How to Attach Objects to a Painting's Canvas

Written by debra pachucki
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Art is ever evolving and so are contemporary definitions of what a painting should be. It is not uncommon for artists to add dimension to a painting, whether through textured fabrics, layers of paint, or even unconventional, non paint-based objects such as shells, stones, bits of glass, plastics and metals. Learn a few easy, sure-fire methods for attaching objects of different weights and textures to a painting's canvas, be creative in experimenting with new adhesive materials and let your imagination be your guide in your next artistic endeavour.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Canvas
  • Various objects for attaching to canvas
  • 1 tube fabric or super glue
  • Spray adhesive
  • Fine paintbrush
  • 1 sturdy needle
  • Tough, durable thread such as fishing line
  • Straight pins or tacky removable adhesive

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    Attaching Objects With Fabric Glue or Super Glue

  1. 1

    Determine where on the painting you would like to attach an object.

  2. 2

    Hold the object onto the canvas in the spot where you intend to attach it. This will help ensure a proper look and fit.

  3. 3

    Apply glue to the centre of the back of the object. Leave a bit of room around the edge of the object to allow for the glue to spread when it is positioned onto the canvas. Use fabric glue for lightweight or smooth objects and super glue for heavier, odd-shaped objects.

  4. 4

    Gently push the object, glue side down, onto the canvas. Hold in place for one minute to ensure adhesion to the canvas.

  5. 5

    Dip a fine paintbrush in glue and lightly trace the outer perimeter of the object where it meets the canvas for reinforcement. Allow to dry completely.

  6. 6

    Use a small brush to paint a second coat of glue over and around the entire object for reinforcement, if desired.

    Attaching Objects by Sewing

  1. 1

    Prepare the object by making pin-sized holes in its centre or around its border. The choice depends on how you want to stitch the object onto the canvas.

  2. 2

    Determine where on the painting you would like to attach the object.

  3. 3

    Hold the object onto the canvas in the spot where you intend to attach it in order to ensure a proper look and fit.

  4. 4

    Temporarily affix the object to the canvas with a straight pin or tacky adhesive to keep it from moving while sewing.

  5. 5

    Push a threaded needle into a pinhole on the object. Make sure to begin the stitch from the backside of the canvas.

  6. 6

    Pull the needle and thread all the way though the first pinhole, leaving at least two inches of thread slack at the back of the canvas where the needle went in. Push the needle through the pinhole to the immediate left or right, pulling the thread taut through the back of the canvas. Repeat until all the pinholes have been stitched through.

  7. 7

    Pull the thread taut through the last pinhole and cut from the needle. Tie the thread ends together into a thick knot behind the canvas for reinforcement.

Tips and warnings

  • Use fabric glue to attach fabrics and lightweight objects weighing 85.1gr. or less to the canvas. Use super glue for heavier objects or objects that do not have a smooth back surface.
  • If attaching objects to a piece of canvas that has already been painted, make sure that the paint has dried completely before adhering objects to the canvas.
  • Latex paint works as an adhesive for tiny, granular objects such as mini sea shells, sand, tiny beads or glitter.
  • When sewing items onto canvas, use a thick, sturdy needle and durable thread to ensure a tight stitch. Make lots of stitches for heavy or fragile objects, fewer for lightweight or sturdy objects.
  • When sewing, use clear, invisible wire to conceal stitches or thick, bright yarn to emphasise stitch work on the canvas.
  • If using spray adhesive, paint a small section of test canvas and apply the adhesive to the paint once the paint has dried to ensure satisfaction with the outcome; spray adhesive can change the appearance of some paints.
  • Always use caution when using sharp items such as needles, shells, or bits of glass.
  • Apply glue adhesives in a well-ventilated area to avoid breathing in fumes or harsh chemicals.
  • Remember that small items present a choking hazard to young children.

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