How to Make a Reverse Canvas | Crafting Basics

A reverse canvas with a gradient pastel background and the senciled words "Dream Big"

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Take your canvas art projects to the next level with this simple reverse canvas technique. The added frame will give your project a whole new look.

The words "Simple Reverse Canvas Tutorial" above two finished examples of a reverse canvas

A few months ago, I was searching around for some inspiration involving fabric canvases. I have a rather huge pile of them in my craft room that I’ve been collecting since Christmas of last year. My original intention was to learn how to paint. And while I still plan on doing that I just don’t have time right now. So in the meantime, I was hoping to use a few of them for other crafts.

During my search I came across the reverse canvas. And my mind exploded with all the possibilities of what I could make with this newfound technique. I plan on making some more involved projects in the future. But for now I wanted to just explore the reverse canvas technique in particular.

Most other projects I’ve seen using this technique involve decorating the canvas with heat transfer vinyl that was cut on a cutting machine; namely the Cricut. While I do have a Silhouette Cameo myself, I almost never use heat transfer vinyl. And since this is just a general crafting blog I also try to make projects that don’t rely too heavily on expensive tools.

So here I want to focus mostly on the technique itself, along with a very simple way of decorating it.

What You Will Need to Make a Reverse Canvas

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Paint or Wood Stain for Frame

Paint for Canvas

Hot Glue Stick

A blank canvas, a bottle of acrylic craft paint, four tubes of fine art paint and a hot glue stick



X-Acto Knife


Hot Glue Gun

Scissors, and X-Acto knife, two paint brushes and a hot glue gun

How to Make a Reverse Canvas

Step 1: Remove Canvas Fabric from Frame

Start by removing the canvas from the wood frame. The easiest way to do this is by using an X-Acto knife. Simply cut next to the staples on the back of the frame. You don’t even need to worry about how deep you are cutting. The entire back side of the frame will be covered at the end, so none of it will be visible

The blade of an x-acto knife cutting through the fabric of a painting canvas

Carefully pull the canvas apart from the frame. Now all that’s left will be some small strips of canvas on the back. It’s easy enough to just rip them off. They can then be thrown away.

The fabric being removed from a painting canvas

If you REALLY want the back of your frame to be smooth, you can remove the staples as well. Depending on how you plan to finish off your canvas this isn’t necessary. I’ll go into more detail a little later in this tutorial.

The removed canvas fabric next to the blank frame of a painting canvas

Step 2: Paint or Stain Frame

Now that the frame has been removed you can either paint or stain it. You can use any type that you want as long as it works on wood (obviously). In general stains are nice because you can see the wood grain underneath after you are done. But with paint, you have almost endless color options. So just pick what is best for your project.

Because of the colors I picked out for my canvas, I thought it would look good to do a white frame. I had a bottle of glossy acrylic craft paint that was left over from an old project that I decided to use.

In most cases the frame is ready to be painted right away. However, mine happened to be a little rough on one side. Not the biggest deal considering that this frame was never meant to be visible anyway. So before painting I sanded it down a bit to make the surface more even.

Then using one of my larger flat paintbrushes, I painted the whole surface of the frame with the white paint. I started with one coat on the back. Even though the back will be covered at the end I wanted to make sure none of the wood surface would be visible. Then I gave the front two coats and set it aside to dry completely.

A canvas frame painted with white acrylic craft paint

Step 3: Cut and Paint Canvas

Before painting the canvas, it’s best to cut it down to size first. Because the canvas was wrapped tightly around the frame, there will be defined creases that can easily be used as a guide. I simply cut along the most inner creases all the way around.

The fabric of a canvas after it has been cut to the size of the back frame

Then paint the background layer. I’m once again using my Mont Marte acrylic paints. I used these paints when I made my 3D Beach Canvas several weeks ago as well. The fine art acrylics are just so much smoother when painting on canvas compared to the craft acrylics. This time I’m using the colors Titanium White, Magenta, Purple, and Deep Cyan.

A piece of canvas with several blobs of paint in different colors

I wanted my colors to be in pastels (go figure, right?) so I mixed a generous blob of the Titanium White with a small dab of each of the three remaining colors. I mixed my colors on a separate sheet of wax paper, but you can mix them on a palette or even directly on the canvas if you like.

A fabric canvas taped down and with paints in pastel pink, pastel purple, and pastel blue sitting on it

After mixing, I added them to the canvas in the order I wanted them to blend. In that case it ended up being pink, then purple, and finally blue. Using my large flat brush, I blended all the colors together as evenly as I could.

A canvas painted with a gradient pastel background

Step 4: Re-Attach Frame to Canvas

With the canvas painted, it can now be reattached to the frame. There are a few ways this can be done. But the fastest and easiest would be to use a hot glue gun.

Before gluing, do a quick check to make sure the frame and canvas are faced the way you want. A lot of times these frames can have some slight imperfections. So you may want the frame to be aligned a certain way.

The last of the canvas being glued back onto the frame using hot glue

If everything looks good, flip the frame and canvas over to the back and align everything. Then glue your canvas to the frame. I find it easiest to work in sections, first gluing one side. Then I glue both middle sections. And finally I glue down the other end. Hot glue dries so fast, so working bit by bit it’s easier to get the canvas properly secured.

A reverse canvas with the canvas painted with a gradient pastel background

Step 5: Decorate Canvas

All that’s left to do is decorate the canvas. The possibilities are endless, but since I wanted to start simple, I used a stencil. To paint the letters I used the same Titanium White that I used to paint the canvas.

A reverse canvas with a white frame and a gradient pastel background with the words "DREAM BIG" stenciled in white

After the paint dries, you can display it. I also made a smaller canvas as a test piece to go along with this one.

A reverse canvas with a white frame and gradient pastel background with the word "HELLO" stenciled in white

I plan to display mine propped up on a shelf, so there’s no need to do anything else. But if you wanted to hang your reverse canvas on a wall, you can always add some framing hardware to the back as well.

Additional Notes on Reverse Canvas

Depending on how you want to decorate your canvas, you might want to do these steps in a different order. Because I used a stencil for mine, it was easier to center it after the canvas was attached to the frame. But in some cases you may want to completely decorate your canvas before adding the frame back on. Just do whatever is best to suit your particular project.

As far as reattaching the canvas to the frame, I used hot glue because it was easiest. Also, I plan to display both frames on a shelf in my house. So the hot glue will hold fine for that purpose. If you are making these to sell or give as a gift you may want to use a staple gun instead. It will not only look more finished but will make the project more durable.

I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and found it helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. I’d love to hear from you! Thank you for stopping by and happy crafting!

Signature "Chel" written in purple colored cursive

If you liked this tutorial, don’t forget to pin it for later on Pinterest!

An empty canvas and frame above the words "How to make a reverse canvas DIY tutorial" above two finished reverse canvases

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