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Puffy Painted Canvas

If you’ve spent any time at all on Pinterest lately, you’ve probably seen this pin floating around:

Super cool, right?  Since I’d seen it so often, I knew this was one I had to try for my blog.  So I clicked over to the blog from which this pin originated, Virginia & Charlie, for the tutorial.  If you’d like to check it out, head on over here:

Contrary to popular Pinterest belief, this project is NOT created by using glue on a canvas.  It is actually puffy paint.  So I did a brief read-through of the tutorial on the aforementioned blog, and I set out to Michael’s, a place where the choirs of angels all gather on their lunch breaks and days off.

I checked with the very friendly, helpful, kind and not at all rude sales girl (why hasn’t anyone invented a sarcasm font yet?) to make sure that even though the fabric paint I had selected did not actually say puffy paint, it would still have dimension when it dried.  I had chosen a 12-pack of paint and I was really committed to getting it because it came in pen form and I figured it would make this project easier.

I had decided that I wanted to do a canvas with one of my favorite movie quotes on it for our front room or the stair case: “I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”  It’s from Steel Magnolias, which isn’t actually one of my favorite movies but I do like it and I love that quote.  As a backup, I decided to have a design on deck for Charlie with her name and a simple clip art graphic.

The Key Players: Art canvas (any size, whatever you want), fabric paint (must dry puffy/dimensional), mod podge, small bristled paint brush, wax paper (not parchment paper), your design, acrylic/spray paint for canvas (optional)

Ok, because the tutorial on Virginia & Charlie is really good (and much better than I could do), I’ll just give you the basic rundown.  You are supposed to print out your design, then lay it under the wax paper.  You trace your design with the puffy paint and let it dry completely, preferably overnight.  Then, you are supposed to peel the letters off the wax paper, apply mod podge to the back with your paint brush and attach the letters to the canvas.

So, I got really excited and just knew these would turn out great.  (Is it wrong to say you “just knew” something when whatever you “just knew” ended up being completely and utterly wrong?)

This is where I started:


It may be kind of hard to tell (or maybe I’m just flattering myself), but those letters are super lumpy, wobbly, messy.  Ok the more I look at it, the more I realize I’m just flattering myself.  It’s not hard to tell.  Turns out, tracing does not come easily to me.  I had a really hard time keeping consistent pressure on the paint pen.  As I was tracing, my pressure seemed to inevitably wane and the paint would become more and more thin.  Then when I’d readjust my grip, the paint would come out in a big glob and I’d be left trying to spread it more evenly along the line of the letters.

Also, my hands are definitely not steady and I’m pretty sure steady hands would be an asset in this project.  But I was not to be deterred this easily.  I decided the problem was that it was just too many letters, so I’d switch to my Charlie design that had bigger letters and less of them.


Not awesome, but slightly better.  It’s embarrassing to admit this, but between the first design and this one, it had already been about an hour and I was getting really tired.  I decided to call it a day, go to bed, and try again the next day.  For a little bit, I tried to convince myself that I was happy with the work I’d done on the second effort, but I knew I wasn’t and I had already had one foot in the “Maybe I’ll just throw in the towel on this one” camp.  I also knew that I really did not want to waste a perfectly good canvas on paint letters I was not happy with.

The next morning, I learned a lesson:

Don’t leave your painted designs on the floor to dry where the stupid dog can step in them.  When I came across this latest development, my other foot jumped quickly over to the “throw in the towel” camp and I just decided to call it quits on this one.  I didn’t have the desire or motivation to keep at this one as long as it would take me to come up with lines that were thick enough, smooth enough and straight enough to warrant being glued to a canvas and hung on a wall in my house.

As far as projects go, this actually is simple in that the steps you take are straight-forward and uncomplicated.  But I definitely think an artistic knack is required.  Or, you will have to be willing to go through lots of fabric paint to get satisfactory results.  I did peel off some of my letters afterward to see how easily they came off, and they peeled right off the wax paper.  So that part was not a problem.  Definitely the actual tracing is the hardest, most intricate step.

(One thing I did learn, which I guess I’ll have to consider the BFAT of this post, even though the A is clearly lacking: it seemed to go better when I kept the paint pen lifted slightly above the wax paper, making as little contact with the surface as possible.  The paint came out more smoothly this way, and if big globs came out I was able to manipulate them a bit better so that they didn’t look as globby when they came into contact with the paper.)

Easiness factor: For me, this one was obviously a 5 since I couldn’t even complete it.  But, if your hands are steadier than mine and you have more experience applying fabric paint, I’d call it a 3.


4 responses »

  1. I’d always wondered about those! Thanks for trying it out. Could you add this one to your list of pins to try?

  2. Definitely Elissa! I actually had bought the marbles a while ago because I wanted to try this one so now it will be killing two birds with one stone. 🙂

  3. Wow, that process seemed interestingly complicated… from looking at the original picture I would think it was just puff paint applied to a canvas. Any reason you wouldn’t apply it directly to the canvas other than the risk of mistake?

    • I think if you wanted to free hand the design, you probably could apply the paint directly to the canvas. The only reason that might not work that I can think of is the possibility of the paint peeling over time. I think the mod podge gives it what it needs to stick long term, but if you applied directly on the canvas and then painted over everything to make it mono-chromatic, you wouldn’t have to worry about that.


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