DIY Canvas Portrait (Part 2)

Canvas Portrait DIYLast Autumn we shared a Canvas Transfer DIY. We've received hundreds of questions about this project, so today I want to share a follow up with more details and Q+A. I hope it helps any of you who ran into trouble creating your own canvas portrait... 

Canvas Portrait StepsHere's how I transferred my photo to canvas: 1. Supplies needed- stretched canvas (I chose an 8x10 size), gel medium (I used this kind from Liquidex), paint brush and the image you want to transfer (laser copy) and a spray bottle filled with water. Remember, your image will print reversed. 2. Completely cover your canvas with gel medium. Use a heavy coat. 3. Press the photo copy onto the canvas and let it dry for several hours or overnight. 4. After your image is completely dry, use a spray bottle to wet the top of the paper. 5. Rub the surface with your fingers until pieces of the paper start coming off. When pieces start coming up your image will be revealed. This step takes patience and is messy! Be careful not to rub too hard as this can remove your transfer on accident. Continue until all the paper is removed and the image is completely visible! 6. Cover your canvas with one more coat of gel medium to seal and protect the image.

Note: You can expect an imperfect transfer. I think the imperfections are absolutely lovely! It's best to choose an image that is not incredibly detailed to work with. Each transfer is different. The more you experiment, the better! (DIY reposted from our original tutorial)

Here are a few questions that readers asked.... 

Q: Can I print my photo on photo paper? 

A: No. A photo printed on regular photo paper (like what you would get from any 1 hour photo) will not work. The reason is that in steps 4,5+6 you need to be able to rub the paper off from the canvas. Any photo with a plastic feel on the back will be water resistant. The best thing to print your photo on is regular printer (or copy) paper. 

Here's an example of how regular photo paper will not work...  

Photo Paper

Q: What is a laser copy? Can I just use my home printer? 

A: The method we've had the most luck with uses laser copies. Inkjet printers (home printers) can also work, but if you choose to use them be sure to print on regular copy paper, not photo paper. 

Ink Jet Printer(as you can see, it's not perfect but it does work to use an at home inkjet printer) 

There was some confusion about what a laser copy is. It's the kind of copy machine that you could use (for cheap!) at any copy shop, office or public library... 

Laser CopiesI've personally had several successful projects using a laser printer, so that's what I would recommend! I take photos in and blow them up to fit the canvas side. I always print in black and white because I think that a contrasty black and white transfer looks better than color. 

Q: I don't have Liquidex, can I just use Mod Podge? 

A: No. Although I've heard of readers using it with success it didn't work well for us. We tried the gloss and the matte varieties of Mod Podge. The results were the same with both types. It's normal for the transfer to have imperfections, but with Mod Podge it was much more than usual. Mod Podge is awesome, but it's not ideal for this project. Here's an example of what happened...

Mod Podge GlossWhat we DO recommend for this project is any gel medium that you would but at the art store. We usually use glossy. Liquidex or Golden work great. I know they are a little pricey, but it's worth it for this project. :)

Q: There is a white film covering my photo. What did I do wrong? 

A: You didn't do anything wrong, it's just not done yet. If your transfer looks like this (below) it simply means you need to keep rubbing the paper off! 

Paper is not fully removedA lot of people get nervous when some parts of the image wear off and don't want to finish. If you look at my finished example at the top, there are some spots that wore off during the process, especially around the edges. This is totally normal and should be expected. Use a spray bottle and rub gently until the paper is completely removed. Then gloss the photo with another coat of gel medium while the surface is still slightly damp. 

A few tips...

-This method for creating your own canvas is perfectly imperfect. The results will never be precise. They are unpredictable. I personally love the look of the finished product. If you prefer a more perfect coverage, you can get canvas portraits made at Sam's Club and other places that print photos.  

-Your transfer will come out backwards, so if there are any words on your photo you need to print the photo out backwards. 

-Many of the questions I receive are asking if you can substitute supplies or method for the same result. We don't know. We've tested some things here, but for the best results we recommend sticking closely to the tried + true method that we've developed with trial and error. We certainly haven't tried every possible combination of supplies, but the method we recommend has worked for us time and time again! 

I hope these tips have been helpful! Please send me a link if you try this tutorial for youself. XO. elsie

Comments

Thanks for commenting! Comments are moderated (everything constructive is approved), so they may take a bit to appear. We reply to comments daily, so please check back!

The Shop

Check out our Photoshop Actions, E-Courses, Workshops and Crash Courses!

Browse by Category