Canvas Photo Thing

It’s time for another round of the Pintester Movement! This time it was a case of finding a pin, and doing that pin. The rules are complicated, are they not? Anyway, I decided to try my hand at the DIY Instagram Photo Canvas from Savvysugar. I chose this for a couple of reasons, not the least of which being I already owned Mod Podge, foam brushes and a printer and knew where I could get square canvases for $2.50 each. In the spirit of truly doing the pin properly, I even did this with a couple of Instagram photos, even though I tend to treat those as disposable throw aways (unlike some bloggers who are apparently selling theirs. For real. Mad old world).

I didn’t take any photos of all the steps, so you’ll have to tap into your shiny imagination. Bold indicates the actual directions from the link above.

1. Select a picture that you’d like for creating the print. Resize the image using your computer until it is 6 by 6 inches and then print, using the best printer settings
I did this, but I added a step of increasing the DPI on the image too – they were 72 originally which is sort of Internet standard (even though I yoinked them straight off my phone). I don’t honestly know if it makes a difference once you’ve resized it, but I felt better about it being print quality. I pumped them up to 300. Which considering they were taken with an aging phone camera was probably overkill.

One of the first things I thought might be an issue was the water based ink, which was about to get quite wet. I wasn’t far off with my prediction, but it wasn’t as terrible as I expected. Read on to resolve that cliff hanger!

2. Use a paper cutter to trim the image, creating a perfect square. You can position the print over the canvas to double-check its size, trimming as needed.

Cutting the picture

As it happens, I do have a paper cutter. I saved it from a skip at a previous job. It works in that it cuts paper, but it has a slight slant to the blade which makes it hard to cut a perfectly straight line, so I avoided it and went with a craft knife and steel ruler. I don’t know if you can tell that the colours in the picture I’m cutting there are slightly off – the printer decided not to use all of the available inks and instead stamped its own interpretation on the picture.

3. Give the front of the canvas a quick sanding with fine sandpaper, which helps the Mod Podge really adhere to the print and canvas.
There’s no photo of this step, but I did do it.

4. With a foam brush, coat the front of the canvas with a layer of Mod Podge and then position the print, smoothing gently. Don’t worry if there are any bumps or puckers, they will smooth out once the glue is dry. Let rest for an hour before the next step.
Pictures stuck on canvasSo here are my photos all stuck down to the canvas. I smoothed out a few bubbles and ripples, but as instructed I didn’t worry about them too much, as they would smooth down when the glue was dry. Wouldn’t they?
I left them to dry for a couple of hours and went and did other things which mostly involved swearing at the sewing machine.
When I returned, I discovered that the “lumps and bumps smoothing down when the glue was dry” was a big fat filthy lie. I smoothed, prodded and poked and the sewing machine picture stayed as bubbly as ever. If you’re trying this pin yourself, smooth the bubbles out, or you’ll be stuck with them. Also you’ll stop trusting random tutorials on the internet, and then where would we be?
Since it was now 10pm, I decided to soldier on regardless.

5. Now coat the print with a layer of Mod Podge, working first horizontally with the foam brush and then vertically. Once again, don’t worry about any bumps; they’ll disappear as the canvas dries.
LIES UPON LIES UPON LIES. Of course they didn’t, I’m not even sure how they’re supposed to. I did come up against the other issue though, namely the smearing of water based inks.
Top CoatingI did the crochet picture first, and ended up with a pink tint to my picture and also to the Mod Podge from all the red inks. The sewing machine needle picture ended up with a blue tint and also there’s a couple of patches where the ink just plain disappeared or rubbed off. I’m not overly bothered, but if you were wanting your colours preserved it might be better to use a spray on top coat rather than a varnishy brushy on one (look at me, throwing around all these technical terms). Or you could laser print your picture I suppose.
These top coats may have gone on too thick. I found a thin coat of Mod Podge was nearly impossible because it just picked the ink right up and pushed it around – a thicker coat meant the foam brush wasn’t in so much contact with the print, but did mean a streakier finish.
I left the whole lot to dry overnight while I went to bed with a James May DVD and some hand sewing to do.

6. Place a piece of scrap paper under the canvas, and coat the sides with black acrylic paint, which really makes this DIY look professional. Touch up the black paint if needed.
Finished Canvas
“Professional” might be a stretch. I did alter this step in two ways. Well three, I didn’t bother with the scrap paper because protecting work surfaces is for wimps. I used the foam brush instead of a paint brush. This was to create a deliberate overlap of paint around the edges of the pictures. The canvas had a slight curve where the edges started and the picture edges just wouldn’t stick, so I painted them. Shortcuts for everybody! Also I used Paynes Grey instead of black. Yes there’s a difference.
They look.. fine. They look alright. Quite lumpy and a little bit smeared, but aren’t we all?

Now the idea behind this pin was to save money on canvas photo transfers which tend to run at $20 or so apparently. It just so happens that I have a canvas photo print, so I can offer you a side by side comparison:
Canvas Prints
The Mod Podge being thick does give the printed one a bit of texture, but nothing like a genuine thing. I’d say if you had a photo that was really important to you, or that you wanted to show off it’s probably worth spending the money on a proper canvas print. Otherwise this is a quick and cheap wall decoration, but smooth out your bubbles.
Can you see the pink through the one on the left? I can. If you can’t then you’re wrong.


  1. Ashley Bee says:

    That’s my biggest issue with decoupage, the bubbles! ugh, so annoying. Maybe printing these on photo paper would work better in the future?

    I love Pintester, check out my Pin-test this round if you’d like 🙂

    • Lyn says:

      Matte photo paper might work better – it’s a little thicker and might be less inclined to bubble. The original link said “Plain printer paper” and i believed it, like a chump! I might give it another go with photo paper (suspect Glossy might just have the ink wiped off, but will test it)

  2. Amanda J. says:

    I may have very indelicately snorted at several parts in this post. (Though, seriously, who in the hell sells their INSTAGRAM photos?) I’ve seen this pin and always been curious, but you, madame, have convinced me to continue looking for awesome coupons on canvas prints. (Full price tends to be highway robbery.) And I can totally see the pink, so I’m right.

    • Lyn says:

      People are setting up shops to sell their Instagram photos – I am not even joking! I’d do it, but I’m not sure the market for photos of my dogs is that strong.
      I got my actual real canvas prints from Artscow who sometimes have some pretty amazing discounts on stuff.

  3. isasif says:

    Haha, nice try on the pin, I actually quite like the sewing machine picture even with its blue tint. I think you are quite right about just getting a real canvas print though.

  4. Heather Herrington says:

    I am clearly way too anal-retentive to even attempt something like this. Those bubbles would drive me batshit crazy and I’d end up spending so much time smoothing them out that it would end up being cheaper to just buy a canvas print. I love the pictures you chose, though – the sewing machine one is fabulous.

  5. Amber Robinson Walker says:

    I have a solution to the bubble issue, I am a mad mod podger, and I know how to fix that– you dip the paper in water right before you adhere it to the podged surface. This post talks about it a little, but I really should do a tutorial that covers it more–

    That really won’t help with your water-soluable ink issue however! Maybe if you sprayed the paper with a clear sealant before attempting to proceed?

    • Lyn says:

      Next time I’m at the library, I’ll photocopy a photo and try it with that (colour laser) – I’m pretty sure the print in the original pin was ink jetted, but I’m willing to give it a go with a laser print which I COULD then dip in water (cool tip, thanks!).
      I feel a “reworked revisit” coming on, especially since I just found another canvas lurking in the craft stash.

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