Artists Canvases or stretched canvases as they are also known as are perfect for altering and painting. You can buy them quite cheaply these days from pound and dollar shops.

For this challenge we are going to start work on a small canvas, this way we wont feel out of our depths with a huge imposing blank canvas looking at us. So what size should you get? Well thats up to you, but seeing as we are going to have a swap; I figured a mailable size! Ie something that will fit through your letter box! As a guide approx HALF the size of a standard piece of printer paper (or smaller if you wish!)

If you cant get hold of stretched canvas you can use canvas board, or even acrylic paper. Alternatively you can use the cover of an hard back book instead (you will need to paint it white first to prime it or use gesso)

You might prefer to practise painting onto canvas paper before applying your paint onto the actual canvas to build up your confidence.

The Altered Collage Canvas Project will be broken down into easy steps to allow you to follow them at ease.

Step 1

For step one of the Altered Canvas Challenge we will concentrate on how to add colour onto the blank canvas.

I chose ordinary crafters folk art acrylic paints, because they are cheap, cheerful and colourful. Plus they are very easy to work with and are made for using with canvases.

There are other mediums you can use if you dont have acrylic paints, some examples are poster paints, artist inks, watercolour crayons, oil pastels, glazes, watercolours, adirondak colorwash sprays; infact anything at all!

If you wish to follow the adding colour steps of this challenge below then you will need the following supplies:

  • Stretched Canvas -or- Canvas Board
  • Folk Art Acrylic Paints
  • Decorators Paint Brush
  • Plastic Lid
  • Credit Card
  • Newspaper

Additional Information On Supplies:

Folk Art Acrylic Paints – I used Anitas brand, other types of brands are Inscribe, Jo Sonjas or Plaid.

Choosing Colours -To create the sample shown in this tutorial I used 4 different colours of acrylic paint: Yellow, Red, White and Purple. You can use any colours you wish, however make sure the colours you choose compliment one another. I recommend that you choose 1 light/pale colour, one dark colour, one bright colour and white.

Decorators Paint Brush – Use a wide bristled cheap decorators brush as they are easier to slap the paint on with

Plastic Lid – Use an icecream or margerine lid or even a plastic plate, this is for mixing your paint onto.

Credit Card – I use those free store cards or mobile phone top up cards for this. A plastic knife or fork will also work as a subsitute.

Newspaper – This is used to protect your work surface, especially if your a messy painter (like me!)

Directions For Painting Canvas Background:

Before You Begin:

You are going to apply the paints ‘wet on wet’; this means you do not allow the different layers of paint to dry, you are applying one layer of paint directly on top of a wet layer of paint. This is known as the wet on wet technique and allows the paints to naturally interact with one another and blend.


For the base coat I used YELLOW, if you wish to chose an alternative colour then opt for any pale light colour such as; yellow, pink, light blue, light green, tan or similar.

Squirt yellow paint onto plastic lid, dip paint brush into the paint, and tap the brush onto the newspaper to remove some of the excess paint; you dont want your brush to be too wet. Quickly rub the brush and transfer the paint roughly across the canvas, dont apply an even coat. You want some canvas background visible through the paint. See example below:

Step One

For the second coat I chose RED, if you would like to use a different colour then pick an alternative bright shade such as purple, blue, magenta, green, orange, brown etc.Squirt some red paint onto the plastic lid, dip your brush, rub off the excess paint from the brush so that it is almost dry, and drag it across the canvas. Move your brush in different directions. Again do not completely cover the surface, you want some yellow visible. See the example below:

Step 2


For the 3rd coat I always use white, white is neutral and acts as a binder which will bring your two previous colours together.

Squirt the paint onto the plastic lid, again dip your brush and tap off excess and gently use the brush to sweep across the surface and gently blend the 2 base colours together. Do this step with a light touch and apply the paint sparingly. See example below:

Step 3

FINAL LAYER – Highlights:For the final layer I used both white and purple together, if you wish to use an alternative colour then opt for any dark colour paint, examples: green, blue, brown, black, maroon.

The final layer is for applying highlights to the paint only.

Squirt a tiny amount of the purple onto the plastic lid, squirt some white paint next to it so that they are touching each other. Use your brush to lift up the paint, tap off excess onto newspaper and apply the purple and white blend randomly over the canvas to add interest and highlights.

Next use the credit card to scratch into the paint to lift and remove little areas of paint. Because the paint is still wet you can use the credit card to reveal the previous base colours on the canvas and create depth and dimension.

Use the credit card to scratch out patterns into the paint too, experiment! If you go wrong you can simply remove the error or cover it up with more paint! See exaple below:

Step 4

Once you are happy with how your canvas looks put is aside to dry.

More examples of painted canvas backgrounds:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

Step 2

Now we are ready for Phase 2!

This time we are going to start adding highlights and enhancements to our painted canvas backgrounds.

Theres a number of ways we can do this, Step Two will concentrate on the different methods in which you can add interest and texture to your canvas collage before adding the main image.

General Supplies Needed For Adding Background Elements:

  • White PVA Glue
  • Dark Acrylic Paints
  • Plastic Lid (for mixing paint)
  • Decorators Paint Brush
  • Torn Text Printed Papers
  • Craft Papers
  • Credit Card
  • Patterned & Alphabet Rubber Stamps (optional)

Additional Info On Supplies:

PVA Glue – This is cheap white school glue, it dries clear, it is also known as Elmers Glue in the USA. I use the Anitas brand. You can use any brand such as Mod Podge, so long as it dries clear.

Dark Acrylic Paints – I use Black, Purple, Maroon and Grey – if you dont have many dark colours of acrylic paint you can mix a tiny amount of black to your lighter colour to achieve a darker shade. Experiment with colour mixing and combo’s.

Torn Text Printed Papers – I used pages torn from an old hard back book, you can use papers from magazines, books, newspapers, catalogues – anything! If you prefer you can use printed text scrapbook paper.

Craft Papers – In any colour, you can use patterned too if you wish but do not choose a pattern that is too bold as you are going to use it as a backdrop for your main image later on. I used Brown Kraft paper and Gold Kraft paper as they are both muted and not too ‘in your face’ – you could recycle brown envelopes for this if you dont have Kraft papers.

Patterned & Alphabet Rubber Stamps – If you have any large alphabet stamps or pattern stamps then these are ideal. Dont panic if you dont as there are other ways to get interest onto your canvas!

Suggestions For Enhancing Your Canvas Backgrounds:

Before you begin, you do not have to follow these steps at all, you can add whatever enhancements to your canvas your heart desires. You also do not have to follow them in any order, feel free to interpretate these steps and use them in any shape of form you wish!

Torn Paper Strips –

Tear strips of printed text paper and position and glue it onto the canvas – you can glue it anywhere on the canvas area. Bear in mind that it will be used as a kind of border for the main image.

You can also glue down torn strips of coloured craft papers too, or patterned papers.

Dont use gigantic pieces of paper as you dont want to cover too much of your lovely painted background either!

Alternatively you can add torn strips of craft papers too, experiment with different paper strip widths and lengths to achieve different effects.

You can water down some acrylic paint and use it to paint your torn paper strips before you glue them on so that you have different colour papers. Try layering different colours of painted papers together to add interest.
See one of the examples below:

For this canvas I tore strips of text paper and painted them with watered down acrylic paints, I highlighted the edges on the larger piece using black paint to give the paper a grungey feel.

Phase 2 Canvas

Rubber Stamped Highlights:

You can use large alphabet rubber stamps to paint on background elements. I used a set of foam stamps by Making Memories – I picked out random letters or numbers and used paint to ink them up and stamp them. I also used a making memories pattern set with large harlequin stamps in them to add background detail.
If you dont have any foam stamps; you can use ANY patternrubber stamps!

I used a ‘Scratches’ stamp by the Tim Holtz Line, I painted it with purple and white paint and stamped it randomely across the canvas.

Important: When using acrylic paints with ordinary rubber stamps remember to clean them up straight away so that the paint doesnt dry on the rubber.

If you are using a larger stretched canvas you may find it harder to get a good impression in the centre of the canvas because there is no wood to support it. There is a way to get round this; you can slip a clear acrylic stamp mount under the canvas in the place where you want to stamp and use it as a support rest. When you stamp you are stamping onto the block underneath and therefore it helps you get a good image. You can also do this with a hard backed book.

See example below:

The canvas below was first randomly stamped across the surface using purple and white paint, I used the Tim Holtz Scratches stamp for this. When the paint was dry, I glued on a strip of torn text paper. Next I stamped on the numbers 4 and 2 using black acrylic paint to finish. This canvas is all ready for the final stages of its transformation!

Phase 2  Canvas

Painted Highlights:

If you dont have rubber stamps to use, there are other ways of adding dimension to your canvas backgrounds.

Punchinella Detail:

You can use Punchinella (sequin waste), use this as a stencil and brush on paints through the holes, move it around and stencil small areas across your canvas. You can also use the punchinella to stencil on the torn papers as well as the canvas.

Credit Card Scratches Detail:

Dip the edge of a credit card into acrylic paint, and use the edge of the card to paint and draw random abstract lines across your canvas – dont worry about being neat as you want to be totally random.

You can also use the credit card to make ‘cross hatch’ patterns too. See examples on this page for more info.

Brush Strokes Details:

Dip a brush into dark paint and scrape off the excess paint onto scrap paper, the brush is almost dry but not quite, use this to ‘dry brush’ across the surface of the canvas to add dimension. You can also dab brush strokes across the edges of the canvas to create little fleks.

Dont be afraid to experiment with brush strokes to add pattern detail. Remember if you make a mistake you can use a damp sponge or baby wipe to remove your errors!

Have Fun!

Basically the general rules are…there are none! Use stamps, brushes, credit cards to paint and add dimension and interest to your canvas. Tear off strips of papers and glue them randomly. Dont worry about placement and how they look at this point as you will be covering some of these up in the final Phase 3!

Have FUN! Just play with the paint and the papers.

Canvas Background Element Samples:
First of all I randomly created scratches on the canvas using a credit card. Next I made a border using punchinella and black paint to stencil the pattern across the edges. Next I stamped the numbers using purple paint, and finally I stamped the harlequin backgrounds to finish.

Phase 2 Canvas

On the example below, my first step was to make credit card scratches across the canvas using white and purple. Next I glued on a piece of torn brown kraft paper. I took a strip of torn text paper and painted it purple, then stencilled on black punchinella holes over top of it, finally edged the paper with black paint and glued it overlapping the brown kraft paper. The numbers 8,2 where stamped using purple paint, then I roughly stamped the Harlequin stamp on purpose so that I didnt get a perfect image.

Phase 2 Canvas

On the canvas below I painted the edge of the left with purple paint to make a border, next I glued on a torn strip of walnut ink stained paper, I over lapped this with a strip of brown kraft paper which I had punchinella stencilled. Finally I overlapped this with a torn strip of brown kraft paper. I added credit card cross hatches using black paint. Harlequin was stamped in grey, the letter G was stamped in purple, the border on the right was created using the number 0 stamp repeatedly. I then used a credit card to draw a line across the harlequin pattern.

Phase 2 Canvas

Torn text paper glued on first, then I painted 3 random blocks across the side of the paper. Next I stamped on the number 5 and used the harlequin to off stamp on the edges.

Phase 2 Canvas

Torn text paper glued on, credit card scratches and brush strokes added to add detail and finally stamped with harlequin border to finish.

Phase 2 Canvas

Dry brushed the left hand side with black paint first, then I glued brown kraft paper, then glued punchinella stencilled text paper over the top of this. Finally stamped the letter W on the canvas to finish.

Phase 2 Canvas I stencilled randomly across the canvas using punchinella and maroon paint first. Then I tore off a large piece of gold craft paper and glued it down. I glued a strip of text paper over the top of this, then layered over a torn strip of punchinella stencilled paper to the left hand side. Finally I added a long thin torn strip of brown craft paper. I then stamped the letter A, and harlequin background, then used a credit card to add scratches on the brown kraft paper to finish.

Phase 2 Canvas

Step Three:

Now for the FUN part of the Altered Canvas Challenge….adding and gluing collage bits and pieces!

Heres a run down of what you need:

  • Collage Images
  • Glue
  • Glue Applicator
  • Rubber Stamps
  • Tissue Paper
  • Embellishments

Additional Info On Supplies:

Collage Images:

First of all before you begin you need to collect collage images, I cut pictures out of magazines and catalogues for this purpose. I also printed out vintage images from an image disk I have. If you dont have any Vintage Image resources then theres a fantastic site where you can get them for free!

Check out:


Another good source for collage images are book pages, printed napkins, catalogues, junk mail, newspapers, magazines, wine labels or even printed scrap book pages, take a look at your stash as you never know what you will find!

Using Magazines For Collage & Copywrite Issues:

If you dont intend to sell your work then you have nothing to worry about and can use any source from magazines for your collaging. If you do however plan on selling make sure you use copywrite free images!

Types Of Glues To Use:

PVA, Royal Coat, Mod Podge, Elmers or good old fashioned white gloopy school glue. I use the Anitas brand which is inexpensive, this type of glue dries clear and is perfect for both collages and canvases.

Tools For Applying Glue:

I use a piece of sponge, you can use a brush if you prefer but I find a sponge works better for me and spreads the glue around more. I also so a credit card to flatten the images down when I glue them to remove air bubbles.

Adding Stamped Images:

If you have used a canvas board or canvas paper then you can stamp directly onto your canvas using Brilliance, Stazon, Memories or any other arhival inkpad. However if like me you have used a stretched artist canvas this is a little more difficult. All is not lost! You can either place a clear acrylic block under neath the canvas where there is no wood support and use this to rest on as you stamp…0R Use TISSUE PAPER!

Stamping With Tissue Paper

Using Tissue Paper is my favourite method, but before I begin let me tell you that all tissue papers are not made the same! Some tissue papers have a glossy coating on them and they are not really suitable (but you can still use them).

The best type of tissue paper to use is the stuff you get packed inside your new clothes – I always save mine to use as it is so soft and delicate. You can also use the unprinted ply from a napkin as this too is very soft or tissue paper used in dressmaking. You can stamp on tissue paper using a good permanent dye inkpad such as Memories or Stazon.

When you glue the soft tissue paper or napkin paper onto the canvas with white glue it dries almost transparent, as if by magic it dissapears! Which means you dont have to add colour to the tissue paper as it will take on the colour of your canvas background.
If you cant get your hands on this soft uncoated tissue paper, all is not lost! You can use any tissue paper, but you will need to add colour to it before you stamp it. Or you could use coloured tissue paper which cuts out the need for colouring all together! One way of adding colour to the tissue paper is to add a transparent wash to it – use acrylic or watercolour paints watered down with a lot of water and brush gently over the tissue to stain it. Once dried you can stamp the tissue with a permanent inkpad then glue onto your canvas.

Lettering And Words:

You can add quotes or comments to your collage using quotes printed from your computer or you can cut out letters from magazines or newspapers to assemble your own. You can stamp quotes too or use printed tape from a Dymo gadget – its up to YOU!

Collage Embellishments:

You can use anything at all to embellish your canvases, you dont have to think ‘flat’ like you do with cards – go for a real 3-d feel and use nice big bellies! Ideas for embellishing are eyelets, brads, metal charms, florist silk flowers (affix them with eyelets or brads), fibers and ribbons (pierce holes in the canvas). Also metal embellishments, doileys, cake trimmings, typewriter keys, gems, punchinella…inface anything at all! If you can glue it you can use it!

Slap Em All Down!

Once you’ve assembled all your supplies you are ready to get collaging! Dont worry about things being perfect – this is art!

Also when using collage embellishments I find that if you use odd numbers it is more pleasing on the eye – ie use 3 or 5 embellishments instead of 2 or 4.

You can tear or cut your images out – its really up to you! If you want to create a seamless type collage you can add a little paint to the edges of your images to finish it – this step is not essential as I didnt do this but I know a lot of collagists like to.

And remember the most important thing is to have fun! There are no right or wrong ways to do this! Just *YOUR WAY*….

Collage Canvas Examples:

Heres the collages I did for this Challenge along with notes and info for each:

5 Star Boy Canvas:

The image was a vintage printout I had, which I glued to the canvas, I next stamped the quote you see onto tissue paper and glued it, I used the soft type mentioned earlier – I love how you can just about see it, yet you cant effect it has. I then glued on 3 golden stars to embellish.

Canvas Collage

Innocence Canvas:

Before I glued on the collage bits I added some more stamping to this canvas, I used Moonlight White Brilliance and a swirl stamp to add a border on the far right. I then glued on the little girl picture (a printout), and stamped the LOVE words and Hand onto tissue paper and glued those onto it. I then decided it needed some hearts on it, so I found 3 heart embellishments in my stash – the gold corrugated die cut at the top left, the silk heart at the bottom with a red button in the centre. The middle embellishment is a recycled tag from a gift set I got at Christmas, I pricked 2 holes into the canvas and threaded the cord on the embellishment through the holes then used brads to secure it. Finally I added a cut out flower from a garden catalogue, then added the Inspire card embellishment to the centre to finish.

Canvas Collage

Strike A Pose Canvas:

I printed out the same woman in a bathing suit image 3 times, each time a different size and glued to the canvas. I then added the words Strike A Pose using letters and words cut from magazines!

Canvas Collage

Golden Era Canvas:

The 2 women pictures are vintage images I had in my stash, I glued that on, next I glued on a section of gold paper band I had for decorating cakes. The vintage key was a scrapbooking embellishment. I made this collage to fit the words ‘Golden Era’, which was cut out of a magazine a while ago and saved.

Canvas Collage

Romancing The Rose Canvas:

Another Vintage image was used of the lady in the collage, next I glued an image I found in a magazine of pink floral jewelry on the left hand side, I then glued a section of paper lace doiley over the top of this. The cameo is a button I had, I removed the shank and glued it back together then onto the canvas. I then added the ‘romance’ dictionary definition (it was cut from a sheet of scrapbook paper) And finally added a picture of a rose and 2 vintage buttons to finish.

Canvas Collage

Gentlemans Journey Canvas:

I stamped the chap onto tissue and glued it on the left. Next I glued on some of the gold cake trim across the top of the canvas. Then I added 3 metal number embellishments I had over each of the harlequin prints. I then glued down several tickets, overlapping each, and added the key embellishment, watch picture and the scrabble words ‘remember’ to finish.

Canvas Collage

Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend Canvas:

I first stamped a border across the top and bottom using white brilliance and swirl stamp. I then cut out various images and words from magazines, catalogues and print outs. I stamped 2 women images onto tissue paper and glued them down first. I then assembled the various other images across the canvas as shown. For embellishments I used faux gem stones and flower beads.

Canvas Collage

Angelic Harmony Canvas:

I didnt do much to this one as I struggled! First I added a stamped border on the left, then I stamped a design onto tissue paper and glued it down, I then used a magazine image of a golden cherub. The fabric tag on the left is one I recycled from a T-shirt I bought! The bow at the bottom of the canvas was cut from Cosmo magazine.

Canvas Collage

Perfect Reality Canvas:

This is another I struggled with and dont really like it! But I wanted to show it as I believe you can learn a lot from your own mistakes as well as your successes. All the images came from magazines apart from the 2 faces which are stamped onto tissue paper.

Canvas Collage