Questions About Designing


The Answers

How do I paint my own canvases?

Many people like Liquitex acrylic paint, which comes in tubes or little plastic jars. It can be thinned with Liquitex Fabric Medium and water. You want to use a thinner paint, to avoid clogging the canvas holes. When the piece has a large background, use very thin paint and a sponge brush. The design can be painted right over the background, after it has dried. If the background is to be very dark, leave it unpainted.

Brushes cut at an angle can help make smooth lines. Alternatively, for lines or very small areas you can use ZIG waterproof "pens," FabricMate pens, Marvy Fabric Brush Markers, etc. Make sure to get a waterproof pen or you will have a messy problem to try to correct if moisture from a nearby area sneaks over. Markers can be found in some needlework stores, or try Cloth World or big art supply houses. If you use a vanishing fabric marker (vanishing, not washes out with water), you can draw guidelines with it, paint over them, and they will still disappear. The Sharpie Marker is not recommended for fabric because after several washings it will fade and it will yellow around the writing. It is water resistant, not waterproof. The ink is alcohol based so will run if it comes into contact with an alcohol solvent.

Always put the cap back on as soon as you stop painting with each and every pen, or they will dry out! If the tip is felt, it can wear down before it dries out - try to hold it at an angle to the canvas, with light pressure.

If you paint on white canvas you can use white out to hide mistakes. Don't throw in a lot of pretty curves that make the stitcher do all the work!

If you are doing your own color blending, always mix more paint than you think you will need of a color, since you will never be able to make exactly the same color again.

These techniques can also be used to update old canvases to new colors if you still like the design but not the colors.


And Courtesy of Sharon G

Use a good quality acrylic paint. I use Golden Acrylics because it has the highest load of pigment in any paint on the market and I find the color remains fast and tends to hold up from fading much longer than lesser quality brands.

Are you going to paint the background and let it show or is it your intention to cover the background with stitches? This is where the quality of the painting comes into play. If it is your intention to cover the background with stitches, then a less finicky paint job will do. But if you intend to let it show with open stitches or an exposed background, you need to get ready for some work.

Dilute the paint to the thickness of cream and get a good brush, preferably a synthetic. I use Cosmos or Raphael brushes but Robert Simmons are also good. Get a flat and a round brush. I like the round brush for outlining around curves, otherwise I use the flat brush. You will need to paint in all directions to get the intersections of the canvas covered. When you are done with the job, take your canvas into good natural light and look for white spots in the intersections. If you do not see a good even coat, get the paint out again. And do not forget to check for clogged holes. It happens. Lift the canvas, fill your lungs with air and blow. This is the easiest way to get them out before they dry.

I do not use Delta Ceramcoat, although many artists do. But I have to say, they do make a decent black and it will cover well and hold up to the light reasonably well.


What should I use to draw an outline on canvas?

Answer: Courtesy of Jody Valentine of JODY DESIGNS, INC.

If she needs an outline drawn on the canvas (note: she is trying to move away from the use of outlines) she would take a very fine brush and use thinned out Liquetex paint close to the color of the canvas (for black canvas use a charcoal gray paint color, for red canvas use a scarlet red paint color, etc.) The color of the paint and the color of the canvas should only be a shade different -- just enough difference in color so as to be able to see the outline.

Another way to draw an outline on canvas is to use the Pilot ultra finepoint, permanent, NO xylene SCA-UF pen. It comes in red, green, blue and black. The red pen will work on black canvas if you have good light. These pens are only available through art stores and are sometimes a little hard to find.


How do I transfer a design to canvas?

Answer: Courtesy of Sandra Arthur

To transfer a drawing to canvas you need to prepare in advance. First, make sure the lines of the drawing are clear and crisp. Images from coloring books are good examples. Make sure the lines of the drawing you wish to transfer are dark enough to see under the piece of canvas. This can be assured by tracing over the drawing lines with a heavier dark pen such as a Sharpie® Fine Point.

Work in a well-lighted area where you have plenty of room. A flat table near a window is ideal. Using a light box for transferring a drawing is really useful. Lay the drawing flat on the table or light box. Secure the drawing to the table or light box with masking tape to keep it from moving while you are making the transfer. Next, center the canvas over the drawing as closely as possible. Look for a straight line in the drawing you wish to transfer and align it within a “ditch” (an area between two threads) of the canvas. Use masking tape to secure the top of the canvas to the table or light box.

Use a sharp, hard pencil, such as 4H, to transfer the drawing to the canvas. It will not smear and yet it can be erased with a fabric eraser if necessary Begin tracing the drawing to the canvas by following its lines. Since you have secured both your drawing and the canvas, you can easily lift the canvas to make sure you have captured all the lines of the drawing.

If a more permanent line is desired, a Pigma Micron pen, size 01, works well. These pens are sold in various colors in art and hobby stores such as Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. Brown works well since the lines are not quite as stark as the lines produced by a black marker.

Additions or corrections to this FAQ should be sent to faq@needlepoint.org