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How to Paint a Ghost on an Old Thrift Store Painting

Painting ghosts on old paintings is a super fun trend happening and so easy to do. All it takes is finding and old non-valuable art work or thrift store paintings (or even something you have hanging around your house in the basement or attic, just check it for value first, you would be surprised!), and some acrylic paint! This is a fun DIY that is also a great way to upcycle old artwork and it’s not just for Halloween either! The most important thing is to first know how to paint a ghost and after that you can apply those ghost drawings or paintings to any old piece of artwork that needs new life! We’ll use simple shapes for this easy ghost drawing, and make a classic sheet ghost that you can use for all kinds of projects like a Halloween greeting card, Halloween decorations, or other crafts ( or painting a ghost on an old painting like below!). There are step-by-step instructions  perfect for beginners below and a video you can also watch on how to paint a ghost on an old thrift store painting.

Thrift store painting with ghost in it on a mantel with vintage brass geese

Thrifted art is perfect because most likely it already has a frame. To make the trend really work, you’ll want to use something with scenery or a landscape. This is such an easy project and so cute! I love how it really repurposes older paintings that might not be so “in style” any more.

I am sharing how to draw on a black painted canvas with chalk first so you can  easily see how it’s done. Once you have the hang of it! you can paint the ghost on a canvas and add it to artwork. If you want to learn how to draw a ghost in pencil, see this spooky post. I added a little garden hat and basket full of flowers to mine.

GHost in the garden thrift store painting

How to Paint a Ghost

Once your ghost is drawn,  it’s east to use the same easy drawing tutorial  to paint a ghost on canvas. Specifically if you want to add it to an old thrift store painting.

How to paint a ghost on a canvas


Those are easy! For our ghost painting upcycle, we used chalk to draw our ghost (so we can erase lines later), Heavy body Titanium White acrylic paint , gray paint and black paint, and a soft brush, and of course a thrift store or old piece of artwork. Ones with scenery work best! Mine was a fun print of a garden scene that I removed from it’s frame. This isn’t an original art work, just a a reproduction print, but it works anyway! I love the idea that my friendly little ghost is taking a stroll by the hollyhocks. I also painted a friend watching them from the window.

First draw a ghost shape in chalk

To get started painting your ghost

use the chalk to draw the outline of the drawing of a ghost where you want it placed in the drawing. You can easily remove it if you don’t like it. You can also paint an entire family of ghosts!A ghost is basically an upside down U shape with a ruffle at the bottom. Do you love ghost decor? See how to make the viral ghost rope wall hanging here.

Draw a squiggly bottom to the ghost

Then with a soft brush with white acrylic paint, fill in in the ghost’s outline of the body just as was done in the drawing.  This may take a couple of coats to fill in completely.

Paint in ghost image with white paint

When the ghost is painted in and dried, at the bottom of the ghost, add shading to make the ghost not only look a little more dimensional, but you can also add the look of a flotation effect with some shading and by adding a shadow. At the base of the ghost’s body, where the sheets hang together, use a small amount of gray paint to create a shadow (see image) to make the sheet creases. This will give the illusions of folds in a sheet.

Add shading with gray paint

Painting the Ghost’s Face

This is the funnest part because it means that you can now give your little ghoul some personality! Mine is a friendly ghost with a bit of a pensive look. Make sure you grab the eye templates in this post. I love how cute this is! I painted mine on an inexpensive framed garden art print from the thrift store.

Paint on ghost eyes

I love how sweet my ghost and their friend look in the garden. The painting as a backdrop actually looks pretty awesome. This is a fun project  to explore creativity for grown ups and kids, and you can add a pumpkin to, or add them to an original painting of a haunted house!

How to paint a ghost on a thrift store picture step by step

Here’s a little peek at my painted ghost. before I added the hat. It was fine this way, but I like the added hat and basket better!

Painted Ghost in a thrift store painting on a mantelscape
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One Comment

  1. Such a fun date night! Thank you for the awesome instructions! The ghosts really make the paintings sooo cute

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