Thursday, July 12, 2012

Canvas Wall

So I have an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to hanging stuff on the wall. Weird, right? It's mostly because I have a lot of blank walls in my house and I started seeing all these cool things people were doing in their houses and hoped I'd be inspired to do something fun in mine. One pin I fell in love with was this collage by Ingrid Jansen of Wood & Wool Stool. It got me to thinking about the square photos I take with my phone (which are not high quality pictures and normally don't look good blown up). I did a little experiment with one of those photos a few months back, using iron-on transfer paper to basically "print" my photo on canvas. It worked great, and since it was on canvas, any pixelization that would have been obvious if printed on photo paper essentially disappeared into the texture of the canvas.

So this is my entry for the Pinterest Challenge, a wall of square photos on stretched canvases! I'm not even going to pretend I accomplished this in a week. I've been working on this one for months! Hours spent transferring images to canvas, attaching completed canvases to stretcher bars, and coating them with mod podge, all while watching Game of Thrones and Mad Men with Noah after our little guy went to bed... 

So after four years of staring at a blank wall above our sofa, we now have a whole wall of pictures! (Let's just pretend that there isn't a gaping hole in the middle of my wall 'o' canvas. I ran out of stretcher bars and didn't have a photo picked out for that spot anyway. I'll fill it later.) 

I included pictures from places we love (New Orleans, our cabin, the State Fair), things we like to do (gardening, swimming, the State Fair), highlights of the seasons (fall leaves, spring rains, the State Fair), and a few favorite shots of Abe. (That's him napping on an antique sofa while visiting my sister in Nashville.) I could probably do a whole wall of Abe, so I limited myself by only using pictures taken with my phone.

Almost every shot on this wall was taken with my phone using the Retro Camera app for Android (also available in iTunes). It includes a number of different cameras, but I pretty much just use the Little Orange Box. The photos I get with it always have nice color and contrast and it adds some random vignetting and a grungy border which I like.

While most of these pictures were taken using the Retro Camera app, I don't use it often for pictures of Abe, so I added a Grunge border using Pixlr-o-matic to help the non-Retro Camera pictures blend in with the rest.

Oh, and just for fun, I wrote the date and where the picture was taken on the back of each canvas. Then I hung them on the wall in a grid using small picture hanging nails.

Of course Abe's new favorite pastime is to take down all the pictures and pound on the nails with his hammer. I should probably think about rehanging them with some velcro strips...

I'm still trying to decide if I want to go up another level. At least there's plenty of room to expand if we want to!

To see how I made my canvases, check out my DIY Photo on Canvas tutorial. I used dark transfer paper for that tutorial and I promised that I'd write an update once I tried using light transfer paper. After trying it both ways, I'd suggest using the light transfer paper. (Just make sure to reverse your images before printing!) It's cheaper and works just as well, if not better! Here's what I noticed:

1. Color - The colors appeared slightly darker when using the light transfer paper. I expected the light and white areas to look more yellowed since the canvas wasn't white, but I was pleasantly surprised by how nicely they turned out (see the baby picture above). 

2. Texture - The dark transfer paper felt like a plastic coating on the canvas, whereas with the light transfer paper, the colors simply blended into the canvas so the surface still looked and felt like canvas once the transfer was applied. This is more of a personal preference, but I liked the light transfer paper better, plus the texture of the canvas helped disguise the bluriness and pixelization that occured when blowing up some of my smaller pictures.

3. Bleeding - This happened a bit with both types of transfer paper, but I definitely noticed it more with the light transfer paper. I added a few coats of mod podge to my finished canvases for protection and to help the colors pop. I worked really fast and let the first coat dry completely before adding a second, but I did notice the colors bleeding a bit on some of the canvases with large areas of dark colors. It was only noticeable on the edges though. The pictures still looked great!

As for cost, here's what I spent:

$61.81 - 84 8 inch stretch bars
$35.99 - 6 yard roll of 54 inch wide unprimed canvas (originally $59.99 at Michael's but I used a 40% off coupon)
$18.94 - pack of 18 Avery light T-shirt transfers (also used some I already had on hand) 
$9.59 - 2 jars of Mod Podge (originally $7.99 each but I used more 40% off coupons)
$2.98 - Staples

Total: $129.31

If you want to include taxes and shipping (since I did order some of my supplies from Amazon), I still came in under $150. Considering that it costs $29.99 for an 8x10 on stretched canvas at Walgreens, I'd consider my $6.15 canvases a pretty good deal!

You can see my previous Pinterest Challenge entries right here, and don't forget to check out all the other entries at Young House Love, Bower Power, Centsational Girl, and Ten June!


  1. That looks fantastic & inspires me to think about the wall above our couch. I bought some fabric I can print photos right on which might be an interesting option to try.

    1. Oh, I haven't tried that. Let me know how it turns out!

  2. As an artist, I love the blank space--looks so artistic to me--beautiful job!

    1. I originally left two blank spaces in each row, but they looked too big and empty in real life. One or two for the whole wall shouldn't hurt though. ;-) Thanks!

  3. This is completely amazing - I'm so glad you shared it on YHL! I've been tracking down the perfect living room art, as well, and am crazy about how personalized this is. Awesome work!

  4. So sentimentally awesome. I so love this project and am totally going to pin it and do it. One day....

    Bernadette from

  5. Looks great Michelle! I have to say that my favorite part though, might be the fact that Abe has found a new game out of it. Btw, our art is secured with velcro... and it's just as fun for the little ones!

  6. This is wonderful!! I can't wait to do some Christmas gifts! I am your newest follower!!


  7. Hi there! Just found this on pinterest and am dying to try it! I love every bit of it!! On an off topic, I also love your couch! Any chance you'd share where it's from? :)

    1. Thanks Rhyah! Our couch is from Macy's. We bought it a few years ago but I think they still sell it...or at least one that's very similar.