Reverse Canvas Tutorial With Heat Transfer Vinyl

Follow this reverse canvas tutorial to create personalized DIY wall art for your home decor. I’m sharing all the details, including the best type of vinyl to use, Cricut heat press instructions, how to line up your image, an easy way to hang your artwork and two gorgeous free flower SVG files.

Beautiful DIY wall art made from reverse canvas technique and free flower SVG attached with heat transfer vinyl.

We’ve been going through some major home renovations over the past 6 months. One part of this process has been repainting all of our second story walls. While it’s nice to have freshly painted walls, they are all in need of some updated artwork. I like to personalize the spaces in my home with pictures, quotes and scripture that are meaningful to me. These hand drawn flower images are available in my free library for newsletter subscribers. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. I added my frames to our master bathroom.

Free flower SVG wall art on a reverse canvas.

WHAT IS A REVERSE CANVAS?

A reverse canvas is a technique used to take an inexpensive stretched artist canvas and turn it into framed wall art. How do you do that? Well, under that white canvas is a beautiful wood frame just waiting to be exposed. I’ll share all the details as we go, but just know that you need to purchase the right type of canvas to get the results you’re looking for.

How to remove the staples from a canvas frame.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my full disclosure statement here.

WHAT TYPE OF CANVAS DO YOU NEED TO MAKE A REVERSE CANVAS?

This is an important question, as not all canvases are the same. You are looking for a stretched canvas, not a canvas board or panel. Only the stretched canvases have the pretty wood frame behind them. It’s also important to note that you will only be able to purchase up to an 18″ X 24″ inch size. The next size larger starts to have support pieces that will inhibit the opening of your frame. I’m sure that different brands will vary in this, so you will want to check the back of the canvas for this before you purchase any size stretched canvas. These canvases will be thicker that the other types. Here is a picture of the brand I purchased for this project.

Type of canvas used for a reverse canvas project.

HOW TO REMOVE THE CANVAS FROM THE WOOD FRAME?

I want to start by saying that this is the most tedious part of the project. Over the years, I’ve literally removed thousands of staples from Luan underlayment while replacing the floors in our home. Needless to say, removing staples without the right tools can be a pain! I’ve found that using a small flat-headed screwdriver to slightly raise the staple is the best way to start.

How to remove the staples from a canvas frame.

To be most efficient, raise all of the staples without switching tools. See the image below.

How to remove the staples from a canvas frame.

Then go after them with this tool. It’s called a nail puller/plier. If you are an avid DIYer you might want to purchase this tool. It is useful for so many things. It gets out the most stubborn staples and nails from any project. If you can’t remove it, the plier also cuts off the head. I gently place the plier over the staple, butting it up against the wood. Then rock it, like you would a hammer, to pry the staple up. Just don’t squeeze the plier handles too tight or you will cut the head of the staple off.

Removing staples with a nail pulling plier tool.

Using this method, it took me about 20 minutes to remove all of the staples from both canvases. Believe me, this is fast. The only method I’ve seen that is faster is to cut the canvas with a craft knife and leave the staples in place. I chose to remove them as I was concerned that the staples would scratch my wall. Keep a container nearby to place the staples in and minimize the mess.

I’m not sure if all canvases have this, but on the front side, each of the corners had one staple in them. I’m guessing this was to hold the frame together while the glue dried during assemble. You’ll want to remove these four staples as well.

Easy way to remove the staples from a reverse canvas frame.

HOW TO STAIN SOFT WOOD FRAMES?

Over the years, I’ve used many types of wood stain. This is the one I reach for over and over. I love the color (Early American) and it works great on soft woods, like pine. Soft woods are porous and the stain absorbs quickly, almost always looking much darker than it appears on the picture of the can. This is the case even when you apply a wood conditioner first. Since this frame will not be handled very much, I chose to skip applying a clear top coat.

Stain type and color for a reverse canvas frame.

Here is the quick and dirty way of applying it. Put on some cheap gloves, so you don’t get the stain on your hands. Cover the surface you are working on with a drop cloth. Place a bunched up paper towel under each corner of the frame to raise it off the surface. Then mix the stain well with a paint stirrer. Next, dip a foam applicator (best price is at the Dollar Tree) in the stain and apply it to the frame. I applied it to the face of the frame and the interior and exterior sides. Then, lightly wipe it down with a paper towel. This removes any drips and slightly lightens the stain. Make sure there are no drips. Let it dry. Then, if you want, flip the frames over and stain the backside. Be sure to wipe off the drips before the stain dries. Follow the instructions on the can for dry times.

How to stain a pine frame for a reverse canvas.

WHAT TYPE OF VINYL SHOULD YOU USE ON CANVAS?

I want to get some important information out of the way before we begin working with vinyl. The easiest way to add vinyl to your canvas is to use the right type of vinyl. You are looking for heat transfer vinyl or HTV. For this project, I used Cricut Foil Iron-On in the color black. You can use different brands of HTV, but the instructions will be a little different for each brand. If you are using a different brand of HTV, it’s important to follow the manufacturers instructions on the packaging. If you are using the same brand as I am, you can follow these instructions.

Using heat to transfer your HTV helps the image bond to the canvas fabric. Don’t confuse HTV with regular permanent vinyl. Permanent vinyl is attached through adhesive and will not stick as well to your canvas. Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) is applied with an iron or heat press to help it bond to your surface.

Cricut heat transfer vinyl or foil for adding a vinyl image to canvas.

HOW TO DOWNLOAD THE FREE FLOWER SVG FILES?

These free flower SVG files are designed to be cut on an electronic cutting machine (i.e. Silhouette Cameo or Cricut). These flower files are available in the library in the following file formats: SVG, DXF, EPS, PNG and PDF. Different types of cutting machines will require different types of files. For example, Cricut machines use SVG files. The Silhouette Cameo basic software (Silhouette Studio) will use the DXF files, but the Silhouette Studio Designer and Business Edition uses SVG files. Refer to your cutting machine software to find out which type of file you will need.

Free flower SVG files for DIY reverse canvas craft.

To download the free flower SVG files, subscribe at the top right sidebar or at the bottom of this post. After subscribing, you will receive an email confirming your subscription (check your spam or promotions folder if you don’t see it.) Once you confirm your subscription, you will receive a “welcome email” with the password. Go to the library page and enter the password in the empty box located below the word “Password”. You can also access the library on the top menu bar any time you’d like with your password.

Please keep in mind that the password is case sensitive and does have spaces. Also, check to make sure your caps lock is turned off. If you have any problems, email me at laura@heartfilledspaces.com and I’ll do my best to help. Once in the library follow the instructions for downloading your free files.

HOW TO CUT AN IMAGE FROM HEAT TRANSFER VINYL USING AN ELECTRONIC CUTTING MACHINE?

The free flower SVG images that I created are quite large in size. I had to move the images around on my Cricut Design Space canvas to get them to fit. Because the images are large, I used the 12″ X 24″ mat. For the HTV used in this project, you’ll want to place the vinyl on the mat with the black side down (facing the mat). If you’re familiar with HTV, the vinyl has a clear carrier sheet that is hard to see. It is on the colored side of this vinyl. I know it’s hard to tell from the pictures, but the black side is facing the mat and the lighter (grey) side is facing up. Make sure you place the vinyl on your mat in the correct direction. This is very important!

How to load your heat transfer vinyl an a cutting mat for a Cricut machine.

CRICUT DESIGN SPACE: UPLOADING THE FLOWER IMAGES AND ATTACHING LAYERS

Open Cricut Design Space. Click upload on the bottom left toolbar. Then click upload image and then browse. Select the SVG version of the PEONY FILE that you downloaded earlier from the library. If you have not completed the download step, refer back to the HOW TO DOWNLOAD THE FREE FLOWERS section up above for instructions.

Once the file is on your canvas, left click on it to select it. Then, right click on it and ungroup the layers. You will need to ungroup the files two more times to completely ungroup them. This needs to be done before you Attach the layers later. Next, hide the word layers (see screenshot below). Then drag the two flowers so they are stacked and use the Align button to left align them. Place the flowers close together, but not touching. Then select both flowers and Attach them. The Attach feature is located below the layers panel.

Cricut Design Space Screen Shot

Next, choose Make It (green button in upper right corner). Now you will see a preview of the file. At this point, you will want to change your material size to 12″ X 24″ and select the Mirror image button. You’ll want to always mirror an image when using Heat Transfer Vinyl. Especially when using words in your image. Then click continue.

Screen-Capture-of-Cricut-Design-Space-Preview-Window

At this point your software will connect to your machine. Make sure your machine is turned on and you are connected either with bluetooth or a USB cable. Choose your base material (Foil Iron-On). Load your Fine-Point Blade in Clamp B of your machine. Load your 12″ X 24″ cutting mat with your Cricut Foil Iron-On in the machine. (One last reminder: make sure your vinyl is loaded with the carrier side of the HTV face down and that your image has been reversed in the preview menu). Then press “GO” on your machine.

Screen capture of Cricut Design Space Cut & materials menu

Once your flowers are finished cutting unload the mat and set it aside. Now, hide the flower images in your layers panel and unhide the words. Then drag each of the rows of words together like the image below. Click on the Align tab and center the words. Then space them out and add a rectangle shape behind them for easy weeding. When you are done, your image should look like the one below. Select all of the layers and choose Attach. Then click on Make It.

Screen-capture-of-Cricut-Design-Space-canvas-with-words

This will bring up your Preview menu. If you’ve completed all of the steps, your image will look like the preview below. Be sure to select the Mirror button (see image below). Your software should default to 12″X12″ size mat. Load your Cricut Foil Iron-On material with the black side (shiny) facing the mat and the grey side facing up. Note: you will either need to cut the roll of vinyl or switch to the 12″X24″ mat. Then load your mat into the machine. Now click Continue.

Screen-capture-of-Cricut-Design-Space-Preview-Window-with-words

Select Foil Iron-On under base material. Load your Fine-Point Blade in Clamp B. Be sure your material is loaded in your machine and press Go.

Screen-capture-of-Cricut-Design-Space-cut-and-materials-menu

SILHOUETTE CAMEO HTV CUT SETTINGS

If you have a Silhouette Cameo machine, these are the instructions to open and cut the files.

If you have not completed the download step, refer back to the DOWNLOAD THE FREE FLOWER SVG section up above for instructions. Download the SVG version of the files if you are using the Designer or Business Edition of Silhouette Studio. If you have the basic edition (free version) of Silhouette Studio download the DXF file. Note: Sometimes the DXF files open in the gray area surrounding your canvas. You may need to choose (CTRL -) that’s the Control Key plus the Minus Key, to zoom out and see the DXF file.

Open Silhouette Studio. Now choose File, then Open and choose the PEONY SVG FILES you downloaded from the library to your computer. The files will be in the location you downloaded them to previously.

Arrange the flowers and words on your canvas in Silhouette Studio so they fit on a 12″X24″ roll of HTV. You can refer to the Cricut Screen captures above for reference. I suggest you use a 12″X24″ mat instead of cutting the HTV without a mat. Keeping the vinyl straight, without a mat can be tricky and could mess up your cut. Load the HTV so the clear carrier side of the HTV is facing the mat. Be sure to REVERSE YOUR IMAGE before you cut it. Go to the Send panel and change your cut settings to the following:

HTV Cut Settings

Blade: 2, Force: 4, Speed: 8, Passes: 1, Overcut: OFF

Load your material on your cutting mat and load it into your machine. Always do a test cut before sending your full project to make sure that the vinyl is cutting right. Weed the little triangle from the square to make sure the vinyl cut but the carrier sheet is still intact. If everything looks OK, send the full project.

HOW TO WEED HEAT TRANSFER VINYL?

Once you’ve completed cutting your design, you will need to weed out the extra vinyl. Weeding is a term used to remove the unwanted vinyl from your image. Below is a picture of the image before it is weeded.

Image outline once cut from vinyl before it is weeded.

I always start at a corner and stick my weeding tool through the vinyl to pull back the corner. I also leave my vinyl on the cutting mat to hold it in place. This sort of acts as a third hand. 🙂

Weeding a flower image for a reverse canvas project.

If you have a lint roller, it works great for placing the unwanted bits of vinyl on the sticky tape. It’s important that none of your vinyl scraps are left on the carrier sheet as they will find their way into you design later when you press it.

Weeding a free flower SVG for a DIY reverse canvas.

In the image below you can see the fully weeded flowers with the carrier sheet behind them. I cut away the extra carrier sheet with scissors, as I find it easier to position on the canvas this way. If you cut them away before you weed them, you will have some leftover HTV scraps to use on smaller projects.

Free flower SVG files for DIY reverse canvas craft.

HOW TO POSITION AND LINE UP YOUR HTV ON THE CANVAS?

Now this step, for me, was the second most tricky part of the project. I attempted a few different methods before I came up with this. For starters, I would not attach the canvas to the back of the frame until after you have attached the HTV to the canvas. This will give you the most flexibility for positioning your vinyl and frame. I used a clear fabric ruler for this part. It helps you see the frame while you line up the image. Here is the process I used.

Place your frame over the center of the canvas, but don’t cut the canvas or attach your frame yet. Next, eyeball the placement of the vinyl in the center of the frame on the canvas. The sticky side of the carrier sheet will be facing down on the canvas. Your words should be in the right direction to read them now. See the image below for reference.

Now place your clear fabric ruler over everything. Line up the ruler so it is square/level with the wood frame. Now make sure the distance on the left and right of your top row of words are the same. Use the lines on the ruler to make sure your words are level. Measure the margin between the top inside of the frame to the top of your words. Write down that measurement. You will need it for the second frame. Now begin the next row of words and so on.

How to keep vinyl straight on a canvas.

Once everything is perfectly lined up for one frame, roughly lay out the other frame/canvas. Use your clear ruler to make sure your frames and words are at the same height. This is where that top margin measurement (you wrote down earlier) will help you line up the two canvases (side by side). The next section will explain the heat transfer process, but I wanted to explain this step first. I pressed one of the images, removed the carrier sheet and then double checked the positioning of the second image on the canvas/frame.

Lining up the heat transfer images for two canvases.

HOW TO ADD HTV TO A CANVAS USING AN EASY PRESS?

There are a couple of ways to attach your HTV design to a canvas using heat. You can use a heat press as long as the frame is not attached. You can also use an iron. I used the Cricut Easy Press for my design. If all you have is an iron, you can do a Google search to find out the setting and time. This tutorial will walk you through using a Cricut Easy Press.

Cricut has made this so easy for us. You can just go to cricut.com/heatguide. You will see a page like the image below.

Cricut-Easy-Press-Heat-Settings-Page-Screen-Capture

Select the type of press you own (Cricut EasyPress 2). Then select your Material (Heat-Transfer Foil). Then choose your base material (cotton canvas). Select either EasyPress Mat or Towel. Then choose Apply and you will get instructions for your project. See the image below.

Cricut-Easy-Press-Instructions-for-Iron-on-transfer

This makes iron-on projects so much easier. So as a recap, here are the steps.

  1. Preheat our Easy Press to 290 degrees.
  2. Place your canvas on an EasyPress Mat.
  3. (I skipped the 5 second pre-heat of the canvas because I had already lined up my image and didn’t want to do it again.
  4. Place your iron-on face down, liner side up.
  5. Press with light pressure at 290 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 seconds.
  6. Flip the canvas over and press for an additional 15 seconds.
  7. Once the image is cool to the touch, flip it right side up and remove the liner.

Now here are some things you may not have thought of. First, while your pre-heating the press, make sure it’s in the gray cradle that came with your press. You can set the temperature by pressing the thermometer and pressing the plus or minus buttons until the screen reads 290. Then press the thermometer button again to set it. Don’t worry if the temperature drops after you are done, it just is letting you know what the actual temperature of the press is at that moment. Next, press the clock and use the plus or minus buttons to set your time. Once you are done, press the clock button again. When the press is pre-heated the Cricut button will turn from orange to green and beep.

Heat press temperature and time for HTV.

Set your press on the carrier sheet and press the green Cricut button. Place your hands on the press and hold it in one place with medium pressure. Your clock will count down and beep when the press is finished. Then lift the press straight up and place it over the next section of your canvas. Note: If you leave the press in one place for too long, you can scorch your canvas. If an area needs to overlap (like in the image below) I let the canvas cool before placing the press in an overlapped area. In this situation you can lift off the frame because it’s not attached yet. Just be sure your EasyPress mat is under the canvas at all times. I recommend purchasing the large size mat for this reason.

Using a heat press to transfer vinyl to canvas.

Now flip over your canvas and press it for an additional 15 seconds on the backside.

Time and temperature for the back of a Heat Transfer.

Then flip your canvas right side up an let it cool to the touch. Once cooled, you can peel the carrier sheet off of the canvas. Note: If the carrier sheet doesn’t come off easily, you will need to press it again. The vinyl should release from the carrier sheet with ease.

Removing the carrier sheet from heat transfer vinyl.

HOW TO REMOVE THE EXTRA CANVAS FROM AROUND YOUR FRAME?

We have finally reached the point where we can remove the extra canvas and reattach it to the frame. For my project, I waited until the very end to do this step for two reasons. First, it left me with the most flexibility to line up my two canvas frames and keep everything straight. Second, it’s easier to keep the canvas dead center when I flipped the canvas and frame over. Let me explain…

Place a large self-healing cutting mat on your work surface. Place your canvas on top of the self-healing cutting mat. Center your frame exactly where you want it on the canvas. Then, firmly hold the frame to the canvas and cut around it with a craft knife. Be sure your frame doesn’t move on you. Once you’ve cut around the entire perimeter of the frame, throw away the extra canvas pieces. Now flip your frame face side down and place your canvas face down on the back of the frame. Your canvas will line up exactly on the frame because you just cut it to size.

How to cut the extra canvas from the frame.

HOW TO RE-ATTACH YOUR CANVAS TO THE FRAME?

After some trial and error, I found this to be the best way to reattach your canvas to the frame. With your canvas lined up with the perimeter of the frame, place one staple in the center of one side of the frame. See number 1 in the image below. Then pull the canvas snug (don’t stretch it) and place another staple in the center of the opposite side (number 2) in the image below. Next, staple the canvas in the center of position 3. Finally, pull it snug and staple it at position 4. This pattern helps prevent wrinkles from getting trapped in the canvas.

How to reattach and staple the canvas to the back of a frame.

Now, holding each corner snug, place a few more staples in the corners. You can see in the image below, how flat I was able to get the canvas with this method.

How to reattach and staple the canvas to the back of a frame.

The last step is to remove the extra canvas from the edges, so they don’t show from the front of the frame. I used a pair of fabric scissors for this step.

Remove the extra canvas with a pair of scissors.

Repeat this process for both frames. Now you can flip these beauties over and admire your handmade artwork!

Beautiful DIY wall art made from reverse canvas technique and free flower SVG attached with heat transfer vinyl.

HOW TO ATTACH A REVERSE CANVAS TO A WALL?

These frames are light weight and don’t have any glass in them. So I used damage free Command Picture Hanging strips to hang them on the wall. Another simple option would be to add a sawtooth hanger to the back of the wood.

Here they are in our bathroom. This room has gone through so many changes. We’ve painted the walls, added door and window trim, installed new flooring, mirrors, light fixtures and faucets. I also added roll out shelving inside of the vanities for storage and organization. My next project in this space will be floating shelves.

Updated DIY wall art in a master bathroom.

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Thanks for following along with this project and best wishes with your own reverse canvas project.

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