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Supplies, Paints and Brushes for Rufus Porter Stencils

Thanks to Linda Lefko for her generous consulting tips.

Please figure your needs for the freehand work from reading Rufus Porter’s instructions.

*The asterisk and links indicate what you can purchase through us.

  • Indelible fine point pen, Black (Staedler, or Micron Pigma are good) -- for numbering layers of stencils, boat detail.
  • Pencil (or chalk) to mark register holes of stencil on wall, pencil (one option) for rigging of ships.
  • Palette paper, white coated paper plates, meat trays or the like -- to mix paints on.
  • Palette knife, trowel style, (offset handle works best).
  • *1" Oval Royal brush.
  • *1 cm, #5 beautiful, high-quality, natural-hair bristle brush
  • *2 cm, #10 beautiful, high-quality, natural-hair bristle brush
  • Filbert oval brush
  • *Scriptliner
  • #2 Flat tip
  • *1/2" Square tip
  • *#3 artist’s brush for detail work on stenciled houses and boats -- a quality brush for good results. (We sell Jo Sonja’s Sure Touch 1350 round.)
  • *1/2" square stoke mural brush.
  • 2", 3", &/or 4" flat brushes in good shape will aid in laying in the water, horizon, sky, mountains, landscape and islands. Fat artists’ watercolor brushes in good shape, to paint tree trunks and chiseled and angled brushes and old beat up ones for foliage. You can apply the paint on a perpendicular or oblique angle to the wall as you handle your brush, each will give a different effect.
  • A small piece of natural sponge, (if you want to paint sponged foliage).
  • *1/2" Jo Sonja’s sure touch oval glaze brush is good for hand work of the friezes’ vines, though others will do well also.
  • A piece of charcoal to lay out the design on the wall
  • *Kleister medium (2 oz.) will give a transparent effect, if desired.
  • *All-purpose sealer (2 oz.) to add to undercoats so that lighter colors can be stenciled on top.
  • *FIow medium (2 oz.) will draw out the paint for painting flags and rigging.
  • *Retarder (2 oz.) will give more open time.
  • Plastic sandwich baggies, to slip brush into and to cover paint on palette.
  • Spray adhesive, especially recommended for large stencils.
  • Green 3M Scotch Brite™ scour pad (for cleaning stencils and brushes)
  • Paper towels (Bounty™)
  • Hair dryer -- (opt.) to speed up the drying process, if needed.
  • *Jo Sonja Paint Colors
    • Red earth -- houses, chimneys
    • Red napthol light -- boats, soldiers
    • Indian Red Oxide -- some houses
    • Green oxide & French blue -- doors, shutters
    • Titanium white and Warm white
    • French blue -- soldier jackets, some flags
    • Cadmium yellow -- boats hull stripes, soldiers
    • Turners yellow -- houses, some doors
    • Brown Earth -- add to colors to make a shade value, and some trees
    • Carbon black

My intention is to keep the color palette minimal. A small amount of burnt umber added to the red earth or the Turners yellow will give the shaded sides of those houses. With a little knowledge of color mixing, I believe all colors needed can be obtained from these colors, however, there is a good assortment of old colors available on the Jo Sonja chart directly from the tubes, if you want a wider selection. I have talked about colors for stencils only, should you want blues for sky or water and aspects of the hand painted mural, you will have to make those choices. I extended the following blues with water and warm white and all made passable sky color. Colony blue, Prussian blue and pthalo blue all make a sky with a turquoise overtone; storm blue makes a grayed turquoise and French blue a blue/gray. (All tested over a white background). A tiny amount of black added to white will make shadows for sails and sides of white houses. The highlighted sides of tree trunks ranged from white to light gray to flesh pink.

If you would like to use dry pigments in the whole mural, Philip Parr, noted historian and researcher, has generously allowed me to share his formula with you.

"I compound skim milk from skim milk powder and water, and make it a little stronger than called for on the box. (Do not use regular milk, for the fat it contains will inhibit the formation of casein. Powdered skim milk is devoid of fat, whereas fresh skim milk may not be entirely fat free.) I add fresh agricultural lime to turn the skim milk to casein glue. The amount of lime is not critical, for the lime that is not reacted with the milk simply settles to the bottom of the jar. Sometimes I add a small amount of white Elmers glue to the mixture. This makes the liquid a little thicker, and the resulting paint more resistant to wet rubbing. However, do not add too much glue, for it will result in an unpleasant paint shine.

You can buy powdered pigment from many sources, but search for industrial grades, which are cheaper than artist grades. For a degree of authenticity, you may like to make your own pigment from local clay. However, Prussian blue will still have to be purchased."


Stenciling Procedure

1. Be sure all stencil openings are free of cut out pieces, then number stencil layers as collated. (We’re not fool-proof, so use your judgment, too, as to what layers go under other layers.) After applying hulls and masts and spars, the sails of clipper ships require that a third of the white sails be stenciled usually followed by the shadows that go with them, then the next third with their shadows and finally the last of them. Sometimes all the shadows are done last. Hopefully they are collated this way.
2. Notice register holes in 4 corners. A tiny pencil mark (or chalk mark) through the holes of layer #1, once positioned on the wall, will guide subsequent overlays.
3. You can reverse the stencils so that the town faces opposite -- however, the sunny side always appears as the front of the houses. This light source is dictated by a window in the room, (you decide) and all other shadows of landscape are painted consistently. Likewise you can reverse boats -- be mindful of the shadows on the sails.
4. Remember that paints will dry at least two shades darker than when wet. It’s good to have a sample board with the same background as the wall. To dry anything quickly, use a hair dryer.
5. Always slip your brush into a small sandwich bag and wrap tightly when not actively using it. (I sometimes spritz in the baggie a couple of times as I put the brush in.)
6. Always cover your paint with plastic wrap or a baggie right on the top of it.
7. Handwork in the form of boat detail, and window panes on houses is sometimes needed. Use a small artist’s brush* with paint and flow medium, or, in the case of boats, the pen or pencil can be used for the rigging.
8. The addition of retarder medium* to the paint gives a little more open time, and flow medium* draws out the paint for lines as in rigging and hand painted flags; kleister medium* will give a transparent or glazed appearance as seen in some sails painted over the mast and some tree trunks. All-purpose medium* will seal an undercoat so that the color will not lift when another color is applied over it. The mediums can be added separately or together to the paint.
9. Stencils clean up readily with soap and water. Slip into warm soapy water ASAP when done stenciling. Clean on flat surface with green Scotch Brite™ pad.
10. Brushes need washing with Murphy’s Oil Soap and warm running water. They need to dry before being used again. Roll each brush in 1/2 a paper towel to keep bristles in order as they dry. I put them on lowest possible heat in the oven in order to use them again the following day.
11. If the brushes are a little caked when you take them out of the baggies to use again, keep a damp paper towel at hand to pinch and work the end of the bristles to soften them before using.