Canvas Photos DIY Revisited

This is a post I have been meaning to put together for quite a while now.  You may remember last year when I posted about putting photographs onto canvas using Mod Podge.  I receive comments and emails with questions about this project on a weekly basis; it has been pinned over 100,000 times.  100,000 times!!!!  So, it seems like it’s of interest to people (wink!)  I had a friend from Grace’s gymnastics ask me to come into her husband’s photography class a few weeks ago to demonstrate the project and I got really excited to gather and show the various projects that I have done.  I thought it would be good to do an update here also to address some of the most common questions about this project and show a few more examples. 
If you are new to this project, the basic idea is that you use Mod Podge to glue down and seal a photograph and decorative paper siding on a store bought canvas.  A relatively inexpensive and quick project for displaying or gifting photographs!  For the complete instructions, see the original canvas photo post.
Let me first try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions:

Q:  What type of Mod Podge do you use?  Can you use spray acrylic to seal the picture?
A:  I use MATTE Mod Podge.  I haven’t tried it with glossy, but some readers have.  I think it comes down to personal preference.  Some suggest making your own mod podge formula by mixing white glue and water – I’m not gutsy enough to try it, plus I used a coupon and bought a lifetime supply of Mod Podge.  As far as sealing the Mod Podge or sealing the picture for humid climates, I’m not sure.  I’m really curious to hear if anyone has tried this and what the results were?  

Q:  My photo bubbles up/the ink on my photo smears/what kind of paper do you print your photos on?
A:  DO NOT USE photographs printed from your home computer.  For the best results, get your pictures printed up at a photo processing center.  I like Costco.  I always get my photos printed in a MATTE finish. Also, when you glue the photo on the canvas, be sure to lay it face down on a clean work surface and smooth out the photo from the back of the canvas in addition to smoothing it down well from the top side.

Q:  The paper around the edges bubbles up while it’s drying/doesn’t lay flat.
A:  First of all, use a heavy cardstock/scrapbook paper.  My favorite brands are Basic Grey, American Crafts, and My Mind’s Eye.  A good quality paper will make all the difference in your mod podge projects.  It smoothes out nicer, doesn’t crumble or bleed or deteriorate while you’re smoothing it down on the sides of the canvas.  Also, cut your paper pieces just a hair smaller than the surface; it’s much more difficult to get the paper to smooth out if you have to press it around a curve.  Use a better quality canvas.  I really like the canvases from Joann’s.  The brand that is sold at Michael’s seems to be a lot bumpier where it’s folded at the corners; I did not like the results of my canvas photos when I used the bumpy canvases.  Finally, let the paper dry and most of the bubbles/bumps will likely smooth out.  I walk past my drying projects every now and then and just press out any bubbles/bumps.

Q:  Have you done a larger photo and how did it turn out?
A:  I have only put up to an 11×14 photo on a canvas – it turned out awesome.  I did a bit of a larger photo (12×18) on a slab of MDF and it was more difficult to work the bubbles out – though it did dry without any bubbling under the picture.  I sort of rolled the picture out onto the base, smoothing out the bubbles little by little. 

Q:  I can see lines in my finished canvas.  Is this right?
A:  I use a wide foam brush to reduce the number of overlapping brush strokes as much as possible, BUT the finished product will have visible lines.  I LOVE this effect – it gives the canvas some texture and character. 

Q:  Can you use this technique on wood or other bases?
A:  Why not!!  I used some scrap 1/2″ MDF, sealed it with Mod Podge, and did all the steps exactly the same, and it turned out perfect!  Actually, the paper smoothed out around the edges even EASIER.  I did NOT sand the edges at all before gluing everything down.  Makes the project even cheaper if you have scrap wood/wood-like product in your garage!!

 So let’s look at some more examples. 

10×10 photos on canvas in the girls’ room.  These were thicker canvas and I LOVE how they look.  I did not paint the edges of these.  I wanted to maintain the bright, cheery pop of color in the photographs and on the decorative sides. 
 Next up – can you spot the Mod Podge projects in my family room?
 The photo up on the mantle was an experiment with the MDF and I will replace it with a larger version when I find (or take) the right photo.  I’m liking it right now as a placeholder.  The larger photo wall was my big project last December.  I can’t get a good picture straight on of this wall because of major glare, but I’ve just mixed a bunch of random photos and frames and canvas.  I kept everything in black and white to pull it all together.  You can see I still haven’t done anything with that couch…maybe this summer. 
The picture that I put on canvas here is one that my internet bestie, Londen, at Sixty-Fifth Avenue, sent to me.  The photograph was taken of a door in Barcelona – so incredible!  I love having it up in my house – it’s a fun reminder of the amazing friendships that have developed through this blog.
I love how easy it is to throw the pictures on wood scraps, too.  It’s kind of hard to tell from the pictures, but you might be able to see how smooth and crisp all the edges and corners finish off on the MDF below.
 I grabbed a few of my wedding proofs to do this set of 3 – 4x4s.  I used these to demonstrate the project in the photography class I was telling you about.  I prepped the canvases at different steps so that I could show everything, but skip the drying time.  Made me kind of giddy like I was on a TV show or something.  You know, like when they put the casserole in the oven and set the timer for it to cook while simultaneously pulling a finished bubbling dish from the oven below?  Anyway, I think these are going to become part of a photo collage in my master bedroom if I ever get around to decorating in there. 
And finally, I got this next idea when I saw Ashley at Lil Blue Boo use flat canvas panels to make art portfolios.  I have been needing a way to organize and store the girls’ school and art work.  In Photoshop, I added text to a photo of each of the girls with their name, the school year, and their grade.  I had those printed up and mod podged them onto the flat canvas panels.  Then I followed Ashley’s instructions to turn the panels into portfolios.  I hot glued a piece of ribbon inside each side and tied them to close.
Okay!  So that’s what I’ve got.  I hope this helps to clarify the process a bit and inspires you to get crafty with your pictures!  Feel free to share links to your canvas photo projects in the comments. 

Comments

  1. Lemon Lane Cottage says:

    Whar perfect timing. I am working on canvas photos as Mother’s Day gifts based on your original tutorial and this Q and A is perfect. You are one very clever girl and I would certainly watch your TV show. :) Thanks for sharing, Patty

  2. I’ve done several of these and they turn out so beautiful. I have tried the Mod Podge alternative before (watered down Elmers glue) and it looks way better on the top of a picture than Mod Podge. I actually have done the canvases with no Mod Podge on top of the picture. I only put it under the photo. Also chose to paint the sides the same brown so it’s more seemless, but might try the scrapbook paper sometime too. Thanks for sharing the portfolio option.

  3. michael ann says:

    What a great idea! I just found some canvas panels in my stash and was wondering what I should do with them, I think I know now!

    Also this is my first time on your site and I just had to tell you that I think your girls are darling! It must be a sewers dream to have such cute little girls to sew ruffle colorful dresses all day, haha :)

  4. These are SO GREAT!!! I love the idea, they way you did them, and the finished product as well. Thanks so much for sharing!!! The only bad side I can think of to this is I am probably going to run out of wall space from making so many lol =)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Love the Idea. But what is MDF?

  6. missmarquisha says:

    I read your original post, got all excited and started it before reading the FAQ’s! Silly me! I used a photo that I printed at home. As I was putting the top coat of Modge Podge on it, the picture (black and white) started to turn a faint color of pink. But that’s ok. Otherwise it’s holding up well. It’s drying right now! I used ribbon around the sides instead of paper. We’ll see how it turns out in about 30 minutes! Thanks so much!

  7. Anonymous says:

    OK I so wanna do this…but I have a silly question…i watched utube videos for photo transferring on mdf…but when you mod podge the mdf or canvas then apply pic ture on top and reapply mod podge then let dry – is the picture face up on turn upside down…videos ive seen say turn pic face down ( so will be reversed when done) then when dry you take wet cloth and rub onto dry canvas/mdf until all the paper comes off….so with this project when you use actaul matte photo im just laying it face up and know peeling off so to speak – i know stupid question..perfectionist dont wanna assume – thanks

  8. You’re right, you’re not transferring the photo, you’re simply just pasting it on top of the canvas or mdf or other surface. Put the photo face up onto the surface and just seal with the mod podge over the top. No rubbing or tricky manipulations necessary. Have fun!!

  9. I’m going to try the MDF way and was wondering how you got the edge of the photo to look so cool and is the MDF painted first? Thanks so much!

  10. Hi stef, i love ur work! I was wondering if i could use claudine hellmuth studio multi medium in matte to seal the photo instead of mod podge?.. im really excited to try this project but where Im living now, its difficult to find mod podge! Thanks!

  11. I LOVE this idea and got a pack of 10 8×10 canvases on sale for $14 the other day so I cant wait to try it. Have been researching to find the best way to do it and so far I like this method the best. There was one other that I liked that the person used tissue paper and printed the photos on that then mod podged it down so it would keep the texture of the canvas and look more “authentic”. Guess I’ll be trying both. THANKS! :)

  12. Love this idea. But would it work for poster prints of art work? Would the process be the same as the photos?

  13. Thank you for sharing. I love the portfolio idea, however, I was wondering if you added anything on the inside to keep the items from falling out or is there anything that you recommend doing to keep items from falling out the bottom?

  14. Excellent DIY tutorial, I love the collage concept. Have you tried printing your photo on canvas across multiple pieces. Basically you use the same steps here but you splice the photo into multiple sections and then prep the other canvases. Its easier if you use a solid color border, like black/white and apply paint.

  15. Hey, My name is Laura and I blog about tips for displaying printed Instagram photos. I have been doing lots of looking around to find unique ideas and I just want to let you know I love this idea! I love seeing the crafty ideas that people create to display photos! thank you for the inspiration and thank you for sharing.

  16. THIS IS THE BEST SITE FOR TUTORIALS I HAVE SEEN, AND I HAVE SEEN A LOT. That said, do you have any suggestions for putting multiple photos on a large canvas? Do you do them all at the same time, or each one separately? I have had all the materials I need for month but haven’t worked up the courage to do this yet. Help!

  17. Ruth Cogar says:

    To the question, what kind of paper did you print your pictures on you said not to print them from your home computer. When you talk about the portfolios you made for your girls, u talked about what you did in photo shop before printed up and mod lodged them onto the flat canvas panels. I’m confused, is it a different principle to attach pictures to the flat canvases than to the other canvases?

  18. Can you use glossy pictures or does it not work when it’s glossy?

    • girlinspired says:

      Hi Taylor,
      I haven’t tried glossy pictures, but it would probably work just fine. The finished result make look a little different. I’d try it with one and see how it goes. Let me know if it works, okay?

  19. Mirna Jackson says:

    I put my picture on top of the canvas and finished with mod podge, but I got bubbles, how can I get rid off them? please helap

    • girlinspired says:

      Hi Mirna, Be sure you have a good coat of mod podge between the picture and the canvas and let it dry completely before coating the top. Any bubbles should disappear once everthing is dry.

  20. Donna Danos says:

    Good Morning,

    I just love what you have done with the photos on MDF, and Canvas. I was just wondering if you have ever tried or know if anyone has experimented with foam board? I realize it is pricier than the others demonstrated. Any feedback? Also what do you do with the back of the MDF? Paint, Scrapbook paper? Does it stand on its own? Thanks for a beautiful tutorial
    Donna

    • girlinspired says:

      Hi Donna, I don’t have any experience with the foam board, that would be an interesting experiment…you could do anything with the back of the MDF, but since I cover the sides with scrapbook paper and the finished products hangs on a wall or sits on a shelf against the wall, I just leave it as is! Maybe a quick clear coat of Mod Podge!

  21. Jennifer Stoney says:

    I have a couple of posters that I bought in a store. Is it possible to transfer this store bought posters onto canvas??

    • girlinspired says:

      I’ve never tried posters, Jennifer. You might want to add a little Mod Podge in a discreet place to make sure the ink on the posters will not smear. If not, then I say go for it!

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