My Christmas Projects: Project #2 DIY Photo Canvases

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I loved this project, transferring a photo onto a canvas but in all the craziness, I didn’t take a final picture of this project so I’ll have to show you an example from one of the tutorials I referred to:



I used a picture of my Grandma when she was a toddler and her father, my Great Grandfather, and transferred it onto an 8x10 canvas using gel medium and water. It is a really easy project, you can read the general directions here, but I will tell you from experience that 1) an inkjet photo will work just as well as a laser jet photo, 2) you can use Mod Podge or some other decoupage medium, you don’t have to use gel medium. 


The process is fairly simple, the hardest part is waiting for it to dry.  First you put down a thin but even layer of gel medium or Mod Podge.


Next you lightly spritz the photo (on regular paper, not photo paper) with water.  You don’t want it soaking, just barely enough water to soften it a bit.


This is the most important step: first lay your picture face down onto the canvas and then carefully scrape the back with a piece of plastic (old Starbucks cards are perfect for this) to make sure that it lays down smoothly and that all the bubbles and excess gel medium are squeezed out the sides.  You must be patient when doing this.  Start from the center and gently scrape out towards the edges.  Wipe up any excess gel medium that squirts out the edges.  Now let it dry.  I think it’s best to let it dry overnight but if it’s a small project sometimes you can hurry it along with a blow dryer.


After it dries completely, your picture will be visible through the paper backing, having been transferred to the canvas.  All you have left to do is spritz again with water, and begin scraping back the paper backing.  This takes some time, I find using my fingernail is the most productive but you can use your plastic card again to help.  The more you scrape, the more distressed your photo will become.  Keep spritzing with water and scraping until all the paper is gone.  After it dries I use some light sandpaper to further rough up the edges and make sure all the bits of paper have come off. 

The final step is to apply a thin layer of matte Mod Podge or other decoupage medium to seal your canvas. 

I made two canvases, the one of my grandmother and also one of Santa.


I used them in our family gift exchange and as I knew would happen, there was little bit of good natured bartering over them, nostalgia being a hot commodity in our family.  My grandma was shocked to see herself on a canvas!  I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but I need to make another one for my sister so I’ll be sure to photograph that one.

All in all, it’s a cheap project.  Michael’s runs deals on their canvases all the time, you just have to keep your eyes open and wait for a sale.  Or use their mobile app to get coupons, there is as new one almost every week.  I always have Mod Podge on hand and printing the photo onto plain paper from my inkjet printer was practically free. Another under $10 project that was a big hit!

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