DIY | Distressed Canvas Print

Riah Tarango
June 9, 2016
DIY | Distressed Canvas Print

I recently created some distressed canvas prints using some of my travel photography photos. I absolutely loved how they turned out, so I decided to put them for sale in the shop. (You can find them in the home decor section here) But, I know many of you have beautiful pictures you’d love to display in your own home, so I decide to create a DIY for you! This DIY is pretty easy and low cost, but some patience is required. I loved how my canvases turned out and I’m excited  to share this fun & easy tutorial with you!


What You Need:

›› stretched canvas (i chose 11×14)
›› gel medium (i chose Liquitex)
›› paint brush
›› reverse laser copy of your photograph on normal paper (not photo paper)
›› spray bottle with water (optional)

DIY | Distressed Canvas Print:

Note: Make sure to print a reversed image of your photo on normal paper as the reversal will be transferred onto the canvas. Expect to see an imperfect distressed transfer onto the canvas. Do not use glossy photo paper. Do not use an inkjet printer.

1.  If your photograph has an excess white border, cut it out to make sure you’re transferring over the entire image.

2. Completely cover your canvas with a heavy coat of the gel medium. If your image is wider or taller than the canvas, cover the sides in medium as well so you photo can wrap around the canvas edges.

3. Carefully align and place your photo face down on the canvas. Press the photo down and smooth out as many air bubbles as possible. Fold down your photos edges to wrap them around the canvas. Make sure they are secure and the photo does not come off the canvas. (use more medium if needed)

4. Let the canvas dry overnight or for 5+ hours.

5. After your canvas is completely dry, sprinkle (or spray) some water to wet the top of the paper.

6. Slowly rub the surface with your fingers until pieces of paper start to come off, revealing your photograph underneath. Make sure to be gentle and not rub too hard or you will completely remove your image transfer. This step takes lots of patience and can be messy. Some parts of your image will come off no matter what, but this adds to the charm of the distressed look! Continue slowly removing paper until your photography is completely visable. (this photograph took me about an hour to remove the paper completely)

7. When you have finished removing all of the paper to your liking, we’re going to seal the canvas. While your photograph is still damp, completely cover your canvas again with another layer of gel medium to seal and protect your photo. (use a thinner coat this time) Tip: To make your canvas look more like a painting, change up the direction of your brush strokes with diagonal and circular strokes. Let it dry for a few hours, then you’re done!

You can see I got a little impatient with the buffalo photo, leaving more paper on the canvas, and removing more of the image in the process of rushing while rubbing it off.

I hope you loved this DIY, let me know if you have any questions, or how your canvas turned out!

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  1. Vanessa

    That is such a good idea, and the result is beautiful! I love the texture and handmade affect of it. I can't wait to play with the method when I have some time. Thanks for sharing it! 🙂

  2. Riah Tarango

    Thank you Vanessa! I love it as well, it looks much better than a store printed canvas, and it adds a nice personal touch. Good luck with yours! 🙂
    ❀ Riah

  3. Sophie

    Thank you for the tutorial. It looks pretty easy to do and the finished product is so cute!


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Hey there!

I’m Riah Tarango!

I created the brand The Wanderful Soul where I design bohemian & travel inspired apparel. I have a huge passion for travel and I love nothing more than inspiring others to get out there and explore!



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