How to Make Canvas Board

Buying canvas boards or canvas on frames can be quite an expense, especially if you paint a lot. Canvas boards are nice to use to paint smaller pieces for practice and pleasure and can be easily slipped into a frame if they are standard size boards, or stored flat on top of each other using less room than canvas frames.

The only drawback in using canvas board is that you cannot hang them unless they have been framed; although they can look pretty cool propped up against walls and on book cases.

This is a simple, poor-mans way to make your own canvas board at a fraction of the price. Your shapes and sizes are determined by the size and shape of the board and if you are handy with an electrical saw, you can have fun.

Many Timber stores have off cuts of Masonite that they will sell you and for a few extra Rand, will cut for you into the sizes that you need too.

Canvas can be bought at most material shops. It comes in different grades and thicknesses. Find canvas that has a good cross weave and that is smooth (no cotton bubbles on it) and that is relatively strong. Off-cuts are great too because they are cheaper to buy.


  • White Acrylic wall PVA paint
  • Wood glue
  • 2 x plastic rulers
  • Scissors Masking tape
  • Canvas sheeting (calico or cotton)
  • Masonite board
  • Sponge paint brush

This is the FRONT SIDE of the masonite and the CORRECT side to put the canvas on

This is the BACK SIDE of the masonite. It is porous and the WRONG side to put the canvas on

Make sure that your canvas is approximately 4cm wider and longer than your board and that the edges of the canvas are straight.

Pour the glue onto the masonite ( I like to write my name onto the board with the glue so that it is all over the board and I don’t need to move the glue too far to cover the whole board) Using your plastic ruler as a scraper, scrape the glue onto the board. Ensure that you cover the entire board with an even layer of glue right up to the edges The glue may seep through the canvas a little – this is okay. I always prefer to use too much rather than too little because if you miss a spot on the board, it will leave a bubble on your canvas which is what you don’t want..

Once your board is covered with glue, carefully lay your cloth over the board ensure that the edges that hang over are more or less the same size all around.

Don’t panic, you can move it slightly.

Once it is in place, take your other plastic ruler and starting at the centre, start to scrape the canvas onto the glue, easing out all the creases in your cloth and spreading any thicker patches of glue. Scrape right along to the edges. If the glue starts to seep out of the edges of the board, this is okay as you are going to use it when you do the reverse side of the board.

Once you are satisfied that the canvas is nice and flat and bump free, flip the board over.

Squeeze out a thin line of glue right on the edge of the reverse side of the board and using your fingers, smooth the canvas flat on to the board.

Here again, I allow the glue to ooze out under the cloth and quickly run a strip of masking tape along the edge of the cloth on top of the cloth and the oozing glue and rub, rub rub, till it’s flat.

It is important that you cut the corners neatly, cutting off the excess canvas so that you have a flat neat corner.

Leave your board to dry properly (I let it lie overnight to ensure that it is completely dry) on a flat surface. This is important so that it does not bend.

I like to us a spong brush to apply the PVA. (You can use a gesso instead if you prefer. I have heard of adding wall paper glue to acrylic paint to make a homemade gesso.)

It goes on smoothly and allows you to apply it so that there are no brush marks on the canvas.

Cover the entire canvas and then let it dry completely.

Don’t forget your edges! When the first coat is finished and dry, apply a second coat in the opposite direction.

Keep checking to ensure that you do not leave gaps. You want a beautiful flat finished surface that is solid paint and completely sealed.

Remember as in everything about Art – preparation is very important.

If you make good boards that are well coated and neatly prepared, your Artwork will last and you will not be embarrassed to show off or even sell your Artwork.

Just as a matter of interest, I made 6 x 400mm x 600mm boards at a cost of about R160.00. That’s around R27 each.

If I stumble upon canvas off cuts or masonite off cuts, I buy them and stick them away. You just need to keep your eyes and ears peeled for sales and bargains!

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