From tracing designs to picking the right tools, a seasoned artist shares her advice.

By Caroline Biggs
June 15, 2020
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painting needlepoint on canvas
Credit: Edgemore / Getty Images

Needlepoint lovers, rejoice: Painting your own canvas for needlepointing is every bit as easy as it is enjoyable. "Painting your own needlepoint canvas allows you to create a one-of-a-kind project," says Janet M. Perry, aka The Needlepoint Guru. "Even if it isn't perfect, it's unique to you." However, as with any creative endeavor, high expectations can lead to disappointment when painting a canvas for needlepointing. Along with knowing how to pick and mix the right paint colors for your canvas, Perry says you have the added task of applying them smoothly to worry about. "Don't size your canvas up against beautifully painted store-bought styles," Perry says. "It takes practice and patience to paint a canvas evenly."

Hoping to create your own needlepoint canvases at home? We asked Perry for tips on how to paint a canvas for needlepointing like a pro, and here's what she had to share.

Transfer your design.

Whether it's a hand-drawn sketch or a print you found online, Perry says the first step to painting your own needlepoint canvas is to transfer your design of choice onto your blank canvas. "Carefully trace your design using an extra fine pen that's safe for marking fabric, such as the Sakura Pigma Micron ($10.69 for six, amazon.com)," she says. "Ultimately, you can choose to integrate the lines into your needlepoint design or cover them up with paint."

Pick the right tools.

Before you can begin painting your needlepoint canvas, Perry says you'll need to have the right tools handy. "A needlepoint canvas is very abrasive, so it's best to use inexpensive brushes since they'll be destroyed by the time you're done," she says. "Also, keep some newspaper or paper towels nearby so you can quickly wipe off paint from your brushes."

Prep your paint.

Once your design is transferred, Perry says it's time to get ready to paint. She recommends sticking with acrylic paints, since oil paints take a long time to dry, and keeping a cup of water close by to help your paint go on more evenly. "Your paint should be thinned with water to about the consistency of light (not heavy) cream," she says. "To do this, apply some paint to your palette and draw a bit out from the blob. Using your brush and your jar of clean water, add water to the area you have drawn out until it's the right consistency."

Paint the canvas properly.

When it comes time to paint your canvas, Perry suggests using one color at a time—starting with lighter shades before moving to dark ones—and cleaning your brush thoroughly after each hue. "Strive for an even coat," she says. "Be sure to go over the lines you drew, if you don't want them to end up in the finished design."

Fix blocked holes in your canvas.

Once you've finished painting, Perry says there's a good chance you'll find some blocked holes in the canvas. If so, she suggests blowing the hole out with air while the paint is still wet to remove it. If the paint has already dried, no problem—she says you can use a sewing needle to poke out the holes in a pinch.

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