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Crafts | Make Canvas Photo Prints

Crafts | Make Canvas Photo Prints
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Canvas photo prints — black and white photos transferred to canvas — are a unique alternative to hanging photos in frames. Canvas boards add texture and depth to photographs, and the transfer method used in this project leaves images looking weathered and aged, which gives the photos additional character and charm. When words are included on the boards you end up with wall décor that combines image and inspiration. The boards also make beautiful handmade gifts.

Canvas photo prints are a great alternative to traditional art.
Photo/Art by Bonnie Thomas
Canvas photo prints are a great alternative to traditional art.

For this project I used black and white photos of my son and chose the word “LOVE” to create a continual wall display seen in this photo.

Black and white photos transferred to canvas.
Photo/Art by Bonnie Thomas
Black and white photos transferred to canvas.

Materials Needed to Make Canvas Photo Prints:

  • Canvas boards– these can bought individually or in packs, as well as in varying sizes.  The size is up to you.  I used 8 1/2″ x 11″.
  • Gel Medium
  • Paintbrush
  • Photos that have been converted to black and white (photo programs have editting options for changing photos to black and white) and then printed onto plain white paper using a laser printer.  Do not use photo paper.
  • Vinyl or paper letters in large font
  • Thick black ribbon (optional)
  • Picture hangers


Materials needed to transfer black and white photos and letters to canvas. The letters get transferred backwards in this project.
Photo/Art by Bonnie Thomas
Materials needed to transfer black and white photos and letters to canvas. The letters get transferred backwards in this project.

Instructions to Transfer Photos and Words to Make Canvas Photo Prints:

  1. Print out black and white photos of your choice using a laser printer.
  2. If you have vinyl letters you can skip this step and move on to Step 3.  If you do not have vinyl letters, you will need to print out the letters LOVE in large font.  You can also download letters in large font from the internet.
  3. Whether you are using vinyl or paper letters you will need to trace the letters BACKWARDS onto white paper and cut out the letters.
  4. Start arranging your photos and letters on the canvas boards.  I chose two photos per canvas board but you can use as many as you like.  You will need to experiment and see where your letters fit best so that you don’t block too much of the pictures.  PLACE YOUR LETTERS BACKWARDS ONTO PHOTOS like in photo below.

    Experiment with placement of letters on photos.
    Photo/Art by Bonnie Thomas
    Experiment with placement of letters on photos.
  5. Once you find the best placement for your photos/letters for each canvas board, it can help to use tiny pieces of rolled tape to hold the letters in place.  The less tape the better–and make sure the tape stays underneath the letters.
  6. Letters should now be on top of the photos and the letters should be backwards.
  7. Next, use a paintbrush to apply a thick layer of gel medium to one canvas board.
  8. Lay the canvas board over the photos/letter and center it as needed.  When you have it lined up where you want it, push it the canvas down on the photos/ letter.  The paper should adhere to the canvas board.
  9. Flatten the paper down and push out any bubbles or uneven places.
  10. Repeat 6 and 7 for the remainder of letters/photos.
  11. Allow canvas boards to dry overnight.
  12. Pick one of the canvas boards to start the next phase of this project.  Dab a wet cloth over the paper on the canvas and let sit for a minute.
  13. Start rubbing the paper off of the canvas board.  You will need to re-wet the board as often as needed to get all the paper removed.   Some parts of your boards are white where the letters are—do not panic if you are rubbing off the paper and hit a stretch of white–it is most likely a letter.  Also, if you are doing this kind of project for the first time, this step feels very tenuous— not only does this project become messy and tedious at this point, but the photo may look blurry and you will notice many imperfections.  Imperfections are part of this project.
  14. When all paper has been removed, use a clean damp cloth to wipe off any leftover pieces of paper or gel medium.   Set aside to dry.
  15. Repeat steps 12 through 14 with remaining letters and photos.
  16. When canvas boards are completely dry, apply an even coat of gel medium over the entire canvas board to seal in the photos.  Allow the gel medium to dry completely.
  17. I glued strips of ribbon along the edges of my boards to add contrast. Then I allowed the glue to dry.
  18. Canvas boards can be hung with string or wire, or picture hangers.
  19. Hang your canvas photos!

The total cost of the project was about 20$ (we have a photocopier and I printed photos from home, so printing was not added into the cost).  The gel medium was 14$, the canvas boards were 5$ and the ribbon was 1$.


Bonnie Thomas


Bonnie Thomas


Bonnie Thomas shares her ideas and instructions for simple Yankee crafts. Bonnie Thomas works full time as a child and family therapist in Southern Maine and is also an established artist and author. She has published two books via Jessica Kingsley Publishing, titled Creative Coping Skills for Children: Emotional Support Through Arts and Crafts Activities and Creative Expression Activities for Teens: Exploring Identity Through Art, Craft and Journaling. Don't miss her latest book, How to Get Kids Offline, Outdoors, and Connecting With Nature
Updated Monday, August 27th, 2012
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