the mat and just very lightly mist the adhesive onto the mat.  If you spray too heavily, it can damage your blade and make the stencil difficult to remove.  Weed out the areas of the stencil that will accept the paint and create your design.

weeding the design

Weeding the design

Step 4: Prepare the area you are going to stencil. I used a damp cloth and then allowed my risers to air dry.

Step 5: Lightly spray the back of the stencil with adhesive spray, or you can use tape to hold your design in place. I prefer using the adhesive spray because you can get a good seal around your edges of the stencil and prevent some paint bleeds this way.

Gathering the supplies

Step 6: Line the stencil up where you want it to be and get a small amount of paint on your brush or sponge. If you have never stenciled before, less paint is better. Doing 2 to 3 light coats accomplishes a few  things when stenciling: (1) it helps prevent the paint from bleeding through the edges of your design, and (2) layering the paint helps create dimension by focusing your second and/or third layers around the edges of the design, leaving the inner parts lighter. You can also get a neat effect by doing your second layer more towards the bottom of the design making it darker. If you have any wood that is similar to what you are going to stencil on, you can play around with the technique and layers of paints to achieve a look that you like best.  

Stencil adhered to the riser                               

First light coat of paint

Step 7:  Remove the stencil carefully and allow to completely dry (this shouldn’t take long if you did the lighter coats). When completely dry, protect your work with a light coat of water-based polyurethane.

First riser completed.  Only 13 more to go!  I think I’ll add one more supply to the list…a pillow or pad to sit on while you are stenciling!

Additional stencil ideas: Add a word or phrase

If you don’t like the idea of a tile design on your stairs, another option is to use a stencil font (Beprity font by Eva Barabasne Olasz and Redgar font by Graphite are 2 of my favorite stencil fonts on Creative Fabrica) and add a phrase, a Bible verse, or just some inspirational words. If you like this idea, do some pre-job planning by counting how many stair risers you have and how many words are in your phrase (or whatever you want to add). If your phrase has fewer words than you have risers, think about using a decorative element, such as the Floral stencil by Creative Fabrica Crafts or other embellishments. If your phrase has more words than you have risers, think about combining words that are shorter or even putting words on angles. Play around in the program that comes with your cutting machine to make it fit. 

If this project seems a bit intimidating (or you don’t have any stairs you want to stencil), you can use this technique to stencil just about anything! Let your imagination run wild. Do you have some outdated canisters collecting dust in your closet? A plain backsplash can become a work of art with a little paint and a stencil. Boring concrete patio got you down? Find the outdoor acrylic paint and sealer and create a masterpiece for your outdoor living space.

Comment below what you would like to stencil!

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4X Added to favorites


Love the idea! This would add a beautiful touch to my boring staircase

Nancy Laws's profile picture
Nancy Laws

March 2, 2021


Awesome. I wanted to do something more colorful, but my husband wanted to keep it simple.

Creative Fabrica
Linnea from Creative Fabrica

March 5, 2021

Creative Fabrica

Super nice idea to add a colorful touch! Is it easy to cover up and add again? Then you could do like Easter themed stairs, summer themed etc. Would be so cool!

Nancy Laws's profile picture
Nancy Laws

March 5, 2021


That's a great idea. You could even make panels that could fit on your risers and make them interchangeable...maybe with velcro?

Creative Fabrica
Linnea from Creative Fabrica

March 5, 2021

Creative Fabrica

I think we are onto something great!

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