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So... should I get SayWhat?™ Single Use Adhesive Stencils, or Reusable Stencils?
...We can and do make both types
...We also make vinyl stick on letters and graphics, click here for more info.

The choice depends on several factors. SayWhat?™ single use masking stencils give the cleanest and most detailed results, and entirely bridgeless, which gives a more realisistic look, and is capable of very complex pattern in one overlay. . This is the process most muralists, professional sign makers, design firms etc. use.

If you are making multiple copies of the same design, or painting a pattern over a large area, reusable stencils can be a more cost effective solution, and have their own appeal, especially for "folk art' type projects

Below are the major differences between the two types.


Click on image above to enlarge
Reusable stencils generally require BRIDGES:
To hold the letter centers and larger areas in, and create a product that can hold up to repeated use, bridges are required. These end up on your finished work and can be distracting- it's generally best go over them afterwards, though it can be difficult to blend them out.
As a rule, the more bridges, the sturdier the design, but we look at each custom project separately.

SayWhat? masking stencils are entirely bridgeless, and take only one time through to paint. You save time, and the self adhesive feature reduces "bleed" under the stencil edge- your results look clean and polished. In fact, this is the same process used by professional signmakers.

Also, many decorative designs, which might normally need several overlays, can often be painted in one pass.

See our short video below for how the product works.

Font and design:
With reusable stencils, although in theory most fonts can be used, in practice the font choices are limited with reusable stencils. Also, there is typically a minimum letter height- it can vary with the font, but about 1" is the smallest we recommended.

Decorative designs generally need to be simplified somewhat because of the need for bridges

Almost any font can be used, at sizes down to 1/2" tall or less, and virtually any special character and decorative design can be created. Literally millions of options.
Many complex decorative designs can be created using one overlay.

Application time and effort

With reusable stencils, If you have a small project, time is about the same, other than painting out bridges as outlined above. Though not required, it is generally a good idea to apply stencil adhesive for tighter adhesion to your surface. If you have a repeating pattern, it must be moved from place to place as you go.

For larger projects single use can be much faster. All text and graphics complete, pre-measured and spaced precisely to fit  your wall area. There's almost no limit to the length or height- we've created projects over 300 ft. long and letters 60 inches tall.. . Apply and paint- that's it. We can even cut curves, shadows, arches- just about any shape you can imagine. If you have a large area, we can cut complete layouts with single use stencils, this is usually cost prohibitive with reusable stencils
Reusable stencils generally run somewhat more than single use, but if you are doing a lot of repeats it can be less expensive per copy.
Reusable stencils won't last forever, and we can't guarantee any particular number of uses, but with care you should be able to get dozens if not hundreds of uses from one.
For single applications usually less expensive, however in most cases extra copies are 1/2 price, so even with 2 or 3 repeats the cost can be comparable. For larger projects you need to factor in your time savings.

Stick on vinyl letters...

Another option for quality looking text and graphics is to have the letters themselves cut out of self adhesive colored vinyl, which you then stick on to your surface. This works quite well for certain situations- in fact, many commercial signs are made this way- and the application is fairly quick since you skip the painting step. We can make, and even suggest using vinyl stick on letters, but only where appropriate (feel free to ask). However we don't generally recommend it to our customers for home and craft use. Here's a quick comparison ***
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Limited choice of colors, most commonly bright primary tones. Most vinyl letters also have a plastic look which can clash with nicely finished furniture and walls.
  You can use any color you can produce with paint, plus the ability to do shading, half tones, embossing, antique or faux glazes, gold or other metal leaf, distressing, glass etching, automotive finishes,even make each letter a different color... an almost infinite number of possibilities.

The vinyl will only adhere to certain surfaces. It is designed to work best on very smooth or specially prepared finishes, such as glass, enameled masonite, foam or gatorboard, finished metals (aluminum, steel etc.) vinyl banner material, and the like. It sticks OK to regular wall paint and smooth or finished wood for interior use, however it would not hold up for outdoor use on these surfaces..
Letters won't stick on fabric, rough or unfinished wood, stucco, or most other porous or highly textured surfaces.

Most vinyl offered to consumers is rated 5-7 years indoors and 3-5 yrs outdoors Premium grade vinyl can last longer, but is much more expensive and is rarely offered as standard material. We will use it where needed.


Will work well on almost any clean, dry, surface, using suitable paints.

Ask if you have any doubt about your particular applications, we'll be glad to give you advice, and even send a free sample to try out if you'd like.

Painted letters will last indefinitely indoors, and 10+ years outdoors on clean, sound surfaces, using quality paint.

The vinyl letters will likely leave a difficult to remove sticky residue when you eventually want to take them off, and may even pull up the underlying finish. And you can't just refinish over them like you can a painted motif, they have to be peeled or buffed off.
  Our low tack adhesive will remove easily, and because it's applied for only a short time, problems are extremely rare. In most cases you can just paint over your work when you're ready for something else.
The big plus of stick on vinyl is speed of application. Smaller vinyl letters can be applied very quickly in many cases, especially on surfaces designed for their use (see surfaces above). However, larger letters can be difficult to position and apply, particularly over 3 inches or so.

Very easy to apply on almost any surface, placing the stencil mask takes no longer than applying letters. From there it can require just a few minutes to paint a solid color, to a couple of hours if you are doing more complex color schemes, it's pretty much up to you

We also have a NO FAULT replacement warranty if you have any problems.

Cost for custom made designs is typically much higher, and is commonly charged per letter, with larger letters costing more, and multiple colors adding to the cost. Design costs are comparable.
Just compare us to other companies that offer custom made vinyl letters, we're up to 1/2 the cost. We price per foot for any font and size we offer.

Other Options:

Hand Painting- if you're already an expert calligrapher- go for it! It's beautiful and rewarding. However, if you're not, it takes months or years of practice to perfect, and even then is still time consuming, plus you're usually limited to just a few styles. Even professional signmakers rarely hand paint- they instead use a process like ours!  We also have among our clients many professional fine artists.

Cutting your own- certainly possible, but difficult and time consuming, that's what we're in business.

Projection- works OK, but requires a darkened room, a good ($300+) overhead projector, and a lot of time and patience. Any movement of the projector will distort your lettering. You also need to set up the text in advance, usually using a transparency . In addition, it's hard to get a crisp edge without a great deal of practice.

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