New thermal paste stencils take the fear out of fitting your CPU

Protection for those nervous first timers.

The results of a thermal paste stencil, made with input and advice from Igor's Lab.
Image credit: Igor's Lab

Applying thermal paste has long been the subject of debate. You can plonk a pea-sized dollop, draw a small cross in the centre, or even dare to use a spreader. Taking the guesswork out and quelling fears of it spilling out the sides, DigitalBlizzard has developed a stencil with input from Igor’s Lab so you can easily colour within the lines.

Dubbed the X-Apply stencil, the tool itself just looks like an unassuming plastic sheet. In actuality, it’s the ideal thickness with 23 cutouts perfectly placed for an even spread of thermal paste. By laying it over your CPU’s integrated heat spreader (IHS), you simply brush your compound over the holes, put the stencil in the wash, and clamp your cooler.

As Igor notes, thermal paste stencils have been around for quite some time. This one’s just a little different due to its implementation, which is currently proprietary. It uses adhesive to stay in place, preventing the paste from getting anywhere unwieldy and protecting sensitive areas.

Of course, it doesn’t perform miracles, but the better surface coverage does have a noticeable impact. Running an Intel Core i9-13900K at an average of 73°, Igor notes that it’s an improvement on other methods. It’s 2°C cooler than the “sausage” application, which constitutes a single line down the middle. That itself beats out the “blob” approach by a few degrees, too.

As you might’ve guessed, it’s not a perfect solution. For starters, you’ll need to avoid touching the sticky side when peeling it off. The paste doesn’t mix well with the adhesive. You’ll also need to use a good deal more than you would with other methods, as there’s a bit of waste. Naturally, this also means it’s a bit messier, which is something I personally don’t need on my workbench. Still, I can appreciate that it’s handy for first-timers, and there are some benefits.

If you’re interested in X-Apply, you’ll need to wait a bit longer, as the tool is still a few weeks out. Once it hits digital shelves, you’ll be able to grab a universal stencil as well as separate AM5 and Intel LGA1700/1851 models from Amazon. For now, you might as well register your interest at to be notified when it’s ready.