How to Add a Photo to a Canvas, Part I

This is a very long-winded explanation of something that’s very easy – how to add a photo to a canvas. (In the interests of not having a tutorial with 20+ photos, I’m splitting this one up into two posts.)

I didn’t come up with this. There are a lot of other blogs and YouTube videos that cover this same process. I’ve wanted to try this for a long time, but was finally spurred into it by seeing a large fabric wall-hanging thingy online that had Quanah Parker on it. (My love of Quanah Parker runs deep.)

Instead of calling the store and inquiring about the wall-hanging thingy that probably costs more than a bone marrow transplant, I decided to DIY this shiz, for about $20.

You Will Need:
– a canvas, preferably one that’s already primed (I’m using a 14×18 inch canvas)
– acrylic paints (yes, the little $1 bottles of craft paint will do)
– Mod Podge (I like the glossy stuff)
– paintbrushes
– your photo of choice, printed on regular copy paper by a laserjet printer, and the image has been flipped over or mirrored

The basic gist of what we are about to embark on is simple – apply a heavy layer of Mod Podge onto a canvas, slap the photo on it, let it sit 24 hours, then scrub off the excess paper. I KNOW. That does not in a million years sound like it’s going to work.

Okay, first things first. Your image, whatever it may be, needs to be mirrored. That way, when applied to the canvas, it doesn’t turn out backwards. I opened the photo in GIMP, clicked on the Layer toolbar, then clicked on Flip Horizontally under Transform.

Bam. Image flipped.

I should point out that I found this image online, via the National Archives. I have no idea who the original photographer was. If anyone knows, please tell me. If anyone thinks it’s odd to have a photo of Quanah Parker in your house, well then. Let me find you a fainting couch.

The next step is to have it printed on regular printer/copy paper (not photo paper) by a laser printer. Any place that makes copies can do this, either in color or black and white. I already have a laser printer, so I’m a step ahead of the game.

Place the photo where you want it, and mark the space. Because I was painting around the image, I made sure to not get paint where the image was going. (Also, ignore the picture above. I forgot to mirror the damn thing at first, and had to go back and print it out again.)

I was going for a free-form sort of thing and used paintbrushes, my fingers, and blocks of wood to stamp the canvas. This is the fun part; you can do whatever the heck you want.

And if someone ever asks “what’s that supposed to be?” when looking at your artwork, you can punch them in the throat. Pretty sure that commandment is in the Bible.

When the paint is completely dry, scoot something underneath the canvas, directly underneath where the image will go. This just gives a stable, hard surface to work on.

Apply a layer of Mod Podge all over the canvas, keeping it fairly thin everywhere EXCEPT where the image will go. There, get the Mod Podge nice and thick.

Then, IMMEDIATELY place your image onto the canvas. Mod Podge tends to dry quickly, and you want to move your tokus

Take a roller (foam roller, rolling pin, empty can, whatever) and get out any air bubbles. Air bubbles = places where the image will not adhere, so get out them bubbles. Any excess Mod Podge that gets squeezed out from under the image can be wiped away with a damp sponge.

When all the bubbles are gone, it’s time to let the painting sit for a full 24 hours. I don’t know why the wait time is 24 hours, but it is, and I’m not going to argue with those that have done this successfully.

So now we wait. This was, by far, the most nerve-wracking crafty thing that I have ever done.

And for those wondering…I don’t know if this will work with an inkjet-printed photo. Ink tends to get sort of murky and purple-ish when damp, so I’m not even going to attempt it.

I’ll see you back here on Thursday, where we shall see the end result of this project. (Here is the link to Part II.)