Make your own Retro Inspired Canvas Print (Tutorial)

How to transfer a photo to canvas for a neat, retro look!

how to make your own Retro photo canvas - tutorial

This is a fun project if you’d like an inexpensive way to make your own “canvas print”, and you like a retro, old fashioned feel.  It makes a great gift, too (like the one used in the tutorial, a great wedding momento!)

I did this for my December post on FedEx’s Out of Office blog.  It is easy to do, but be warned it is a bit time consuming when you get to the final step of removing the paper from the canvas, so I wouldn’t go any larger than 8×10″ for this project.

The photo for this project is by the fabulous Sarah Howell, of Kimball Bates Photography (recently relocated to North Carolina, for my readers up there–I highly recommend her!)

Tutorial Summary: Retro Canvas Print

Basically, you just need an inexpensive canvas, acrylic gel medium, and a image you want to use.  For the image you’ll need it slightly larger or the same size as your canvas.  Use an image editing program to reverse the image (so you have a mirror image) and to size your image appropriately.  Then you can have it color laser printed or get a color photocopy.

You’re going to adhere the image to the canvas (face side down) using the gel medium.  When it is dry, you’ll remove the paper from the canvas, leaving just the color.  You’d definitely have areas where the color doesn’t stay, hence the weathered, retro look.  You can then cover the whole thing with gel medium for a finished look.

Full Instructions, with photos (and Lessons learned)

I’ve got all the step by step instructions up at the FedEx Out of Office blog: Retro Photo Canvas Tutorial.

Also, a few lessons learned, based on trying this a few times:

  • Like I mentioned, smaller is better due to the time consuming nature of the final steps.  It can take multiple (like 6!) times of rubbing the paper off the canvas.   Let it thoroughly dry after you think you have it all removed, then you’ll see more paper fibres.  Keep rubbing!
  • Try a small test piece first.
  • Experiment! You might find that it’s better to let the paper NOT dry all the way, and then just try peeling the paper off.  When I’ve done similar projects before (but with B&W photocopies) I’ve found that it was much easier, and worked just as well.  But with color I think it’s better to wait til it’s bone dry, which means much more work getting all the paper off.  But, it’s worth a try to attempt some experiments and see what works best for you.
  • Related to that, here’s the technique I’ve used where you don’t let the paper dry all the way: Wooden Photo Ornaments