Learn how to make Reverse Canvas wall art with this easy, step-by-step tutorial. I’ll show you how to transform an inexpensive craft store canvas into custom wall art with the help of iron-on vinyl and your trusty Cricut cutting machine.
What is a Reverse Canvas
A reverse canvas is a trendy DIY project that transforms a standard stretched canvas into a piece of custom wall art. You can use this technique to make botanical art, farmhouse-style signs, silhouette portraits, and so much more.
Reverse canvas projects are so great because they’re so accessible. How often do you find such an inexpensive art project made with readily available materials?
All you need to make a reverse canvas is a basic wrapped canvas, like the kind you’d find in the painting aisle at your local craft store. Then, add your design!
Today I’ll show you how to add a design with iron-on vinyl (otherwise known as HTV), a Cricut cutting machine, and my free botanical print SVG file. But you could just as easily paint, draw, or stencil onto the canvas — your choice!
To make a reverse canvas:
- Remove the stretched canvas from the wooden frame.
- Flip the frame over, and finish it with paint or stain.
- Add your design to the flattened piece of canvas, and reattach it to the finished frame.
Let’s get started! I know you’ll love learning how to make reverse canvases to decorate your own home, or to give as gifts!
Best Vinyl for Reverse Canvas Projects
In the wide world of craft vinyl, there are two main types: adhesive vinyl, and iron-on vinyl. For this project, I’ll show you how to use iron-on vinyl to make a reverse canvas.
I prefer to make Reverse Canvas projects with iron-on vinyl (aka heat transfer vinyl). Iron-on vinyl adheres to the textured surface of the canvas fabric really well.
All types of heat transfer vinyl should work for this project. In the photos below, I’m using Cricut Everyday Iron-On.
You can also use permanent adhesive vinyl on canvas projects such as this. It’s not my preferred method, though. I find that adhesive vinyl has a hard time sticking to the textured surface of the unfinished canvas fabric.
If you’re going to use adhesive vinyl, you’ll need to prep the canvas to give the adhesive vinyl a better surface to stick to. I recommend applying a base coat of clear mod podge or acrylic craft paint onto the canvas. Then, let it dry (ideally overnight) before applying the vinyl.
Here are some other tips to consider when working with adhesive vinyl on canvas.
- Use a high-quality permanent adhesive vinyl, like Oracal 651.
- Use low-tack transfer tape or contact paper to transfer the design to the canvas. This should help you transfer the design more easily.
- Use a Cricut scraper or other burnishing tool to really press the design onto the canvas before removing the transfer tape.
How to Make A Reverse Canvas
Let’s go through the process of making a reverse canvas, step-by-step.
Here are the materials and tools you’ll need to make a reverse canvas.
- stretched canvas. I’m using an 11″ by 14″ size. You can find these affordable canvases in art and crafts store or online. They are often sold in multipacks, so you can stock up when they’re on sale.
- Heat transfer vinyl or adhesive vinyl. For this project, I prefer heat transfer vinyl like Siser Easyweed or Cricut Everyday Iron-On.
- Cricut EasyPress 2 or household iron.
- Paint or stain. In this project, I stained the wooden frame with watered down acrylic paint.
- Craft knife. I like this trusty X-Acto blade.
- Staple gun or a hot glue gun. You’ll need one of these tools to reattach the canvas to the frame. Either works well, so use whichever you have at home.
- SVG file. You can use mine, or choose one from the extensive Cricut Access library.
- Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore Air 2
Don’t forget to download my free Botanical Wall Art SVG file.
Step 1: Separate the canvas from the frame.
Lay the canvas face-down on a work table. Use a craft knife or X-acto blade to cut along the outer edge of the wooden frame. Make your cut line on the outside of the staples. Take extra care around the corners, since you’ll be cutting through multiple layers of canvas fabric.
Once you’ve cut around all four sides, you’ll have two separate pieces: the frame and the piece of canvas fabric. Put the piece of canvas to the side, for now.
More than likely, you’ll still have a small strip of canvas attached to the back of the frame (under the staples). You should be able to rip it off pretty easily.
If any of the staples come loose, you can use a hammer to tap them back in. Or, if they’re really loose, you can use your fingers or a set of pliers to pull them out.
Don’t worry about removing all of the staples, since the canvas will cover them up in a later step.
Step 2: Paint or stain the frame.
At this point, you have the option to finish the wood frame with paint or stain.
- Prepare the frame by going over any rough spots with a bit of sandpaper.
- Then, use a foam brush to apply paint or stain according to the directions on the can.
- After that, if you like, you can seal the frame with a protective topcoat, like Polycrylic.
Let the frame dry completely.
Step 3: Cut the Vinyl
Now that the frame is ready, let’s make our iron-on vinyl decal.
Open up Cricut Design Space and create a new project. You can upload one of your own SVG files, use my SVG file, or select one from the Cricut Access library. Then, add it to your Design Space canvas.
Note: If you don’t already have Cricut Design Space, you can download it for free. You can use the program on Mac, Windows, iOS (iPhone or iPad), and Android devices.
Next, measure the interior dimension of your frame, and resize your design to fit within those dimensions. (This will be different from the measurements on the package, which are the outer dimensions.)
Select all of the objects/layers you want to cut, and click Attach. For more information about the Attach button, check out this post: When to Use Weld vs. Attach in Cricut Design Space.
Next, click the Make It to send the design to your Cricut machine. Since we’re using iron-on vinyl, remember to mirror the design before cutting.
Place the vinyl shiny side down onto the cutting mat. Load the mat into the machine, and press the C button to start the cut. When the cut is finished, unload the mat, and weed the design.
Step 4: Apply the Vinyl
Now that the vinyl decal is cut, it’s time to iron it onto the canvas sheet.
Next, center the vinyl design on the piece of canvas. Place the preheated iron or EasyPress on top of the vinyl design. Press with medium pressure, and hold for 30 seconds. Remove the iron or EasyPress.
Allow the vinyl to cool, and slowly remove the clear sheet.
Note: If you are using a household iron, you may want to put a Teflon sheet or cotton pressing cloth over the vinyl before heating. If you are using a Cricut EasyPress 2 and Cricut Everyday Iron-on vinyl, you won’t need to use a Teflon sheet or other pressing cloth.
Step 5: Reassemble the canvas.
Once the frame is dry, and the canvas has cooled, you can reattach the canvas to the frame.
Place the canvas right-side up on a flat work surface. Center the frame on top of the design.
While holding the frame in place, use a pencil to trace the outer edge of the frame onto the canvas. Use scissors to trim the canvas – about 1/8″ in from the pencil line.
Then, turn the frame and canvas over. Use hot glue or a staple gun to reattach the canvas to the back of the frame.
Note: You don’t need to stretch the canvas fabric when you reattach it to the frame. In fact, pulling too tightly may distort the vinyl design.
How to Hang a Reverse Canvas
Hanging a reverse canvas is really quite simple. Here are two easy ways to do it.
The first, and my preferred option, is to add a small sawtooth picture hanger to the back of the frame. I like these picture hangers because they’re so inexpensive and easy to install.
The second option is to use one of those 3M picture hanging strips. These canvases are so lightweight that even the small size strips should do the trick.
More Cricut Ideas
If you like crafting with your Cricut, you may be interested in these related posts.
- What is a Cricut Machine, and What Can it Do?
- How to Make Stickers with Cricut “Print then Cut”
- How to Clean a Cricut Mat and Make it Sticky Again
- How to Make a Monogram in Cricut Design Space
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- Use a craft knife to cut along the outer edge of the wooden frame, separating the canvas from the frame. Pull off any remaining strips of canvas fabric, and any loose staples.
- If you like, finish the wood frame with paint or stain. Let dry completely.
- Upload the SVG file to Cricut Design Space. Resize it to fit within the dimensions of the frame. Click Make it, mirror the design, and Continue.
- Load the iron-on vinyl onto the cutting mat, shiny side down. Load the mat into the machine, and press the button to start the cut. When the cut is complete, unload the mat. Weed the vinyl design.
- Using a preheated EasyPress or iron, press the canvas by itself. Center the design on the canvas. Place the preheated iron or EasyPress on top of the vinyl design. Press with medium pressure, and hold for 30 seconds. Remove the iron or EasyPress. Allow the vinyl to cool, and slowly remove the clear sheet.
- Place the canvas right-side up on a flat work surface. Center the frame on top of the design. Hold the frame in place and use a pencil to trace the outer edge of the frame onto the canvas. Use scissors to trim the canvas – about 1/8″ in from the pencil line.
- Then, turn the frame and canvas over. Use hot glue or a staple gun to reattach the canvas to the back of the frame. Add a small sawtooth picture hanger to the back of the frame.
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Sarah Stearns is an artist, maker, and blogger at sarahmaker.com
Her work has been featured in Scientific American, Good Housekeeping, Vox, Apartment Therapy, and more.
Sarah lives and works in North Carolina with her husband and young kids.