In this post, I'll show you what supplies you'll need along with step by step instructions to making your own professional canvas panels.
Let's get started with the supplies you'll need:
- rolled canvas
- PVA glue
- spray bottle
- something sturdy with a straight, blunt edge so you can scrape the surface of the canvas (like a joint knife)
- an old paint brush and bowl
- a couple of paper towels on hand.
Real quick, if you’re wondering what’s so special about PVA, here is the rundown: Basically, PVA is a professional grade acid-free (pH neutral), water-soluble, solvent-free adhesive. It’s a white color but dries clear. For the preservation of your artwork when creating your own canvases, it’s important to use an adhesive that has these qualities (I recently learned Mod Podge is a suitable alternative). Over time the pH of low grade adhesive vs paint vs canvas can degrade the canvas and thus the artwork contained on it. For archival purposes, using a PVA adhesive will help ensure the longevity of your artwork. I use this PVA glue and it has worked exceptionally well for me.
Ready to put it all together?
Step 1: Place your hardbord on a flat surface, I usually sit on the floor...a large table would work if you have one.
Step 2: I roll out the canvas over top the hardboard and make sure there is enough slack hanging over each side, about 3 inches of canvas for cradled board and 1 inch for thinner panels. Then I use scissors to cut the canvas from the roll.
Step 3: Make PVA mixture. Once the canvas is cut, I put it aside and grab my spray bottle and spritz a bit of water onto the panel and spread it around using my hand. I do this before I pour the PVA mixture so that it can help to spread better.
To make the mixture, I pour a generous amount of the adhesive into my bowl and since it’s water-soluble, I spray some water in it and mix it up. The PVA glue pours a little on the thick side, so I add water to help dilute the glue into a thinner mixture so that it’s easier to work with. Too much water will over dilute it, but I aim to create a fairly runny consistency.
Step 4: Pour & Scrape. Once mixed, I pour it on the hardbord and spread it around into an even layer using a paper towel. I’ll lay the canvas over top as evenly as possible, making sure all sides have canvas overhanging.
Once it’s on there, I grab my scrape tool and push the excess glue from underneath, always going from the middle towards the edges. This can get messy, so keep your paper towels handy to catch any drips. While I'm scraping, I pay attention to what's going on beneath the canvas. You want your final product to be free of debris and air bubbles. If you do come across either or both of those things, you'll have to lift the canvas as far as you need to, in order to remove the debris or flatten out the air bubble. When I go to lay the canvas back down, I'll add more adhesive and continue scraping.
Step 5: Final panel check & initial cure. Depending on the size of your hardboard, this process can take up to 20 minutes. When all of the excess adhesive mixture has been scraped out, I check one final time for debris/air bubbles and then lay the panel canvas-side down to allow it to cure for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Step 6: Canvas edges, folding & more adhesive. Once the front side is finished with its initial cure, I flip it back over and gently lift up the edges of the canvas so I can add a little more adhesive with an old paint brush to really solidify the canvas before I fold the edges over. I do this on all four sides and I always use my scape tool to replace the canvas, check for bubbles, and debris.
Next, I check to see if I need to cut any of the overhanging canvas edges. I’m looking to be able to fold over to the back of the panel without too much excess canvas.
Sometimes I'll trim a little off of the corners as well if there is excess material there that will end up becoming part of the blanket fold. When I make this cut, I'm usually cutting a small triangular off from each corner when I do that.
I then add adhesive one side/edge (for gallery profiles) at a time to the hardboard and the hanging edges of the canvas. I’ll use my scraper again to remove excess adhesive from under it. When you incorporate the other edges, you want to make sure you blanket fold the corners to keep things looking nice and neat. I add glue as I fold the flaps in the corners.
Once everything is folded and the excess adhesive is removed, cure for another 30 minutes minimum, and then you’re ready to get started painting! Depending on your texture preferences, you can add another layer of gesso or white acrylic paint.
At the end of the day, it is a simple process to achieving a really great high end-product. If you have the time for it, I highly recommend this canvas making process.
If you'd like to watch a short video on how I make my canvases, I made a YouTube video that shows a glimpse into my process. If you have any questions about this process, I'll be happy to help answer! Again, this is a personal preference and opinion of mine, I just share it in hopes that it may offer help to a fellow artists.
Thanks as always,
I'm Chuck Black, landscape and wildlife artist based in Southwest Montana.
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