How To Create A DIY Faux Oil Painting On A Budget

While I love a good framed print, sometimes it just doesn’t feel the same as a naked oil painting hung on your wall. Which got me thinking, could you MAKE a faux oil painting you could hang on the wall without a frame using free art from The Public Domain Print Shop? Better still, could you do it with limited tools and for less than $5!?

After a lot of experimentation… cough…a series of massive failures…cough cough… I’m happy to report that YES you can and the results are SO GOOD… once you know all the mistakes to avoid.

The Supplies

The supplies for this project are very simple, but do require a few tools that you may need to pick up if you don’t already own them. I’ll link to the ones I used.

Tools You’ll Need
Supplies You’ll Need To Buy

My favorite part of this project is that all of this (excluding the paper prints themselves) came from The Dollar Tree!

Version #1 – The Stretched Canvas

There are two way to do this, I’m going to break down the easiest one here. The other way uses a few of the more complicated steps from Version #2 that we’ll discuss next.

STEP ONE:
Trim your paper print out down to remove some of the excess paper from around the edges

STEP TWO:
Paint over the top of your print out with a generous layer of mod podge. I like to lay down a thin layer over the entire painting first, then go back with a bit more mod podge on my brush to mimic the brush strokes in the actual painting. This will make it feel more realistic when we get done. We’re looking for texture here so don’t smooth out your brush strokes too much.

STEP THREE:
Let you print fully dry. I repeat, let that print FULLY DRY. Do not touch it or move it or mess with it while it is wet.

STEP FOUR:
Once your print is dry, flip it over and then place your 8×10 stretched canvas face down on top of the back of your print where you want it. Keep in mind you’ll need to leave enough paper to wrap around the sides of the canvas and secure your print to the back of the canvas.

STEP FIVE:
Using your glue gun you’re going to wrap your paper print around the side of the canvas and secure it tightly to the back. I found it worked best to think of this like wrapping a present, securing the long sides first (pulling the paper as taught as I could each time) and then the short ends last.

And that’s it! You’re mini faux oil painting is ready to display! Super easy right?

HOT TIP: The only downside to this version of the project is that you are going to lose a lot of your image to the sides and back of your canvas. So if you plan to go for this version, make sure you pick a print that will provide you with enough extra space around the edges of the subject to do that (vs losing important parts of the image to the sides or back of your canvas).

Version #2 – The Artist’s Canvas

Ok this is the version that took me A LOT of experimentation to perfect, but the results are SO GOOD once you figure out all the tricks!

The first three steps are the same as Version #1 but I’ll list them again here anyway….

STEP ONE:
Trim your paper print out down to remove some of the excess paper from around the edges

STEP TWO:
Paint over the top of your print out with a generous layer of Mod Podge. I like to lay down a thin layer over the entire painting first, then go back with a bit more Mod Podge on my brush to mimic the brush strokes in the actual painting. This will make it feel more realistic when we get done. We’re looking for texture here so don’t smooth out your brush strokes too much.

STEP THREE:
Let you print fully dry. I repeat, let that print FULLY DRY. Do not touch it or move it or mess with it while it is wet.

STEP FOUR:
Once your print is fully dry, you’ll want to lay it on top of of your Artist’s Canvas in order to mark the dimensions of your print onto the canvas. Then take your ruler and measure at LEAST 1mm in on two of the sides to ensure you’ll have enough print to wrap around your canvas and secure it to the back. Once you’ve got everything marked, go ahead and trim down your artists’s canvas using your X-acto knife and your ruler. It will take A LOT OF PASSES with your knife to get through all the layers. Once you have it trimmed down do a quick test with your print to make sure you’ve cut it down to a size that will work.

STEP FIVE:
Lay your print face down on the table and *lightly* mist the entire back of your print with water using your spray bottle. Be careful not to soak it or your paper will dissolve and fall apart when you go to pick it up in a moment.

STEP SIX:
Working quickly you’re going to evenly spread a thin layer of mod podge over the entire surface of your artist’s canvas. Make sure that you get the mod podge everywhere. Don’t take too long because it drys quickly and we need it to still be very wet when we do the next step.

STEP SEVEN:
Now very carfully lift up your damp print and lay it on top of your canvas. Your print will be **very fragile** right now because of all the moisture, so this is a bit of a get it right the first time deal as you won’t be able to reposition it very much once it’s down or it will tear.

Let’s all just pretend this picture has the same print in it as the other ones ok? Awesome.

STEP EIGHT:
Using your small rolling pin, you’re going to start in the center of your print and gently roll out towards the edges. Slowly working out any air bubble and ensuring the paper has a good bond with the surface of the canvas. Once you’ve done this, WALK AWAY AND STOP TOUCHING THINGS. Trust me on this. If you keep fussing with it, the paper will likely rip or tear… ask me how I know… lol… Also if the surface of your print gets all weird and white during this step, don’t freak out. That will go away once it has fully dried.

STEP NINE:
Once your mod podge and dampened print are FULLY DRY (and not a moment before) you’re going to turn your canvas over and secure the excess paper to the back of your canvas using your glue gun just like we did before for step five of version #1.

STEP TEN (OPTIONAL):
If you plan to hang your print on the wall (vs popping it in a frame or just leaning it up against something on a shelf) you’ll need to secure a hook to the back of our canvas. A super cheap, easy way to do that is to simply hot glue the tab from the top of a soda can to the center of the back of your canvas.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the texture that mod podging this onto the artist’s canvas gives the print! It looks SO incredibly authentic!!! Totally worth the extra steps.

Mistakes I Made So You Don’t Have To

Look at this giant pile of *learning experiences* lol….

Ok now that we broke down the process for creating each fuax oil painting, let’s dig into a few of the pitfalls I conveniently fell into so that you don’t have to. Whether these are truly mistakes, simply user error or bad luck I can’t say for sure. But I do know that the process I outlined above gave me consistent, repeatable, quality results and the following gave me nothing but problems:

Mistake #1 – Mod Poging The Surface AFTER Securing My Print To The Base.

So while I think it’s *possible* to do this in the reverse order, I found that mod podging the surface of my print first gave my paper more structural integrity and made it less fragile to work with on the following steps.

I also personally found that I ran into a lot of issues with my paper bubbling up and rippling if I tried to apply the mod podge to the surface after securing it to the base.

Mistake #2 – Using A Base Material That Won’t Hold Up Well To Lots Of Moisture

So when I first had the idea for this project, my initial thought was to use FOAM BOARD from The Dollar Tree as my base material. My reason being that it is very large, lightweight and easy to cut down to a variety of shapes and sizes that different projects may necessitate.

However, after creating a few test samples using foam board as my base, I quickly discovered that the foam board easily warped when subjected to the moisture needed for this project.

This failure turned out to be a blessing is disguise because using the artist’s canvas turned out to be EVEN BETTER as once the print was applied you could actually SEE THE TEXTURE of the canvas underneath the print, making it look even more realistic.

Mistake #3 – Fussing With Things When I Should Have Stopped

I touched on this repeatedly in the steps above, but I would say 50% of the problems I had when doing this project came from fussing with things when I should have stopped and waited for them to dry first. This applies to both fussing with the paper when it is still wet, but also to when you’re applying the mod podge to the print to start with, after a while the mod podge will start to dry on your print and on your brush and as such it will get tacky, if you keep messing with the print at this point you can accidentally rip off the surface layer of your print… trust me… I know…

Mistake #4 – Being A Little Too Generous With The Mod Podge

Here’s the thing, you need enough mod podge on the surface to build up texture on your print and help make it look like an actual painting. BUT, if you use TOO MUCH mod podge your print may get lumpy looking and dry with lots of annoying air bubbles all over the surface of your print. As a general rule of thumb, if your mod podge is so thick you can hardly see the print underneath it, it’s probably too much mod podge.

Mistake #5 – Not Wetting Down My Print Before Applying It To My Canvas

If you want to mod podge your print onto the surface of your canvas (like in version #2) don’t skip wetting down the back of your print first. I cannot begin to explain to you the science behind WHY this works, but I do know I had nothing but rippled, lumpy, terrible print applications and a quick google search told me to try this and it magically fixed the problem. You can also buy a fancy spray that mod podge makes for this same purpose… but water was free and worked for me.

Mistake #6 – Not Rolling Out My Print From The Center Out To The Edges

Again if you are mod podging your print onto the surface of your canvas (like in version #2) make sure you start in the CENTER of your canvas and work you way out with either your small rolling pin or even just your hands if that’s all you have. Either way, you don’t want any air bubbles to get trapped under your print.

Final Thoughts & Take Aways

While this project took me nearly three full days to successfully figure out how to accomplish with the results I wanted, if you follow the steps I laid out above, this is a SUPER FAST, SUPER EASY low cost project that yields really high end looking results for pennies. PENNIES.

I did attempt to create a combo of these two versions by mod podging a print onto the surface of a stretched canvas, and while it worked and I really love the result, it was BY FAR the hardest version of the three as it was much more difficult to work the bubbles out from under the print without having a hard surface to press against. If I did this again I’d probably try laying down some parchment paper, flipping the canvas over and rolling it from the back of the canvas potentially.

On The Subject Of Photographic Prints Vs. Color Paper Copies

One note I want to make before I end things is that this project uses PLAIN PAPER COLOR COPIES and not PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINTS which are very different things. Photographic prints are made on much thicker paper, and would have trouble bending and wrapping around our canvas in the way we needed them to for this project.

HOWEVER, you can use this SAME PROCESS to update the surface of any photographic print and make it look more like a painting by doing just STEP TWO of the above. After the mod podge on your photographic print dries, you can then simply pop it in a frame free of glass!


But what do you think of this project? Are there any questions you have that I didn’t answer? Let me know in the comment section below!

If you give this project a try I’d love to hear how it turns out! And if you post it to instagram, be sure and tag me @ahomeisannounced so I can see your creation!

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