Adventure Awaits DIY Reverse Canvas Sign [Video]

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If you love travel and want to make an Adventure Awaits DIY reverse canvas, but don’t have a Cricut then this is the tutorial and how to video for you!

All you’ll need are some very simple tools that you probably already have lying around the house – and you could be making something as rustic and inspirational as this wall art:

Finished Adventure Awaits DIY Reverse Canvas Sign

Sound good? You can find our tutorial below.

But if you’re new to the world of reverse canvas then here’s what you need to know…

What is reverse canvas art?

If you’re wondering: “What is reverse canvas art?” Then let me tell you.

Really it’s just a fancy way of describing the process of taking any stretch canvas you usually use for paintings and exposing the wooden frame underneath.

To put it simply, you’ll:

  1. Take the canvas material off the wooden frame
  2. Decorate the canvas with something (usually vinyl)
  3. And then put the wooden frame back on – but this time on top of the canvas so the wood is exposed

Why would you want to do reverse canvas art?

There are a few reasons why there’s so much hype around the reverse canvas technique. 

First, canvas is notoriously cheap to buy, and with a few simple steps, you can turn it into something beautiful and rustic while making it look miles more expensive in the process.

Also, you might be surprised to find just how beautiful the wood underneath is.

When we exposed the wood of our canvas, we were so surprised to find this gorgeous swirl grain.

It was hiding before, but it’s now on the outside for all the world to see and admire!

Gorgeous swirl grain

And finally, DIY reverse canvas signs are fun and simple to make, so you can easily make some beautiful wall art in just one afternoon.

Materials you can use for reverse canvas DIYs

To be fair, most reverse canvas tutorials use vinyl sheets cut out by a Cricut machine or similar. This makes for a quick project – but what if you don’t have a Cricut? 

That’s okay. We don’t have one either… YET! 

Instead, you can make beautiful reverse canvas wall art with the simplest tool of all: a permanent marker pen

Adventure Awaits DIY Reverse Canvas Wall Art (Without A Cricut)

Finished DIY wall art canvas - our Adventure Awaits DIY Reverse Canvas Sign

For our very first DIY reverse canvas project, we decided to make some ‘Adventure Awaits’ wall art. 

We’re BIG travel lovers so we knew we wanted something related to our lifestyles as travel bloggers (that’s our double life doncha know?!).

Our Adventure Awaits sign is now hanging proudly above our stairs. We can see it every time we go downstairs and are reminded of the fact that every day can be an adventure if you want it to be… and that the current lockdown days will soon be behind us!

Anyway, enough of our rambling. Here’s how to make a DIY reverse canvas sign without a Cricut

Supplies

Tutorial

1. Remove the canvas from the frame.

Flip the canvas over so it’s facedown and run a sharp craft knife along each edge of the canvas material, or close to the staples if you’re worried about slipping. 

Once all the sides are cut, the material should now be separated from the frame.

You don’t need to worry about removing the existing staples in the frame as they will be completely covered up later. But you can remove them and any leftover canvas strips if you prefer. 

2. Prep the wooden frame.

You’ve got a few options for what to do with the frame. 

Pretty much every time, it’ll need a good sanding with some medium grade sandpaper

Our frame was in near perfect condition but there were two edges where little splinters were poking up. A quick five minute sand and we were almost good to go.

Oiling and sanding the wooden canvas frame

Now you can either paint the frame, stain it or apply some oil and finishing wax to enhance the existing wood grain. 

We found this amazing wooden frame with a swirl grain pattern in it underneath our canvas.

We really liked the natural look and thought it went well with our ‘Adventure Awaits’ print that feels very outdoorsy.

So we kept things simple by only sanding, oiling and waxing the wooden frame.

Gorgeous swirl grain after sanding and oiling

But it’s totally up to you!

If you’re going to follow in our steps and keep things natural then we recommend rubbing a light coat of cooking oil into the frame with some kitchen towel. You should find this step alone is enough to enhance the natural wood colour and grain. 

Then apply a layer of finishing wax in exactly the same way and you’ll get an even richer colour. 

Finished frame - oiled and sanded

3. Create your artwork.

With a Cricut, you can quickly and simply print and cut some artwork. But if you’re like us and don’t have a fancy machine then you can still do a reverse canvas without it!

Turn your printed ‘Adventure Awaits’ image over and trace the outlines of your letters and shapes with a pencil. 

Tracing the Adventure Awaits image

Flip your paper back over, position it on top of your canvas where you want the artwork to be and trace over the front of the letters and shapes. 

Tracing the Adventure Awaits image onto the canvas

The pressure on the front transfers the pencil on the back of the paper onto your canvas. Cool, huh?

Go over all the letters and shapes with a fine black permanent marker pen and you’re almost ready to go. You could also use a black acrylic paint pen for this bit.

These steps are actually the same for when we made this pretty tissue paper bleeding art. You just gotta love this canvas transfer technique!

4. Frame your reverse canvas wall art.

Place your sanded, waxed or stained frame over the top of your canvas and move it into the right position.

Flip everything over and pull the canvas taut over the wooden frame. 

Fix the canvas to the back of the frame with a staple gun. It’s easier if you start in the middle of each edge and then add more staples to the corners and other places if needed.

If you’re making a reverse canvas sign that’s going to be freestanding then you’re done. But if you want to hang it on the wall then follow these last steps.

Finished Adventure Awaits canvas art

5. Prep your reverse canvas for hanging.

Because this is a reverse canvas project, you now can’t hang your canvas like you normally would by just balancing the back of it on a hook. So we need to prepare it for hanging.

You could use some velcro hanging strips. We used these for our DIY dry erase board and homemade key holder. The strips are really strong, so are more than sufficient for a light canvas. 

Alternatively, you could also staple some chain or twine to the back of the frame and hang it from that. 

We went for this approach because we didn’t have any velcro strips left.

The great thing is that no one can see the back of the frame, so who really cares how you choose to hang it; just as long as it’s straight and holding strong!

Finished DIY canvas art - Adventure Awaits picture hanging up

DIY Reverse Canvas Tutorial Video

If you’d prefer to see this project in video form then here you go:

Final Thoughts

You might notice a couple of differences in our video from the steps we’ve described above. 

As we were repurposing some of our wedding decor, we had to also flip the canvas fabric, so we were painting on the rough side rather than the shiny side of the canvas.

Although we love the extra rustic feel this added to our project, it did mean that we had to use a black acrylic paint pen as our trusty Sharpie just wasn’t cutting it for this one.

There’s no saying you can’t also do the same. Just note you will need to use acrylic paint or an acrylic paint pen as this side of the fabric isn’t prepped for this kind of artwork. But it still works as you can see from our own results!


We hope you’ve found this tutorial both helpful and inspirational! We’d love to see what reverse canvas art you make, so be sure to tag us on Instagram @houseofmahalo so we can see it!

Wondering what else you can make with a cheap canvas? Check out this tissue paper bleeding art project!

Did you like this DIY reverse canvas tutorial? Pin it now, make this Adventure Awaits sign later!

Adventure Awaits DIY Reverse Canvas Sign
Adventure Awaits DIY Reverse Canvas Sign

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Justine is one half of the newlywed duo behind this home and craft blog, as well as the couples travel blog Wanderers of the World. When not away travelling with her husband and Rough Collie, she's always making something or busying about the house. So really, it's no surprise that House of Mahalo was born!

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