There’s tons of old canvases lying around in charity shops. Usually they have crappy prints or photographs, on them – so why not up-cycle them and turn them into a fresh new canvas for your own painting? It’s a double winner – you get yourself a cheap, framed canvas, and you recycle something in a useful way too.

These things are pretty cheap and the charity shop is often pleased to get rid of them. So even if the canvases are priced, you can often make the staff an offer. I’ve bought several A1 canvas from my local charity shop for five pounds. The same-sized canvas might be up to ten times the price from an art supplies shop.

Now, you could paint directly over what’s already there, but the thing with canvases from the charity shop is that the front has usually been treated in some way – a resin or an ink, perhaps, to cover whatever horrific artwork is already there. This means that if you paint on them your paint just isn’t going to stick.

But if you flip the canvas and delve behind, what you often find is pure, soft, pristine canvas, just ready for the brush.

Try it: stroke one side of the charity shop canvas (the printed side) and you’ll find it’s plasticky and smooth. The back, however, will feel soft and slightly coarse. Lovely!

How to Recycle a Canvas from the Charity Shop

So take the canvas from the charity shop cashier (who is pleased they now have one less piece of junk) and return to your lockup/ studio/ bedroom with your loot. Remove the a tape on the back, that covers the edge of the frame. Take that off and throw it away.

Next, get a flat-bladed screwdriver and insert it under the staples that pin the canvas to the frame. Give the give the screwdriver a bit of a wiggle and you’ll find that the staple easily pops up.

If it doesn’t pop all the way out then take a pair of pliers and yank it out. Go around the canvas staple by staple putting them all out. And presto – the canvas is released from its frame.

Next up we want to turn the canvas around and lay it on its rear, so that its backside (the side with nothing on it) is now facing down. You’ll be able to see whatever was originally on the canvas now facing you. Lay the frame onto this side and carefully wrap the canvas back onto the frame.

To pin the canvas back to the frame. I just use an office stapler. You have to whack it pretty hard but that’s okay – the wood of the frame is fairly soft and it seems to hold things fine.

Working your way around the canvas, do one staple on one side. And then do one staple on the next side keeping the tension as tight as you can around the canvas.

The most tricky bit is the folded corners. It’s a bit like remembering how to wrap a Christmas present. But you can often see which way it’s been folded by the folds that have been they’re still showing from the original canvas mount. Pin down the flaps with your stapler.

And there you have it. A cheap, easy way of Canvas getting a new pristine Canvas, lovely and soft and ready for priming.
And to boot. You’ve also recycled something that was probably going to be thrown into landfill anyway. Nice!