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Making Canvas Rugs




Creating art underfoot is an easy step-by-step process, and no fancy supplies or skills are required. Just prime a piece of canvas, paint a design, and seal it with varnish. Our patterns are as simple to reproduce as scattering leaves from your backyard across a surface, marking stripes with tape rather than a ruler, tracing bowls for circles, and painting streaky brushstrokes on a grid. Use household tools and our stencils or create your own. Don't worry about perfect lines; these rugs are handcrafted and should look it. So go ahead -- make the floor your canvas.

Easy-Care Accents
These practical floorcloths are durable and inexpensive to make. They clean up with a damp mop and mild detergent. No wonder canvas rugs have been popular since colonial times. After the introduction of linoleum, they fell out of favor early in the last century. The craft was revived in the 1950s, when period rugs were made for historic homes. Modern materials have streamlined the technique; with today's quick-drying, water-based products, you can paint a rug this weekend and have it for years.

Painting Tips
Use liquid acrylics (if you use heavy-body acrylics, which come in tubes, thin with water to the consistency of cream) and flat brushes in a variety of sizes. To match hues in your room's decor, you can mix tints: Combine titanium white with other colors for lighter shades, or add a dab of burnt umber to give an earthy tint. If you would like a warm, neutral background, paint the canvas with a wash of titanium buff (1 tablespoon paint mixed with 4 cups water). When customizing a shade of paint, you won't be able to reproduce it exactly once you've used it up, so don't skimp on amounts; to paint a solid color on a door-size canvas, you'll need about 2 cups. Use airtight jars to store the colors you've blended.

It's easiest to stretch the canvas over a hollow-core door, which is lightweight and just the right size for a rug. For other dimensions, you can also use plywood cut to size. We primed both sides for added durability.


  • Canvas rug templates
  • Drop cloth
  • Hollow-core door, or 1/2-inch plywood cut to size
  • Number 10 canvas duck, cut to dimensions of door or board plus a 6-inch margin
  • Staple gun
  • Paper cups
  • Paint roller on broomstick
  • Roller tray and liner white acrylic gesso
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Liquid acrylic paints
  • Paintbrushs in a variety of sizes
  • Leaves or leaf stencil template
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Self-adhesive shelf liner
  • Tracing paper
  • Polyacrylic varnish
  • Wide paintbrush
  • Drop cloth
  • Scissors
  • Yardstick
  • Pencil
  • 1 roll double-sided carpet tape
  • Bone folder or butter knife


  1. Step 1

    Working on a large table or on a drop cloth on the floor, center door or board on canvas. Smooth the fabric around to the back, stapling it at each side's midpoint. Continue stapling from the center points outward, about every 3 inches. Fold one side neatly under the other; staple at each corner (far left).

  2. Step 2

    Flip the door, and support it on upside-down paper cups. Using a roller, prime the surface and edges with gesso (if using plywood, prime 1 inch border of underside, too). Let dry. Lightly sand.

  3. Step 3

    Remove staples, and flip the canvas. Reposition canvas on door, matching up fold lines; staple again.

  4. Step 4

    Prime surface and edges with gesso. Let dry; sand surface and edges. Add another coat. Let dry; sand.

  5. Step 5

    Paint canvas with a wash of titanium buff acrylic (1 tablespoon paint to 4 cups water). Let dry.

  6. Step 6

    Gather leaves, and photocopy groupings of them, life-size or enlarged (or download our templates). Cut out shapes, and trace them onto self-adhesive shelf liner (to help them stay put while you work). Cut out stencils.

  7. Step 7

    To create ring templates, place tracing paper over leaf patterns and draw abstract ovals around them. Cut out shapes, and trace them onto shelf liner. Cut out stencils; cut away inner circle of each to form a ring.

  8. Step 8

    Scatter leaf stencils over canvas. Peel a corner of the backing from a leaf, and press down to adhere; then slowly peel and flatten remainder. Adhere ring stencils over leaves.

  9. Step 9

    Paint background canvas except inside rings. Let dry.

  10. Step 10

    Slowly peel off ring stencils, but not those of leaves. Paint in rings. Let dry. Remove leaf stencils; paint lines for leaf veins in background color. Let dry.

  11. Step 11

    Apply two coats of varnish to painted surface, according to label instructions. Let final coat dry overnight. Turn the door over, and lay it on a drop cloth on the floor; then unstaple the canvas.

  12. Step 12

    The door's edges create two fold lines that delineate the hem. Trim excess canvas just outside outer fold line (if plywood was used, mark and trim to 1 inch outside the fold line).

  13. Step 13

    To miter the corners, fold in the hem on both sides of a corner so their edges meet; mark that point on each.

  14. Step 14

    Lay the fabric flat again, and draw a line between the two points; it should intersect the corner of the inner fold line. Trim just outside the line that you've marked. Repeat with remaining corners.

  15. Step 15

    Affix carpet tape to underside of hem on each side of canvas; press hem flat, and burnish with bone folder or the handle of a butter knife. Carefully turn over rug without bending it; let dry 4 days, or according to varnish directions, before using it. Lay it on the floor over a nonslip pad of the same size.

Martha Stewart Living, June 2004



Reviews (34)

  • queenma 24 Mar, 2013

    Would love to make this, but don't know what most of the materials are. I got from the beginning on "Prepping the Canvas" instructions.

  • Char55 6 Sep, 2010

    I would like to know if you could do this rug and put it on an outdoor screen porch that does get rain at times? Took off the old outdoor carpet and need to paint and put something on the floor so no one falls when it is wet.. Thanks

  • jdhemeco 14 Sep, 2009

    has anyone tried varnishing and sealing a piece of patterned fabric? just curious if it would work the same and save me the trouble of paining a pattern.

  • wizard2 9 Jan, 2009

    I have made several of these rugs. I have put a brown wash over the surface before I varnish the rug. I looks a little more aged with this additon.

  • sopsie 24 Oct, 2008

    If you want to make it a no-skid rug, get the rubber rug pad and cut it a little smaller than your canvas rug. Then put contact cement on the back of the rug and contact cement on the back of the rubber pad (lightly brushing here because that's all it takes and is easier to do lightly) , let dry and carefully put the two pieces together. I have done this a gizillion times and it works great. I always seal the back of the rug (the unfinished side) before doing any of this.

  • arteest 9 Sep, 2008

    I was wondering if you could use the same method of making it a non-slip rug, that they use on the scatter rugs. They suggest applying stripes of latex caulk to keep a sisal scatter rug in place. Would the caulk stick to canvas?

  • expat 17 Aug, 2008

    Certainly looks great!...It would also make a wonderful wall piece if a hem was created ie:similar to a curtain tab then hung on a small wooden or metal rod..Like a tapestry....

  • mamabelle 7 Aug, 2008

    Would this work under a dining room table? I am wondering if it will be tough enough for the wear and tear of moving chairs. Also, what about using heavy preprimed artist cancanvas? The priming process is not practical for me to do.

  • magnusonart 23 May, 2008

    It's great to lift a design motif from your existing furniture and create a stencil or cut a design on freezer paper to screen print a repeat pattern. Find hundreds of ideas from your own spring garden too!

  • DellyMQdesigns 19 May, 2008

    Another great idea! I have used the canvas too. But, there is a shop close by and they have "art" all over the floors. They used linoleum! So, I buy the rolls out of the extra bin. I usually go for one that has a tile print for easy cutting. Paint on the back using pretty much the same tecnique for the canvas. No edging needed and you can make great shapes. Try it! They're great outdoors if primed and sealed extra well!

  • dnewberry 19 May, 2008

    This is a easy craft that will brighten nay room in your house. It is great fun.

  • emdeekay 19 May, 2008

    Carofrog: For the paint on the bar rail canvas I used Delta Just Paint Acrylic. Cheap and worked great. I had a lot of doubters who became amazed fans lol.

  • Autsom 19 May, 2008

    Martha, I was saying to my husband yesterday, Your an amazing woman. I know you don't think of all these wonderful ideas. But you bring them to my home. I love this one too! I am going out today to make a canvas rug and put it in my hall way. Thank you!!!!!

  • bezfam 19 May, 2008

    Wow...looks like fun. Now all I have to do is learn how to paint!

  • hdogsmama 18 May, 2008

    i would love to have something under my dining room table this would be perfect. anyone have experience with furniture on such a floor cloth? seems like the chairs might scuff it up quite a bit.
    thanks in advance for sharing your experiences.

  • SueWho1946 18 May, 2008

    To MeganElizabeth -- YES, that will work. I made one today for a screen porch that gets blown rain. I also check Home Depot and Lowe's paint dept. for Opps Paint and get cans of exterior paint $1 for a quart and $5 for a gallon. I get colors I like and save them for projects like this. When they mis-mix a batch it becomes Opps Paint and it is cheaper for them to sell it for this ridiculous amount than pay to dispose of it.

  • auntiejen 18 May, 2008

    OK, I am going to try this. Great idea! Also to DebsSweet- I think you can get 1/2 inch plywood at Lowe's or Home Depot. Hope you find it.

  • DebsSweet 18 May, 2008

    I'm having a tough time finding 1/2" plywood - any ideas?

  • meganelizabeth 18 May, 2008

    Just a thought...this may work for the patio if you buy one of those indoor/outdoor plain (ugly) rugs and use the kind of outdoor paint you would to paint your house. Does anyone know if this would or wouldn't work before I try it?

  • cookiesgalore 18 May, 2008

    You can get a tub of Gesso inexpensively if you use one of the 40% off coupons that Joann Fabrics sends to customers in their flyers (you have to be on their mailing list). Go to one of their stores that has the artist supplies, and you'll get a large tub of it for 40% off (which is what I did). Otherwise, perhaps the web has some good deals out there...but if you have to pay for shipping, that eats up the savings.

  • MomofDylan 18 May, 2008

    Good to hear of your good experience with this technique, emdeekay.

    ArtsySharon: 10 oz. Cotton Duck 63" - Natural is available at for $4.58/yd; $4.16/yd if ordering more tha 10 yards, and 3.83/yd if you get a whole bolt of more or less 30 yards. I have ordered from this company many times and been happy with the good values.

  • carofrog 18 May, 2008

    Terrific idea. Do you have a preference on what type of paint to use?

  • emdeekay 18 May, 2008

    I used a similar process to cover the arm rest for a bar at our local restaurant. I had reupholstered the darn thing multiple times with vinyl only to have it damaged with cracks and holes. Finally I got a canvas drop cloth (cheap!);cut it in strips to fit, stapled it to the rail, painted it, stenciled it, and varnished it. It's been in use for 4 years now and looks great. Cleans up easily too! I did put on a fresh coat of varnish earlier this year.

  • Sharon Carbine 18 May, 2008

    Fantastic idea. However, I am wondering where is the best place to buy "number 10 canvas duck."

  • CertainlySusan 18 May, 2008

    A floor cloth is nice alternative to a wool rug in warmer weather. The look is cooler yet more relaxed and it gives you a chance to make a house seem less formal, while allowing for a temporary shift in color scheme to freshen things up a bit.

  • Jennybear 18 May, 2008

    I have been making custom floor-cloths for my clients and friends over many years. You can buy pre-primed cut canvas from any good art supply house made especially for this purpose, and they come in many sizes.
    I have also worked on heavyweight watercolor paper for a unique look.
    "Walk on Art"

  • monasmom 18 May, 2008

    great home decorating idea, i will never get around to this but will try to adapt to a smaller craft project for my seniors group, like placemats (use food safe polyurethane).

  • nancyalameda 18 May, 2008

    I would use acrylic paint specifically made for outdoor use. Michaels has it. I comes in bottles just like the regular acrylic paint.

  • gatorfsuus 18 May, 2008

    Can this be used outside? I have a covered patio and I would love to make one for that.

  • wmagick 18 May, 2008

    I did this years ago. You can use old latex paint, rather than gesso, to prime your cloth. Let it dry a day or more. Can help co-ordinate your wall color to your floor mat. Micheal's carries a pre sealed floor cloth to paint. It comes in a tube, rolled up, to lay it flat, re-roll opposite direction.

  • ladyinmaine 18 May, 2008

    Any arts and craft store sells stencils.Im sure you would find flower ones.

  • CAR41 18 May, 2008

    When we added a 12 x 20 great room to our home leading out into a screened-in porch, I didn't know how I should cover my laminate flooring so that a "path" wouldn't form. After reading about how versatile floorcloths are, I had someone make us a magnificent 8' x 8' excellent investment.

  • frannikenna 14 Apr, 2008

    Leaf stencil looks good, but I would really like something in flowers. Do you have anything in floor cloths with flowers?

  • keybler 28 Jan, 2008

    hello i just love the idea . I have wood floors in my living room and I think I;m going to do this