Creating Your Own Canvas Print

by Andrea on May 31, 2011

It all started with an article in the latest issue of BHG’s Do It Yourself magazine.  The opening sentences were ‘Love dreamy, stylized wall art?  Create an affordable version of pricey canvas prints using transparencies and a gel medium.’ Yes, please.  The article had a few examples including one of a horse, which got me thinking…  I could make a canvas of Kiwi (our dog) and hang it in our living room. We have just the spot begging for an update!  I have long thought that a large regal photo of Kiwi would add some humor and whimsy to our home. It took me a few years, but I finally convinced Brian that this was a good idea.

Then I went over to parents’ house and saw this photo for the millionth time:

Meet my grandpa, or Avô Acacio, who passed away before I was born.  My parents have had this photo in their home for as long as I can remember.  Given that I never met him and the prominent placement of this photo in our home, this image is what I think of when I think about Avô Acacio.  Looking at it anew with the DiY glimmer in my eye, I realized that this photo would be perfect for this little project.

The photo itself is 20 in x 24 in, and I wanted to keep those dimensions.  I called around to see how much it would cost to have it scanned. That came to a shocking $60 for a flatbed scan.  Hmmm…. then I realized that I could just take a photo of it with my camera for free.  Given the nature of this project, it didn’t need to be a perfect image.

The bad news is that I had NO luck whatsoever with the method that DiY magazine described.  Their method used transparencies for the transfer.  I followed the directions to a T, and I could not get the photo to transfer.  Feeling a bit bummed, I turned to the interwebs and found Margo.  Her process still called for a canvas and gel medium, but it used photocopies in lieu of transparencies.  Now following Margo’s directions and giving up on DiY’s method, I reprinted my enlarged photo using the Adobe tile print feature and made photocopies.

Next I applied a thin coat of gel medium to the canvas.

Then I started laying down my copies and smoothing out the air bubbles with a plastic card.  It’s important to eek out all of those bubbles or else they will show up on the canvas.

Then Margo recommends that you let it set for 10 hours.  I started to get a bit antsy (it was already day 2 of a project that DiY made it seem like would take less than hour) and went to town.  To remove the paper, you need to moisten it with water and rub it with your finger.  The pulp starts to roll up as it comes away from the canvas.

Eeks!!!  It’s totally working.  Look at my grandpa’s face!  Unfortunately, that quadrant was the best one.  Whatever I did for the middle top copy that fortunately had his face, I did not repeat for the others.  Blasted air bubbles!  In the end, it looked like this:

Hmm… not quite what I had in mind.  You can see where the paper was not properly adhered to the canvas.  I do like the look of it and am contemplating adding gray paint to soften the white blotches and accentuate a distressed look.  Or perhaps I’ll just redo it, after all I want to do this photo justice.

So lessons learned (or at least revisited):
1. DiY projects always take longer than you think they will.  What seemed like a a one hour project ended up being 2 hours of work plus 8+ hours of wait time.
2. If Margo says wait 10 hours, don’t start messing with your canvas at the 8 hour mark.
3. Start small for your first project. (Duh.  What was I thinking?!?  20in x 24in???)
4. Air bubbles are the enemy.

I would love to figure out how to properly do the transparency method. This would completely avoid the messy and time-consuming step of removing the pesky paper. Given the size of my canvas, removing the paper alone took 45 minutes.

Soooo…. I haven’t given up. I’ll be revisiting this soon.  I want to make sure and get this right as I’d like to give Mo a version of this at some point.  After all, Mo and Avô Acacio share a birthday!

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