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June 28, 2012

Atomic Starburst Stencils In Mom’s 1950s Time Capsule Condo…A Tutorial

By Sara In AZ

Since Atomic Star Stencils seem to be all the rage these days I thought I would add a few around Mom’s condo! I carefully documented all my steps in case anyone else wanted to make star stencils for themselves. Really it was pretty easy….even for me!

I first saw the Atomic Star stencils used in a bathroom re-do on Retro Renovation. I always had it in my head that I wanted to someday use the stencil idea too, since it turned out so cool….and Mom’s condo was the perfect place!

Glamorlux Nancy made it easy to access a cool star pattern in her photobucket account, as she posted a link to a pattern she made in the Retro Renovation comments section of the bathroom re-do linked to above. This is the exact Starburst Pattern I used to construct my stencil. You could also make your own star pattern if you wanted something a bit different.

I copied her star pattern into my photo editing software and enlarged the star to the size I wanted it to be. I decided to go with a 3 star stencil – a larger star to one side and 2 smaller ones beside it. You will have to print out each star (however many you want in your stencil) on a piece of paper then cut it out to start the base of your stencil..

Here you can see I have my 3 starbursts cut out and taped on a piece of cardboard. Be sure to position the stars carefully, as this is the template for cutting out your stencil. You will need to tape your stars down to something that will not move in order to cut your starburst stencil properly.


You will need to buy these plastic sheet stencil blanks to cut your own starburst stencils. I bought mine from JoAnn, but I’m sure most other craft stores sell something similar. Just make sure to get a large enough size blank to accommodate the size of stars you want to stencil.


I bought the larger size stencil blank, 10” x 18”, which also came with a smaller 8” x 10” blank too . I decided to use the 10” x 18” size, as I wanted a larger size stencil.


Here I have overlaid the stencil blank on top of the stars taped to the cardboard. I have also taped the plastic blank to the cardboard to ensure it does not move around as I try to cut the stars out of the stencil blank.


Now, to cut the stencil. I was terrified of this at  first, but honestly it was not that big of a deal. It makes it MUCH easier that we are only dealing with straight lines here…I cannot imagine cutting out some elaborate curving design. eeks!!! You can use just a regular razor blade to cut out your stencil  if you want to, but I decided to use my X-ACTO knife because I could hold it like a pen and have more control over the cuts.

I started cutting out the largest star first.


You can see I am moving right along with my cuts! If you are worried about the line not staying straight you could always cut alongside of a ruler too, I just found it easier to freehand  the cuts.


And now the largest star is completely cut out! Two more stars to go!!!


Yay!!! All of the stars are now completely cut out and my stencil is ready to use! I actually made 2 stencils, with one being the reverse of the other….so there would be a large star either on the right or the left.  I realize that I could have just flipped the one stencil over to achieve the same effect, but I wanted one side of the stencil to always remain clean.


And here is what the stencil looks like when it is all cut out!


As for the stencil paint, I decided to go with a crème paint. I thought that would be easier to deal with and there would be less bleed through under the stencil since it is a more dry type of paint. I also bought some little sponge dabbers to dab the paint on with.


And here we are, all ready to stencil! This is the back side of a cabinet that is in Mom’s kitchen. The cabinet was originally all blond, but had been painted somewhere along the way. Since this is a cabinet that hangs over her breakfast bar area the half of the cabinet that faces the kitchen is still the original blond, but the back that faces into the living room is painted. I wanted to do something to spruce this area up a bit and I thought the starburst stencil was the perfect idea!


When hanging your stencil make sure that it is aligned exactly how you want it be, you don’t want crooked or tilting stars or anything like that!

Now we are all set to start painting out the stars! I found that with using the crème paint you do not need a lot on your dabber, I just dabbed my applicator a bit in the paint then took off the excess on a paper towel. When applying the paint to the stencil I dabbed a semi circular motion and worked my way around the stencil. You will get the feel for it as you go. And if you want your paint to be heavier you can always add more before you take the stencil down.

***One word of caution when using crème paint….do not touch it or run your fingers over it until it has had time to dry – at least 24 hours. If you do touch it before it has had time to dry you will have a streaky stencil and that will be no fun after all of your hard work.


Here all of the stars are finally painted in! Yay!!!


And here is the result! I am loving it!


Here is where my reverse stencil comes into play. You can see that I have a left and a right. This is just something I wanted to do and is not really necessary, I just always wanted to have one completely clean side on my stencils.


Here I am filling in the other stars with paint.


And ta-da, now Mom’s place is all Atomic Star-Bursty Retro!


I snuck into her bedroom too (can’t you just picture me lurking down the hallway with my stencils and paints) as I thought a few starbursts on the painted closet doors might liven the drab doors up a bit!


I choose to use the silver paint in here.


YAY! It’s Starburst action all around the condo! I really love the way the closet doors turned out too.


Here is a close-up.


And here is the final shot of the breakfast bar cabinet, I thought Mom’s repro Nelson Ball Clock would look right at home between all those Starbursts.


Come back next Thursday when we install the perfect vintage light in Mom’s carport!

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26 Responses to Atomic Starburst Stencils In Mom’s 1950s Time Capsule Condo…A Tutorial

  1. deb Reply

    June 28, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Love it!!

  2. Pam T Reply

    June 28, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Fantastic! I have seen these at Retro Renovation too, but haven’t tried it yet. Thanks for your detailed account!

  3. Sharon Reply

    June 28, 2012 at 8:12 am

    That looks fantastic. The closet doors are amazing.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 28, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      Thank you Sharon! 🙂 Yeah, I have to admit – the closet doors are my favorite too!

  4. Charlotte Reply

    June 28, 2012 at 9:55 am

    When I first saw the headline, I thought, “No, not the starburst stencils!” I am not a fan of the ones I’ve seen on Retro Renovation because to my eye they looked sloppy, as though the paint bled or something. But YOU have done it again, Sara! These look great! I think it was your choice of paint and method that made it work. Thank you for renewing my faith in DIY projects. 🙂

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Charlotte!!! Thank you so much! I do not think there was any way Mom would have let “sloppy stars” fly in her new condo! 😉 I knew I had to get it spot-on perfect or I was going to have to just paint right on over them if they looked bad. You are right, the creme paint was what really gave me a super clean line and the little sponge dabber worked great too. I tried stenciling a long time ago with a more liquid paint and a brush and it just bled everywhere…it was a nightmare.

  5. Andrea Reply

    June 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Awesome tutorial, Sara! I am now eyeballing my house, looking for places to stencil some starbursts!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 28, 2012 at 5:39 pm

      Thanks Andrea! 🙂 You should totally try this idea, I think you would love the result!

  6. Christy - OrWa Designs Reply

    June 28, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Extremely awesome! I purchased some vinyl atomic stars I am waiting to install in my kitchen when I have time, stencils just might be eaiser!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      Thanks you so much Christy!!! 🙂 Wait, how did I miss vinyl atomic stars that are up for sale somewhere in the universe??? You must give up your secrets as to where you got them from girl! 😉

  7. Christy - OrWa Designs Reply

    June 28, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    On Etsy of course! Where else? 😉

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      Ha! Yes, I should have known! 🙂

  8. Jen Reply

    June 28, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Wow, it looks GREAT! I love it!

  9. FlyingTexan Reply

    June 29, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Sara, you took a plain cabinet and doors and made them look interesting. Like Andrea, I am looking my house over to see where I can liven things up with stencils! Great job and great instructions.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Thank you Flying Texan! 🙂 I really do think the stars add a nice finishing touch. You should definitely give this project a try, I think you’d really like the result!

  10. Vickie Reply

    June 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    You’re my idol. I swear, I could not do half what you have done to this innncredible place. Can stencils like this be purchased already cut? I’m SO not good with crafty type stuff :- (

    Once again…..Spectacular!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 29, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      Thank you for your kind words Vickie! 🙂 You know, I am not that great at crafty things either, I’m more of a house project DIY fix it type person – so if I can do this you can definitely do this too! I am not aware of any stencils that are available to purchase like this, but I swear they are super easy to make! Also, I don’t know if you saw Christy’s comment above, but she said she bought some vinyl atomic stars from Etsy. If you don’t feel comfortable doing the stencils you might try to search around Etsy for some of those.

  11. melinda Reply

    July 5, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    perfect addition

  12. Janice Reply

    January 15, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I am a faithful follower of Retro Renovation and I’m in the beginning stages of a total bathroom remodel and want to do stencil starburst on a focal wall. I Googled “starburst stencils” to see if I could buy them pre-cut (because like you, I’m afraid of cutting my own) and came across your blog. Your step by step direction are perfect and gave me the confidence that I can do this! Where did you get the crème paint? Was that also at Joann’s? Love the way your stenciling came out! I’ve been toying with the idea of adding starbursts to my garage doors and your Mom’s closet doors convinced me to do it! Thank you!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      January 15, 2014 at 4:44 pm

      Janice – So glad you found us! I think you will really enjoy our little MCM blog!

      Yes, you can totally do the stenciling….seriously, if I can do it anyone can do it….and if you are still worried about attempting it just remember you can always paint over your mistakes!

      I did get the crème paint at Joann’s, I actually got all of my supplies there…but if you don’t have a Joann’s close by I am sure that Michael’s or Hobby Lobby has the same stuff too.

      You should totally add starbursts to your garage doors – that would look fabulous! And, you must promise to send in pics after you are done with your project!

  13. Janice Reply

    January 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Thank you Sara! Yes, I have a Joann’s, actually right next door to Hobby Lobby, so I will check out the paint selection at both places. I will definitely send in pics when I get it all done. Thank you for all your help!

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