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Reverse Canvas

Today we are making a cute sign with the reverse canvas technique.

If you've never heard of the reverse canvas method, let me tell you really quickly what it is. We are going to take an art canvas, take it apart, and move the frame from being wrapped in canvas to the front of the canvas. Normally it's hidden in the folds of the canvas, and we are making it into a frame in the front.

Start With Your Frame

First, we are going to start with a canvas covered wood frame.  These come in all kinds of quality and pricing, and available at any craft store.  I love the inexpensive canvas from the local dollar store, because they are cheap, ha!  My favorite are from the Dollar Tree stores.

The first thing we want to do is to remove the canvas from the wooden frame.  These are usually stapled onto the back.  You can remove the staples from the back side or you can cover the outside of your staples when you go to assemble your frame later.  The best way I have found to remove the staples is with needle nose pliers or with a flat head screwdriver.  Just make sure you don't have loose staples.  Either remove them or pound them in with a hammer.  Any loose staples will cause your canvas to not lay flat onto the frame later on.

Now that we have the canvas removed, we want to trim down that canvas to be the same size of the frame, so we cut off where the canvas is folded, and repeat that on all four sides.  

​My favorite way to do this is with a rotary cutter and a ruler, but you can also use a craft knife (x-acto knife).  That ruler is a new favorite of mine for small projects where I need a rotary cutter. It's from Alumicolor. I love it because it's got a neoprene backing, so it's a non-slip ruler.

Once you have your canvas ready to go, it's time to turn our attention to the frame.  I usually sand down the wood frame to clean it up a bit before I go to paint it.  You can use any kind of paint or wood stain.  You just want to make sure you get the front, the inside of the frame and the outside edges of the frame.  My go to paint for this is acrylic paint.  

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Design Your Graphic

While it's drying, it's time to work on your sign itself.  You can create any kind of sign or graphic with all kinds of mediums, the design possibilities are limitless!  Since I can't draw to save my life, I am going to use my Silhouette Cameo cutting machine and the software that comes with it.  I found the cutest svg file for my sign from Creative Fabrica.  They have all kinds of cute cut files.

I imported that svg cut file into Silhouette Studios and set it to cut.  You can use adhesive vinyl, but for this I prefer to use heat transfer vinyl.  My go-to HTV is from HTVRont.  Their HTV is one of the best vinyl products I have found. I cut my vinyl down from the roll and placed it on the cutting mat with the shiny side (the carrier sheet) facing down and mirrored my image. 

(If you do use regular adhesive vinyl, remember that you will need transfer tape of some kind.)

Once your vinyl is cut, it's time to do all the weeding, which just means removing the excess vinyl.

​When to assemble your canvas back to your frame and when to add your vinyl is completely up to you.

For me, I struggle with getting my canvas directly lined back up on my frame.  Sad, but so true!  

I prefer to put my canvas and frame together first because if I put my vinyl onto my canvas and have it all lined up and then put my frame on crooked, the entire thing is now crooked…

​But if I start with my frame in place, then I can easily get my graphic centered and I am a happy crafter!

Reassemble Your Frame

I usually use a hot glue gun to do this, but you can also use a craft glue or a staple gun, to adhere your frame to the front of your canvas.  If you are using a staple gun, and you left your staples on your frame, make sure to staple outside of the staples that were originally there.

When you put this together, the top of your canvas will be facing up, and your frame (facing up as well) will go on top.  So we bring the frame from behind the canvas to in front of the canvas, reversing the product.  Which is why we call them reverse canvases.  Then you will trim excess canvas off using xacto knife.

Add Your Image

Now you are going to add your vinyl to the top of the canvas.  You can either eyeball it or use find the center point of your canvas using a tape measure and make some pencil lines.

If using HTV vinyl, grab your mini heat press, either a teflon sheet or piece of parchment paper, and a heat safe mat to protect your work surface, and follow the instructions of the HTV and my heat press.  

With HTVRONT vinyl, it's a cool peel, so once it's cooled off, we can remove the carrier sheet.

​And in no time at all, you have a great reverse canvas sign!  

You can hang it with command strips or with by adding a sawtooth hanger to the back of the frame.  You can also add a personalized message on the back of the canvas around the outer edge of the frame.

This DIY project is a great way to make signs for your home and also makes a great custom gift.  It's such an easy way to personalize a space in your home!  My daughter wants to make several signs for her dorm room, but she doesn't want to spend a fortune on items that she may only use for a year.  Reverse canvas art gives you the canvas and the frame for next to nothing!  And heat transfer vinyl is super cheap.  So we can make a ton of these signs in all different sizes and colors for super cheap.  

These steps are the easiest way I have found to do create these reverse canvas projects.  To me, the hardest part is choosing what you want it to say!  Your piece of artwork can cover the entire canvas or just a section of it.  There isn't a right or wrong way to do it.

Video Tutorial

In this video tutorial, I will show you exact basic steps I did to make this fun sign.

Want to see some other vinyl craft projects? Check out this adorable hat and this sign makeover.

Now that you know how to do this, it's time for you to make your own reverse canvas project!  See you in the next project! XOXO, Meg

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