Create colorful canvases in your choice of hues.
Masterpieces Made Easy
Credit: Jean Allsopp / Styling and Project Design:  Mary Leigh Fitts

If expanses of blank wall leave you wishing for big, bold artwork to display, create some yourself. Producing a decorative stand-in for an original contemporary painting is a project you can accomplish in an afternoon. With the help of acrylic paints and prestretched canvas, you can easily produce one or more paintings in any combination of colors.

To achieve this look, you'll need the right kind of canvas. Choose one that's assembled from 11 ½-inch-thick, heavy-duty stretcher strips. The fabric should wrap the sides of the frame, and the edges should be secured on the back. With such a canvas, it is unnecessary to purchase a separate picture frame because you can paint its sides to create a nicely finished edge. Expect to pay about $25 for a 20- x 24-inch stretched canvas.

Step 1: Brush a coat of matte acrylic medium onto the front and sides of the stretched canvas, and let dry. (Acrylic medium makes the fabric less absorbent and easier to cover with paint.)

Step 2: Brush the first coat of acrylic paint onto the front and sides of the canvas, and let dry. Continue reapplying paint until the color looks completely opaque when dry.

Step 3: Use a pencil and yardstick to outline a stripe measuring from 1 to 3 inches in width. Place the stripe a few inches from one edge and continue it onto the sides of the canvas. Next, apply a piece of masking tape along each pencil line, so the entire length of the stripe is bordered by tape. Press the inside edges of the tape down firmly; then seal them by applying a light coat of acrylic medium. When the acrylic medium has dried, fill in the stripe with a different color acrylic paint, repeating the application until the color looks completely opaque once it dries. Carefully peel the tape away.

Tips to Help You Paint Like a Pro

  • If paint seems too thick, use a palette knife to blend in a small quantity of acrylic medium.
  • Paint applied straight from the original container is sometimes transparent and quite dark. To make it lighter and more opaque, mix a small amount of white paint with the color in a pie plate.
  • Once you've applied tape and begun to fill in a stripe, finish it quickly so that the tape will be less likely to pull up the paint underneath when you take it off.
  • Wash brushes, pie plate, and palette knife immediately after use. Dry acrylic paint is difficult to remove.


  • prestretched canvases
  • paintbrushes
  • matte acrylic medium
  • acrylic paint in tubes or jars
  • pencil
  • yardstick
  • masking tape