Friday, October 5, 2012

DIY Canvas Art

I think every place I've lived has had something I wanted to hide.

Go away, ugly big beam on the ceiling.
Or weird pipe cap that looks like someone glued a half of a paper plate to the wall.
Or expansive drop-tile ceiling.

Thankfully, I have left behind those three nuisances...but only to find one more.
Hello, big alarm system control panel.
Doesn't it just say, "Welcome to our prison!  You may be randomly selected to have a pat-down.  No worries, standard operating procedure."

Okay, so some people need an alarm system because they live in a not-so-safe place.  Heck, I wouldn't care a whit about it if it wasn't so HUGE!  (I apologize if you have a huge alarm panel that you love...)

Something had to be done.
The budget?  $0.00

Forced creativity is good for you.

Here's how I did it, all with things I had around the house...and I bet you have almost all these things, too.
For the "Canvas"
1.  Piece of sturdy cardboard big enough to make the "canvas" base you want.
2.  Piece of fabric/canvas large enough to cover cardboard
3.  Hot glue gun & glue sticks
For the Graphics Transfer
1.  Printed graphic in the size you want.
2.  Transfer paper of some sort
3.  Fabric Paint & artists' paint brush
4.  Graphite pencil (optional)
5.  Clear spray sealer (optional)

First, figure out what you want it to look like.  I chose a quote by C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite writers of all time.  Then, lay it out on the computer and print it in the size that you want.  If you need to splice together pages, do what you gotta do.  Doing this first will ensure that you make your canvas the right size.

**You can also use Staples' service of black and white engineering prints, which are cheap and big.  More on that in an upcoming post.**

Here's how to make your own cheater "canvas":
Grab your cardboard and measure out the size you want your finished "canvas" to be.
 I used a square from Joe's woodshop, and a yardstick.  I wanted my canvas to be 40"tall x 12"wide x 2"deep (deep enough to fit over the alarm control panel).
That meant that I measured out a 40" x 12" rectangle, then a larger rectangle around it to give me an extra 2" on each side (44" x 16").  Then, I cut out the larger of the two rectangles.
Once the large rectangle was cut out, I scored the smaller rectangle with an old serrated kitchen knife.  I cut through only the top layer of cardboard, keeping the bottom layer intact.

Once it was scored, I folded the 2" down on each side, then cut on an angle from each corner toward the middle of the canvas--just enough to split the sides apart:
Then, I folded the corners in and glued.
(Do you love my spray-painted cardboard?)
 Next, I cut the canvas to a little larger than I needed to cover the front and sides.
I glued it on by wrapping the canvas around the sides and gluing on the inside of the cardboard.  THen folded the corners over at an angle and glued to the inside.  This gave me the look of a wrapped canvas, yesssss :)
There's my finished canvas!
Now, if you're going to transfer graphics, there are a few ways to do it.  Well, actually there are about a zillion ways to do it.  But here are my two favorites.

The first way, which works well if you're doing something very large, is to print off a transparency and hunt down an old-school overhead projector.  Just project your image onto your canvas, outline it with a pencil, then paint it in by hand.  I used this method on these signs for a production at Theatre Cedar Rapids (Set Design by Derek Easton):
Now, those are probably a bit big to go in your house (see the Sharpie marker next to all the signs for scale?), but you get the idea!  (Actually, I really secretly wish I could put that giant Pepsi sign in my living room...).

The other, less daunting way of doing it (especially if you don't keep an overhead projector stored away in your attic) is to do it the way I did this project and my Mailbox Makeover, using a full-size printed graphic and transfer paper.
 This is actually fabric transfer paper.  I bought it at Wal-Mart a few years ago, and it's inexpensive and works well on pretty much any surface.  Carbon paper does give you a cleaner line, but I don't know where to find that :)  Plus, fabric transfer paper comes in white, so you can transfer onto a dark surface.
First, tape on your printout exactly where you want it to be.
Then, place a piece of transfer paper (whatever color is the best contrast with your fabric) chalky-side down.
Then, using a dull pointy object (I use a ballpoint pen), trace around the letters firmly.  Check frequently to make sure the chalk is transferring clearly.
You wouldn't want to get to the end of a line and realize that it didn't transfer at all.
Not that anyone would ever do that...
Here is the transfer.  It's a little messy, but the chalk dust comes right off when you're done painting.
Now you just have to paint in the outlined letters.

There are a few keys to this:
1.  A good brush.  If you don't have a brush that's giving you nice clean edges...don't fight it.  Just get a different brush, they're not expensive.  It's very difficult, perhaps impossible, to get a nice finished product without the right tools.
2.  Patience.  Just go slowly and carefully.  If you find yourself rushing, take a break and eat something.    Well, that's what I do...but I'm eating for two, right?
3.  Relax.  Don't be too rigid about following the lines.  If you try too hard, the letters can look choppy. Just use even strokes, making the lines themselves look nice, and if they don't follow the font perfectly they'll still look nice.
I use regular craft paint or house paint for this.  They both work well.

You'll find that as you go you figure out the tricks that work best for the type of lettering you're doing. Each font is different and has its own challenges, so just pay attention to what is working well for you and what isn't.
Here she is with all the lettering!!
Now, you can just stop here if you like.  It felt a little unfinished to me, though, so I did one more thing.
I took an artists' graphite stick (basically a pencil made entirely of graphite, no wood) and ran it along the edge.  Then, I rubbed it smooth with an old sock...that had become Jip's toy...he did not appreciate it being taken from him.
If you don't have a graphite stick sitting around, it's the equivalent of a 6b pencil (soft graphite) or you could probably use charcoal.  I wouldn't attempt a normal no.2 pencil, though.  It won't blend for you.
Then Joe sprayed a clear sealer on it (thanks, honey!), to keep the graphite from smudging all over.  You can also use hairspray for this :)  
Hooray to no more alarm panel!!  Much better.
Plus, there's a puppy in this picture.
And do you see our new rug???
We got it at Menards for $1.50.
With a $1.50 rebate.
That means it's just $0.44...the cost of the stamp for the rebate.

I'll take a 44 cent rug any day.
It will go well with my free canvas art :)

Enjoy your weekend!!

~The Doodle Bug

I'm usually partyin' at these hangouts:

Friday Feature @ Redoux
Feathered Nest Friday @ French Country Cottage
Furniture Feature Friday @ Miss Mustard Seed
Show & Tell Friday @ My Romantic Home
Flaunt it Friday @ Chic on a Shoestring Decorating
Frugal Friday @ The Shabby Nest
Simply Creations Link Party @ Simple Home. Life
It's a Hodgepodge Friday @ It's a Hodgepodge Life
Spotlight Saturday @ Classy Clutter
Trash 2 Treasure Tuesday @ Kammy's Korner


  1. Well done! You just amaze me.

  2. Brilliant! I will definitely be making my own custom canvas in the future!

  3. I LOVE the idea and I also had a few chuckles as I read through your post. You're so cute and funny!

  4. OH AND -Cedar Rapids Theater?? You must be an Iowa girl?! Me too!! Though I've been transplanted to Michigan... I was just in Marion last week.

  5. Simply Gorgeous! Not to mention quite clever!

  6. Wow - I love this. I haven't seen another tutorial like this - your very unique (luv it!). So glad I found your link at My Romantic Home.

  7. P.S. I love the picture of your little dog. He looks just like my Dog, Max who is a schnoodle (schnauzer and poodle). Best dog in the world! :)


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