Custom Canvas Art using Vinyl Decals
DIY Projects

Custom Canvas Art Using Vinyl Decals

My current office has a tall, long, blank wall that looks incredibly intimidating to decorate. It also had a hole smack in the middle of the wall from an old whiteboard that was so not convenient to anything I wanted to do with the space. So, not only did I need to find some artwork or something to decorate the wall, but I had to cover that hole, too! I had been scrolling through Pinterest for some ideas, and came across this photo:

Suddenly, the solution was so clear!  My office has a lot of black, grey, blue and brown in it – so this canvas project would be perfect!  I excitedly dove into a full-fledged google search to find out exactly how to make this happen.



Completed art works of this nature are very easily $120+ (especially for custom sizes and photos).  I completed this project for around $70.  Of course there were a few changes from the original, but I think the final product is close enough and personalized to fit my space.

Before we get started, please note that I chose to use 4 canvases like the picture because I had a huge space to fill.  This project can easily be done with any number or size of canvas.  If you’re looking to cut costs or have a smaller space to work with, this project is easily scaled down to fit a specific area or budget.



Admittedly, this was the hardest step for me. I wanted to mimic the original artwork as best as I could, but I had NO IDEA what size canvas they used! Not to mention, the only painting/art experience I have is from either elementary school, or painting walls in my house. I have no knowledge of how to buy canvas at all! I ended up going to a Michaels Craft Store nearby and getting canvas during one of their sales. I bought pre-stretched canvas (already framed onto stretcher bars), and they were untreated (had no coating on the front of them). I don’t want to admit the amount of google-searching that went on in that store aisle…

Ultimately, I bought:
Two 12x24in canvas (center pieces)
Two 14x18in canvas (end pieces)
Total Cost: $40
Wall space taken up:  about 52x84in (maybe more, depending on space allowances between canvases)


I had bought untreated canvas, so using oil paint is apparently a No-No. I chose to use Acrylic paint because it is water based (ie: cleans up easily with soap and water), works well on canvas and is fairly easy to mix and use. I found I had 2 options – buying the larger tubes in the art supply aisle, or buying the smaller bottles in the craft paint aisle. I opted for the smaller bottles because they were closer to the color I wanted to mix.

Tip: When buying paint, always overestimate the amount you need. Especially in the case of the little bottles – you can always return what you don’t open!

I bought:
2 bottles of medium grey
2 bottles of navy blue
1 bottle of charcoal grey (just in case I needed to tint darker)
Total Cost: $5
I already had a foam paintbrush and plastic plate for mixing color, so that was a saved cost!



This one also took me awhile, but more because I was finding so many cool decals!  I wanted to find something close to the original, which thankfully narrowed my options down from a few million to a few thousand.  All you need to buy is a vinyl wall decal.  They can be any shape, or quote, or picture.

I eventually went with this one from ebay user CooCooDecal:

I had the option to order it in any color I wanted, as well as a reflected image if I wanted. I DID ask for a reflected image because I wanted to use that larger section of branches (it was 32″ wide, and would stretch across my canvas well), and I wanted it to come from the left side like the original project photo.
Total Cost (with shipping): $22

And that’s it! I’m ready to start…..


Step 1: Freak out
I had a moment of panic when I realized I just spent a considerable amount of money on something that I have no idea how to start or if it will turn out well.  So, while I was waiting for my decal to be shipped to me, I went back to Michaels and bought the smallest canvas they had.  This way I could practice mixing the color, and see if the paint would work well.

Step 2: Set up and Test Project
Although my house has a lot of space, it also has a lot of carpet.  And while acrylic paint is easy to clean up, I wanted to be in a room that was well lit and easily cleaned. So, many of the pictures you’ll see are of my lovely  outdated bathroom.  We have a really long vanity counter which makes it an honestly great place to paint!
So I lined up all my materials:

Paint I bought + a few bottles I had around – just in case. Did a test mix on a mailing envelope.

I used a small plastic plate and plastic knife to mix the color.  I only did 1 coat, which is why there’s a bit of white showing through at the bottom. For the color, I mixed even parts of medium grey and navy blue. I tinted with about 1/2 part charcoal grey. It dried to be about this color:


Step 3: Man up and Get to Work
The test went well, and about 2 days later, my decal showed up! Yay!  One of the warnings that everyone stated was to WAIT until the paint was completely dry before even trying to apply the decal.  This let me know that I had to paint my large canvas one day, and probably wait a full 24 hours to try the decal – just in case.
Another concern I had was to mix enough paint to cover all of the canvas. I didn’t want to have to be concerned with color matching multiple batches.  I grabbed a larger plastic plate and mixed about 1.5 bottles of each color together. I found out I didn’t need to tint really at all with the charcoal grey. It turned out to be just enough.

my mixing plates (with plastic wrap to keep the paint wet)
First coat. A little streaky. The larger canvases definitely need 2 coats.  P.S – told you, you’d be seeing my bathroom!
About 4 hours later, after a second coat.  I used a flash which is why the two in the tub look darker. That’s actually closer to the ‘live’ color.
my canvas all laid out ready for the decal!  Note: tile floors make great grids to make sure you line things up straight!  — you’ll notice my center canvases are a bit wider than the original. Sad, but I had to compromise since I couldn’t find the right ones. =/

Step 4: Freak out and Test Again!
So I’ve got all my canvas painted, and it looks great! My decal arrived and I now need to get that ready to start on my test canvas, and then gasp finish the large project.

My decal arrived!!  By the way, that tube was IMPOSSIBLE to open. Especially when excited.
See?  I basically pried off the top with pliers. I also used this to rub the decal, since it was made of plastic and worked better than a credit card. We’ll get to that part.
The decal wouldn’t lay flat, so I had to flip it over and weigh it down for about 2 hours.  I put Harry Potter to good use.
This is how my decal arrived.  How am I ever going to figure out where things go!?

A quick note about the decal:
It arrived in one big sheet, with instructions.  The instructions told me that the decal was in 3 layers. Bottom layer = blue paper. Middle layer = decal. Top layer = clear transfer paper.  I was supposed to cut out the piece I wanted. Remove the blue layer. Stick the remaining layers on the wall/surface, rub over the top with the credit card/plastic item, and then carefully lift the top clear transfer paper off.
Sounds easy enough.

I started with my small canvas and chose a branch, a bird, and a few free single leaves:

branch, leaf and bird done! 2nd leaf waiting removal of blue paper…
TEST COMPLETE!  I wrapped some of the overlap around the side of the canvas. Looks super cute!

I did have to go back and re-rub some of the decal. The tiny parts were tough, but eventually worked just fine. So, on to the larger canvas we go! (it was late by this point, and I wanted to give my larger canvas more time to dry. This next part was about 24 hours later)

I have to explain this next picture.  So, I cut out the huge branch decal, and cut close around its edges because I thought it would be easier than having so much extra contact paper….it was probably better for the canvas, but it was harder to keep track of all the leaves flopping around! This part definitely took a LOT of patience and I tried to work in sections as much as possible.

The part that made this extremely tough was that I was trying to spread a single decal over 4 canvases, and making sure that branches and leaves lined up from one to the next, especially since the canvasses were ultimately going to be staggered on the wall.  I didn’t plan this very well, but it worked in the end.  Here’s how:

I placed the WHOLE decal down with all 3 layers. Just to make sure it fit the way I wanted it to while still being able to move it around. I realized that my first canvas only had a little part of the decal, and I could probably just put that part down and cut it away from the rest.  So, thats what I tried.  I used all sorts of bottles and things to hold the decal down from moving! haha

Lifted layers 1 and 2 off of the blue layer. Cut the blue layer away (pic was taken mid-cut). Layed layers 1 and 2 back onto the empty canvas, and used a razor blade cutter to cut between the canvases. Once separated, I took canvas #1 completely away from the project and rubbed/removed layer 1 to leave only the decal =)

I unfortunately didn’t take any other pictures of the process.  I had a migraine at that point and wasn’t feeling great — but I was determined to finish….and I did!  I basically used the same approach to the rest of the canvases. Peel away blue layer, cut away, lay down remaining layers, razor between the canvases, finish separated canvas.

The finished (not hanging on the wall) product!

I am SO HAPPY with how this turned out.  I cannot wait to see it hanging in my office!  Aside from needing some patience and a bit more research due to lack of experience, this project was extremely easy to do.  I still have some leftover pieces from the decal, so I’m sure I will re-create this project later on in a different location! =)

And in case you’re a sucker for a good before/after shot:



6 thoughts on “Custom Canvas Art Using Vinyl Decals”

  1. I love this idea for a kids' bedroom, it would be a really easy way to brighten it up. And you could personalize it! Filing this idea away, thanks for the tutorial!
    (Sent here by TK DIY board!)


  2. thanks ladies! There are SO many decals out there to choose from, you could definitely find some for a bedroom!

    Feel free to follow. Every once in awhile, I get the motivation for recipes and more DIY projects =)


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