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How to Reuse and Base Coat and Paint Over an Old Canvas

I recently wanted to paint a rustic pumpkin  and needed a huge canvas. I had one from when I painted a haunted house for this Halloween mantel project so I decided to repurpose it. It’s easy to reuse and paint over an old canvas, especially if you have art you don’t like anymore and it’s an inexpensive, mass produced print. I have a video below with a quick DIY, or some tips to get you started. The rest of the rustic pumpkin painting tutorial is here.

ennifer Rizzo Reusing and old canvas


When reusing an old canvas here are  a few tips:

Determine what kind of paint you’re going to be painting over on the old canvas. If it’s an old acrylic painting, you can prime it over  with  multiple coats of white or black gesso, let dry, and then paint as you normally would.

If it appears to have a glossy appearance, giving it a quick sand with sand paper just to rough it up helps the gesso stick. If it’s a really old painting, always check for lead paint first.

If your painting over an old, cheapo, mass produced canvas print, straight gesso or an acrylic primer generally does the trick! I do find they can be dusty, so giving them a wipe down with a damp rag and mild dish detergent can help to make sure the surface is clean. When priming,j ust put on enough layers, letting them dry between so they don’t bubble.

If you’re going to be painting over and old oil painting (how can you tell if it’s oil paint? It will normally have a thick, glossy, raised appearance, and may even have some cracking or “spidering” if it’s really old.), you can use an all purpose primer like Zinsser, Kilz or Bin. Let it dry, then go over with a few coats of gesso.  I used black gesso on my haunted house acrylic painting.

It’s really important to make sure the right kind of gesso and primers when repainting over an old canvas. If you use acrylic paint on an oil painting, your paint could basically peel off over time. Especially since oil paint has binders such as linseed oil.