Creating a canvas – why not use patterns?

 Decorating the walls in your home is a very personal thing – it’s like choosing an additional housemate, because you have to live with your decision every day. I found myself being so particular about size, colour and mood of my wall decor that I end up making them myself.  The decision to do so is simple, but then I still need my creative inspiration to come from somewhere … and worse still, I need to actually like the result. If you re wanting to start creating your own wall decorations be careful not to find your inspiration from something that is or was ultra fashionable, or it will look dated before you have even finished (unless that is the look are after!). I try to do something that reflects my style, and is different to anything else I have seen – an eclectic mix of many things. 

 Deciding that I wanted a pattern in red – I then had to work out what it was going to be? I then noticed the pattern on the cushions on my couch, and decided to use that as my inspiration. This picture below is a portion of the cushion-cover I used for the large canvas (I named it the Red Dragon). I used a different part of the cushion pattern to do the 3 small canvases above. I drew the pattern on to my canvas by hand because I needed to increase the size by about 5 times (but don’t despair, that is not the only option, and you don’t have to be creative to do this!). The other option is to pull out your baking paper from the kitchen eg. Glad Bake (something that would really frustrate mum. When I was still living at home she would often go to use the baking paper only to find there was none left because I had been tracing things again!). You can buy real tracing paper, but baking paper works just fine, it is a little thinner, so don’t push too had with your pencil.

Prepare your canvas:

You can find a decent canvas from any art and craft shop, or even those everything is over $2 shops (you know the ones with names like Bev’s Bargains, Trevor’s Discount Emporium etc.). I usually choose the canvas with the thicker edges (more depth) because they look better on the wall (in my opinion!).  The next step is to prepare the canvas with the colour you want as the background (behind the pattern). Make sure you choose a background colour that won’t clash with your wall colour, curtains, couch or cat (some people are very fussy!!). The background colour is just as important as the main pattern colour. Once you have chosen the colour you can paint the canvas all over . For speed, and to avoid brush marks you can user a paint roller. I also paint the sides, top and bottom – but that is up to you. Depending on the colour chosen you may need to do 2 coats – you don’t want the white of the canvas creeping through from behind the paint. Allow the first coat to dry before doing another coat.

I use acrylic paints for my canvases for several reasons:

  1. Acrylic is water soluble (so easy to wash off your hands and clothes)
  2. It dries more quickly, so speeds up the entire creative process
  3. It is cheaper that oil paints
  4. It can also be bought at the $2 shops (or art and craft shops if you want better quality)

To trace your pattern:

  • Place the baking/tracing paper over the top of the pattern you want to use. You might find it easier to attach the baking/tracing paper to the pattern you are tracing – pin it to the cushion cover, Blue-tack it to a piece of paper (sometimes the tracing paper can move and distort what you are trying to trace).
  • Trace over the pattern so it’s replicated on the tracing paper (there is not need to colour in blocks of colour, juts trace the outside of the shapes and spaces).
  • Once you have traced the pattern, turn the tracing/baking paper over and generously cover all the lines drawn on the paper with lead pencil. The best way to do this is by placing the pencil on an angle and getting greater surface area from the lead (this lead will then cause a mark on the canvas when you trace over the original line on the other side with the pencil later). 
  • Once you have generously covered the underside of all the lines on the tracing paper, it is time to trace.

Getting the pattern onto the canvas:

  • Take the tracing paper and place it on to the canvas exactly where you want tot he pattern to end up. Make sure you have the original lines you traced facing you.
  • It is a good idea to Blue-tack the baking/tracing paper to the canvas to keep it in one place while tracing.
  • With your pencil trace over the original lines of the pattern.
  • By pressing on the lines you should be pressing some of the lead from the underside of the paper to the canvas – leaving a copy of the pattern on the canvas.
  • Before you trace the entire pattern stop to check that the pattern is leaving a mark on the canvas – if not, you may need to press harder (this can cause the pencil to break through the paper, so be careful), or use a darker (blacker) lead eg. 4B and above pencil to cover the underside of the lines …

A little info on lead pencils: they are graded on the European system using a continuum from “H” (for hardness) to “B” (for blackness), as well as “F” (for fine point). The standard writing pencil is graded HB.  A pencil’s grade is described by a sequence or successive Hs or Bs such as 2B and 3B for successively softer (darker) leads, and 2H and 3H for successively harder ones.

As of 2009, a set of pencils ranging from a very hard, light-marking pencil to a very soft, black-marking pencil usually ranges from hardest to softest as follows.

 9H 8H 7H 6H 5H 4H 3H 2H H F HB B 2B 3B 4B 5B 6B 7B 8B 9B

Hardest (lightest) →                Medium →               Softest (darkest)










Completing the Pattern: Once you have finished tracing the pattern onto the canvas you should be able to see the lines clearly. Now you need to choose your pattern colour(s) to fill in the lines.A handy Tip: One thing that can be really tricky (depending on the type of pattern you have chosen) is working out which bits you are meant to fill with the pattern paint colour and which bits should be left as background. Your eyes can play tricks on you and sometimes (you may mistake background for pattern and colour it). I found that having a good look at the pattern, and placing little coloured dots throughout it, indicating that it is pattern not background can really help.

Depending on your background colour you may wish to do 2 coats of paint for your pattern, to make the colour stronger, and so the background colour doesn’t show through the paint. You could also choose to use oil paints for the pattern (over an acrylic background). Oils will have more texture and stronger, richer colour. They also have a gloss finish to them that acrylic paints don’t have. 

Rather than trace a pattern you can always make up your own – it saves all the hassle of tracing, and will make you feel great to have your own creation on the wall.

Good luck, and email me with any questions along the way (for those that decide to give this a try).


Tell me what you think…

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: