A Dairing Life

How to turn a $2 Used Canvas into Modern Art

September 16, 2016 1 Comments

I love when I see DIY art tutorials online, but I have just one problem – the cost of the canvas! Since I’m no Van Gogh, I just can’t justify dropping my hard earned cash on a brand new canvas when I don’t know if my art will be beautiful, or look like a 5 year old hopped up on Go Go Juice got a little crazy with some paint.

Enter my newest obsession – buying canvas art at my local thrift store and painting over it. You know the sort – they have a cat or a landscape painted on them from someone’s attempt at “painting the happy little trees” ala Bob Ross (RIP).

I posted my first stab at abstract art, that I created for our guest bedroom on my personal Instagram several months ago:


I loved how it turned out, so I decided to try my hand at more. I picked up a couple of canvases from a few thrift stores including this bad boy:


Whoa. It was scary. Not scary like, this person can’t paint, but scary like…I feel as though this thing will steal my soul if I look into it’s eyes. So I tossed it into the back of my craft room closet and forgot about it until I went to grab something the other weekend. And there it was, staring at me, as if to say “Paint me, or I’ll burn your house down.”

So I did. I recently bought new hand towels for our powder room from World Market, and wanted something new to decorate the walls. I’ve seen art with solid colors that ombre into a metallic color on Pinterest, and wanted to attempt to replicate one.

I thought I’d start the project like I did the previous one – by spray painting the canvas a solid color. This does two things – it gives you a blank canvas (literally) to work with, and it kind of helps to eliminate any odor or smell from the house the canvas previously lived in. I recommend using Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer by Rustoleum. It has amazing coverage, and blocks stains and odors. The only problem is I had just ran out. So I decided to be lazy and just start spray painting the color on. This was a bad idea. Don’t be like me.


It was a total fail. Scary mask man wasn’t going anywhere without putting up a fight, and he meant business. To be honest, I don’t take this as a failure of my spray paint, but rather of the cheap canvas this was painted on originally. I could also tell that it would take about 10 cans of spray paint to cover the texture of the paint that had already been painted on. So I decided to work with latex paint instead.

Working with a foam paint brush, I applied two coats of white latex paint. Not pictured – before brushing on the white paint, I sprayed about 5 coats of gold on, spraying in a different direction each time. I actually liked how it had kind of a random coverage (and was picking up a little of the texture of the paint underneath), because it reminded me of gold leaf. You can definitely give the whole thing a coat of white primer or paint, and then spray the gold on, covering about a 1/3 to a 1/2 of the canvas, depending on how much you want to show in the final product.

I was then left with this:

I wanted to incorporate the bright teal color from the hand towel I had purchased, but I didn’t have a similar color in my coat closet paint storage area. I had a dark teal from a previous project, so I mixed in a little of the white paint until I achieved the color I liked, then painted on two coats (you may need more or less coats – just add coats until you like what you see).

The trick to getting the ombre effect, is painting just up until you reach the gold painted area, all the way across. Then, take a cheap bristle paint brush (seriously, buy a pack from the dollar store for this, the cheaper the better) and turn it vertically and randomly brush the wet paint into the gold spray paint. Brush stroke marks here are a good thing.

The result is this beauty:


Of course you can choose whatever paint color you want, and pick a different metallic that compliments it. I’m thinking blush with rose gold is a must.

This is how the final project looks hanging in our powder room. I’m in love with how it turned out, and I’m happy knowing that scary mask man is no more. I will probably do more of these for our home. It would also make a great accent piece in a gallery wall installation.

To summarize, the products you’ll need to achieve this ridiculously easy DIY modern art are:

  • Canvas in desired size (if the thrift store freaks you out you can purchase an unused one)
  • White primer or paint. I like to use primers on all thrift store projects to eliminate any stains or odors. My favorite spray primer is Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer. You should be able to eliminate this step if purchasing an unused canvas
  • Latex paint in desired color. My paint is Valspar “Vintage Teal” lightened with white
  • Metallic spray paint. I have several brands/colors that I use depending on the effect I want. For this project I used Krylon Colormaster in Brilliant Gold
  • Foam paint brush
  • Cheap bristle paint brush (I purchased a multi pack that I use for various projects from Dollar Tree)

Have you tried any DIY art? Don’t forget to save to Pinterest!


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A Dairing Life


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