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Reverse Canvas Tutorial
Hello crafty friends! Today I have some reverse canvas ideas for you, using heat transfer vinyl and a heat press. I’ll take you through every step and give you some different options that you can try. And, of course, we’re going to cut it all with our Cricut!
If you’d like to make a reverse canvas with 651 vinyl, see this post for tips on how to get adhesive vinyl to stick to the canvas.
What is a Reverse Canvas?
A reverse canvas is a project where you take a stretched canvas, remove it from the frame, and reattach it to the back to create a beautiful new sign. I have a free SVG file for you if you’d like to make this Hot Cocoa one like I did, but you can use this technique for any design you want.
Let’s get started.
Supplies Needed for Reverse Canvas DIY
- Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) in black & buffalo plaid (find the Buffalo Plaid HTV here)
- Heat press, pad, & Teflon or parchment sheets
- Screwdriver & pliers (optional)
- Utility or craft knife
- Paint/stain & brushes
- Weeding tools
- Staple gun
- Canvas (I used 16”x20” that I purchased at Hobby Lobby)
- Hot Cocoa SVG file found here
How to Make a Reverse Canvas with HTV Video
If you prefer to learn with video, here is the whole reverse canvas process ready for you to watch. Keep scrolling for the written instructions.
Step 1: Remove the Canvas from the Frame
The first thing you’ll need to do is remove the canvas from the original frame. There are a couple of different ways you can do this:
Method 1: Pry up the staples.
You’ll need something thin and strong that can get underneath them. A weeding tool will work to get under the staples, but it won’t get them all the way out. So you may need to use a screwdriver to pry them up more, and pliers to pull them out.
Method 2: Cut the canvas off the frame without removing the staples.
This turned out to be much easier and faster than the first method. Take your utility or craft knife and cut with firm pressure all the way around the frame along the outside of the staples.
The line doesn’t have to be perfectly straight, but you do want to make sure you stay on the outside of the staples. When you get to the corners of the canvas, you may have to do a little unfolding and extra cutting, because the canvas is folded over.
After you’ve cut through all of the corners or pulled out all of the staples, you can go ahead and remove the frame from the canvas.
Set the canvas aside for now. Go ahead and paint the frame, so that it can be drying while you cut your vinyl.
Step 2: Paint or Stain the Frame
For the paint, I used SeaPaint’s Vintage Secret found here. This is a light coverage paint, but if you use a slightly wet brush, it goes on more like a stain. It doesn’t have all the stinky, smelly fumes, though, and it dries super fast, making it perfect for this project.
Make sure you cover the whole frame – outside, inside, and front – in the paint or stain. Then you can set the frame aside to dry. While it’s drying we can cut the heat transfer vinyl.
Step 3: Cut the Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)
The first thing you’ll want to do is grab this free Hot Cocoa SVG file. You can find it here dailydoseofdiy.com/hot-cocoa.
Click “Get your free hot cocoa SVGs” and simply fill in your first name and email address and click “Send My Free Hot Cocoa SVGs!” The file will be delivered right to your inbox.
Upload the file into Design Space, and then you can resize it to fit your project.
Adjust the Hot Cocoa SVG to Fit Your Canvas
In Design Space, go to the top of the Layers menu and hit the “Ungroup” button. That will separate the “Hot Cocoa” from the “Warm Up Here.”
Next, you’ll need to change the size according to your canvas. I wanted mine to be 16” long. Go up to the top of Design Space and change the width to 16”, and then also change the color. I used red, since this one is going to be buffalo plaid.
Then change the width of the “Warm Up Here” text to match the “Hot Cocoa” width.
Everything is just about good to go, but before you hit “Make It,” there’s one more thing you need to do. If you skip this step, you’ll end up with everything all jumbled on the mat as you can see in the video.
Click on the “Hot Cocoa” and then go to the bottom of the Layers menu and click “Attach.” Then do the same with “Warm Up Here.” That will keep your designs together as they should be.
Now we can go ahead and click the “Make It” button.
You will get a warning that you need a large cut mat since the design is 16” long. That’s fine. Just click “OK.”
Now you need to mirror the designs because you’re using heat transfer vinyl. Select mat 1 and toggle the “Mirror” option on. Then select mat 2 and mirror that as well. Be sure to go back and click on mat 1 again, so Cricut will cut the black HTV first. Then you can continue.
If you have a Cricut Explore, change your dial to custom and select Pattern Iron-On from the list. On Cricut Maker, go to Browse All Materials. Type “pattern” in the search bar and select “patterned iron-on.”
Load the Cut Mat
The important thing is to put the vinyl on the mat with the vinyl side up and the carrier sheet down. It can be hard to tell which side is the carrier sheet side, so my trick is to poke a little hole in the edge. If you can poke through the vinyl, that side goes up. If you can’t poke through, you’re on the carrier sheet side, so you know to turn it over.
Once you get the right side up, apply the vinyl to the mat and smooth it down. If part of your mat isn’t very sticky, just grab a piece of painter’s tape and tape it down.
Make sure you insert your mat under the tabs and hold it up against the ruler bar. Hit the “Load mat” button, and then “Go” when it flashes.
For the buffalo plaid vinyl, you’ll want to check the instructions. I used Cricut brand vinyl, and that one goes pattern-down. But if you use a different brand like Siser, you might need the pattern up. So make sure you double-check the instructions from the manufacturer.
Once both pieces are cut, they’re ready to weed.
Weeding heat transfer vinyl is fairly simple. Poke through with your weeding tool to get it started, and from there you can use your hands for most of it. Since it’s not as sticky, it comes off rather quickly. And then use your weeding tool to get out the centers of the letters.
Step 4: Heat Press the Vinyl
To press pattern vinyl onto canvas, set the temperature on your heat press to 340 degrees, and the time to 50 seconds.
While the heat press is warming up, you can go ahead and get your canvas ready. The first thing to do is to find the center.
Fold the canvas in half lengthwise and put a small crease at that center point in both the top and the bottom edges. You might also want to mark those points with a Cricut pen, just to be sure you don’t lose them when you prepress your canvas. (That part will be cut off later, so don’t worry about ruining your project!)
Next, you need to prepress the canvas to heat it up. Place a sheet of Teflon or parchment paper over the canvas to protect it, and move the heat press around on top of the canvas. This helps bring out the moisture, and it warms up the canvas to get it ready for the vinyl.
And since you’re just warming up the canvas, it’s okay if your heat press isn’t quite up to temp just yet.
Now that your canvas is warm, find the center point of each piece of vinyl by folding and creasing the top and bottom, just like you did with the canvas. Then you can line up those center points with the center points you marked on the canvas.
Since heat transfer vinyl is not sticky, you can take your time arranging the vinyl pieces where you want them, and make sure you get them good and centered.
I placed my design in the bottom half of the canvas, to leave room for embellishments at the top. When you have everything placed where you want it, you’re ready to press it for 50 seconds at 340 degrees.
But don’t forget to put the Teflon or parchment paper back on top first! You can see in the video that I forgot to do this. Fortunately, I didn’t end up burning my canvas, but I don’t recommend taking that risk. Make sure you get that paper back on there for added protection.
This design is bigger than the heat press, so after you’ve pressed one side, slide the heat mat over, replace the Teflon or parchment paper, and press the other side.
Once the front of the canvas is pressed, you’ll need to flip it over and press the back for 10-15 seconds on each side.
Let the vinyl cool off for a few seconds before you peel off the carrier sheet. You’re almost done! I do wish the Cricut pattern vinyl was a little more vibrant, but it still looks great.
Step 5: Attach the Canvas to the Frame
Place the frame on top of the canvas and center it around the design. I just eyeball it, but if you have trouble doing that, grab a tape measure and mark the center of your frame, too.
Once you have it centered, flip the whole thing over and attach the first staple at the bottom center of the frame. Then pull the canvas tight and staple the top directly across from the first staple.
You might want to flip it back over at this point and make sure it’s still all centered. Then go ahead and staple the center of each side.
Go all the way around the frame following this same pattern: staple one side, pull the canvas tight and staple the opposite side.
Trim the Extra Canvas
Now take your craft or utility knife and trim off the extra canvas sticking over the edge. Make sure you stick to the outside of the staples again as you go all the way down each side.
When you get to the corners, you may need the help of some scissors to cut a slit in the canvas, or you can use your craft blade to go all the way around. Whichever way works best for you. Just trim off the canvas, so it doesn’t stick out farther than the frame.
After everything is trimmed up, go around and make sure you have enough staples around the canvas. If you have any corners flapping, add an extra staple or two to secure them.
If you want to hang your canvas after it’s finished, I recommend getting sawtooth anchors. I love them because you don’t need any screws. Simply hammer each side of the sawtooth hanger into the back of the frame. You can find them on Amazon here
Step 6 (Optional): Add Extra Embellishments
The sign looks fantastic as it is, but if you want to be a little bit extra like me, you can add some embellishments.
I found some greenery at Hobby Lobby, and then I made a buffalo plaid bow to stick in the middle. (I followed this tutorial from Michael’s to make the bow) Add some hot glue to the back of the bow and greenery, and center it right above the “Hot Cocoa.” This gives it that little extra touch to make it look even more gorgeous!
Free Hot Cocoa SVG
Don’t forget you can use my free Hot Cocoa SVG. To get instant access click here https://dailydoseofdiy.com/hot-cocoa. Simply fill out your name and email and we’ll get it sent right over to you.
Frequently Asked Questions When Making A Reverse Canvas
What vinyl do you use for a Reverse Canvas?
For this tutorial, we made a reverse canvas with HTV (Heat Transfer Vinyl or Iron-on Vinyl). You can also use a permanent adhesive vinyl like Oracle 651. For tips on getting adhesive vinyl to stick to canvas see this post.
How to Hang a Reverse Canvas?
Once you reverse a canvas the canvas covers the back of the frame and you lose the ability to easily hang it from the frame. I love using these sawtooth hangers for my reverse canvases and all my signs.
Simply hammer in each side of the sawtooth and you’re ready to hang. You can find the sawtooth hangers on Amazon here.
Can I paint a Reverse Canvas?
Absolutely! Painted reverse canvases look amazing.
I hope you love your reverse canvas DIY as much as I do! It was so much fun to make, and it’s perfect for winter décor. I’d love to see what other reverse canvas ideas you have.
Thanks for crafting with me!
Chris Butler has helped thousands of crafters learn how to use their Cricut machine without feeling overwhelmed. She is a best selling author and an up and coming designer. For fun Chris enjoys designing SVG Files, hanging out with her family (preferably at the lake), traveling, and volunteering at her church. She is a wife and mom of two crazy fun kids.
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