Artsy Things Here's how to reuse a canvas, whether you want to completely start over or make a piece of found art your own.

Published on October 18th, 2016 | by Becky Striepe


How to Reuse a Canvas

There’s more than one way to refresh an old piece of canvas art. Here’s how to reuse a canvas, whether you want to completely start over or make a piece of found art your own.

Here's how to reuse a canvas, whether you want to completely start over or make a piece of found art your own.

Don’t panic, y’all. I’m not talking about painting over the Mona Lisa to turn her into a chalkboard, but there are definitely situations when you want to reuse a canvas. Maybe you found some terrible hotel art at a thrift store, but the frame is gorgeous. Or you have some printed canvases from your old photography business that need a refresh. Or maybe you want to know how to reuse a canvas from one of your own paintings that you’ve decided to scrap.

Preparing Your Canvas

The key to reusing an old canvas is preparing your canvas properly. Your best bet is to lightly sand the painting, to even out the surface, then paint over the whole thing with primer. You DO NOT want to paint with acrylic over oil or oil over acrylic, because that is a recipe for flaking or peeling paint. Preparing the canvas helps avoid that mistake.

I’ve prepped old canvases for reuse with regular primer from the house paint section, and my stuff has held up for years. I only use acrylic paints, though, so for oils that might not be your best bet.

You can also use a high-quality gesso to prime your canvas. Just make sure the gesso you choose accepts the type of paint you’re planning to use. This one accepts oil, acrylic, pastels, charcoal, pencil, and crayon, so it really covers all of your bases

This video is about preparing a printed canvas for reuse, but the method is basically the same for any old canvas:

If the old canvas has a lot of texture, you’ll just want to sand more, unless you’re looking to have that same texture in your new work.

Ideas for How to Reuse an Old Canvas

I love the look of a framed chalkboard, but those suckers are expensive! Here’s how to make a DIY framed chalkboard for under $25!

Need some inspiration for making over an old canvas? Here are some fun ideas!

1. Make a chalkboard. – To make the chalkboard in our kitchen, I painted the beautiful frame from some tacky, thrift store art, then painted the art itself with chalkboard paint. Since my original piece was smooth and definitely acrylic (my chalkboard paint was also acrylic), I did not need to sand or prime.

2. Let your kids paint it. – Your kids will be so proud to show off their creation on the wall. This is especially fun if you score a large canvas. Tsh’s kids are older, but I recently let my son and his best buddy, both age three, do a large painting, and they rocked it. So this is really an all-ages project!

Graffiti Art Canvas

3. Make graffiti art. – Scott used a new canvas for this project, but you can definitely use an old one instead! I love how they used two canvases to create a diptych!

4. Create starburst art. – I love this technique for turning old art into a piece with a fresh-yet-retro feel.

How to Reuse a Canvas - Paint on it with crayons!

5. Paint with crayons. – This is especially handy if your old canvas has a lot of texture, and you don’t want to sand. Just prime, apply a base coat in whatever color you want, and then use Julie’s cool technique to do a wax painting with crayons.

6. Puffy paint it. Who says puffy paint has to look 80s-tacky? I love how Virginia and Charlie used white puff paint to make a minimalist typographic design. To do this on an old canvas, just sand, prime, and paint it over in matte white before sticking on your homemade lettering.

How to Reuse a Canvas: Make Leaf Art!

7. Let the kids make leaf art. Sand, prime, and paint the canvas (your kids can even help with these steps), then let them go to town printing with found leaves and other bits of nature that they’ve collected. If you’re sure that your canvas is painted with acrylic, you can also let them leaf paint right on top of the old design. You could end up with some cool effects that way!

8. Use washi tape. – This is another way to reuse a canvas where sanding/priming/painting is optional. How you prep the canvas really depends on what you’re going for, so have fun with it!


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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .

3 Responses to How to Reuse a Canvas

  1. Keely says:

    Any ideas for how to remove melted crayons off a canvas?

  2. RiffRaffMama says:

    The same way you would on clothing.
    Scrape off as much crayon as you can with a spoon or something similar. Using your ironing board as a surface, lay out enough paper towel to cover the crayon area and lay the canvas on top. Cover the reverse side of the canvas with more paper towel and then with your iron as hot as it will go, slowly move the iron over the problem area for a minute or so. Then, remove the paper towel from both sides (which will now show “oily” patches where it’s absorbed the wax crayon) and lay down new paper towel. Repeat the process several times until it has gone.

  3. Devon says:

    I have a mass printed painting that I want to paint over, would the technique above work the same?

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