View Full Version : Lettering with Acrylic Paint on Canvas

06-21-2005, 09:02 PM
I want to include lettering on a project on a large canvas. The letters should be about 3" high, all 37 of them (including spaces) and they should not be noticeably raised from the canvas surface.

What I've tried so far that doesn't work:

Stencils (tough to align letter horizontally)
Transfers (dried surface of transfer medium leaves an unwanted raised surface)

Does anyone have alternative suggestions??


06-21-2005, 09:18 PM
It might not be perfect but try using contact paper. Cut out the letters, apply to surface and with either a stencil brush or a sponge and very dry pigment (dry brush technique), dab, pounce or swirl and never ever apply in a brush stroke. Build it up slowly and see if it can make a nice letter. Try it on scrap first and see where it leads.

Another option would be to totally hand letter but this takes practice, years of practice and a lot of control.

Just a thought.

06-21-2005, 09:23 PM
Another thought is rubber stamps. I had to do a project which required lettering and bought these jumbo sized stamps and they worked very well on acrylic. They are a bit pricey, but I've used them again. The stamps can be applied with ink or acrylics (if you use acrylic, wash the stamp asap).

06-22-2005, 04:39 AM
Oh years of practice and a lot of control Howard, no wonder mine looks like worm lol....

06-22-2005, 09:44 AM
You don't say if you want the letters in a straight line . . . If you do, then perhaps you could twang a chalk line where your lettering is to go - top and bottom, if it helps, then carefully draw the outline of your letters - as a signwriter would - even using the stencil, if you don't feel confident doing them freehand, checking the spacing as you progress. If you use a soft pastel chalk pencil you can easily eraze your mistakes with a damp cloth, then start again. Once that is done you can begin to paint them in with a suitable sized brush. It all takes time - and patience. The thing is, if you have spent the time and effort on the picture itself, you won't want to be rushing the lettering and spoiling the finished article, yeah? If you think there's a short cut - and your question suggests that you think there might be - you'll find there isn't. [well, I found that out for myself - the hard way ;) ] You might try doing a web search on signwriting to see if you can find any further tips, other than what people have suggested here. In any event, I hope it works out well for you.


06-22-2005, 11:23 AM
Painting would probably be the flattest, easiest method. Getting an accurate outline on the canvas so you can paint is the key.

One way is to get your text perfect on the computer, then convert to outline text. Then print it, and project it onto the front of the canvas with an opaque projector. Once the outlines are penciled in (I'd use a pastel pencil so it would rub off later), fill in with paint.

If you haven't yet made the canvas opaque with layers of paint, you could also trace it from the back. Print your computer generated words life size, tape them to the back of your canvas, and shine a strong light through it.

Or, make a transfer sheet. Print your text the size you want it, and put it under a piece of tracing paper. Trace the outline on the front, then turn over the tracing paper and redraw the outline in reverse on the back, using a soft pencil or pastel pencil. Position the transfer paper on your canvas and tape to hold in place, then go over the lines on the front with a sharp, hard pencil (careful, don't puncture or stretch the canvas) to transfer the lines.

Alternatively, you can have a one piece laser stencil custom cut for a fairly reasonable price.

I silk screened words on a painting once. The texture was beautiful, but it was a lot of trouble to go to for just one painting.

The spacing of the letters is very important if you want a professional look. If you're not used to working with text, let the computer do the work for you. Print full words, not letters.


06-22-2005, 01:15 PM
I was going to suggest getting a vinyl mask cut too if this is affordable where you are, in addition to having perfect edges the letterspacing will be sorted out for you and getting this right is pretty difficult if you don't have any experience in this area - and as you can see from the crappy spacing in a lot of the graphics around us even those who should know how often get it wrong!

With one of these you just apply it to the canvas and then take out each letter carefully, lifting the edges with a sharp craft knife is usually best. Then paint inside the letters and peel off the mask when you're done. But if you're doing this with a brush you'll want to use the most opaque paints you can to get maximum coverage with the least amount of paint. If you have an airbrush or a spraygun then this isn't quite so critical.

Any self-adhesive mask will not seal the gap around the edges of the lettering perfectly on a textured surface like canvas so after rubbing it down carefully it's often suggested that you seal the shapes with a layer of acrylic medium - this will plug any gaps with something that's hopefully transparent and when you apply the colour it should give a nice clean edge, but it does add another layer so you will almost certainly get a slight raised lip but this is almost unavoidable. Stippling the paint on can help avoid bleeding but sometimes it doesn't so you might want to experiment and see how you get on.