How to Paint on Needlepoint Canvas

Painting a needlepoint canvas

 The Spruce / Cheryl C. Fall

Painting needlepoint patterns on canvas is one of the easiest and fun ways to bring more creativity and enjoyment to your stitching. Not only is the experience rewarding, but you will save money by doing-it-yourself instead of purchasing expensive hand-painted designs or machine-painted and mass-produced needlepoint kits.

Why Bother to Paint Your Own Canvas?

If you've ever purchased a painted canvas and have had difficulty figuring out what color to use at a canvas mesh intersection or motif boundary, then learning to paint your own canvas is definitely something you will want to do. It's a terrific alternative to budget-breaking designer canvases or poorly-stamped machine needlepoint kits.

Simply design your own patterns on paper or use free needlepoint charts, and then paint them on blank needlepoint canvas yourself. It's quite easy. All you have to do is to follow a few basic guidelines.

Detail of Painted Canvas
The Spruce / Cheryl C. Fall

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Synthetic paintbrushes
  • Design chart (photograph, needlepoint chart, or line-drawing to use as template)
  • Waterproof pencil
  • Craft table or other working area


  • Waterproof acrylic paints
  • Mono needlepoint canvas
  • Painter's tape
  • Cup of water
  • Paper towels
  • A surface for mixing paint colors (palette, paper plate, foil)
  • Plain or butcher paper


  1. Choose Your Supplies

    As you gather the items from the supplies and tools lists, keep these tips in mind: 

    Waterproof acrylic paint: Look for opaque, rather than transparent paint as this will provide the best coverage. Read the paint labels carefully before purchasing them. Liquitex Opaque Acrylic Artist Color, Delta Ceramcoat, and similar brands are great for painting on needlepoint canvas because they come in a variety of basic colors that can easily be mixed with water or textile medium for an infinite array of colors. These paints are also inexpensive and easy to find. Do not use common craft acrylics available in little pop-top bottles, as the paint's coverage is often not optimal for painting on canvas.

    A set of synthetic paintbrushes: Don't use your paintbrushes made of sable or other natural fibers on stiff canvas. Not only will this ruin your brushes, but it will also result in a sloppy paint job.

  2. Prepare Your Work Area

    Cover the working surface with a piece of plain paper or butcher paper. Use a piece that's slightly larger than the canvas to be painted to keep the surface paint-free. Tape down all sides, making the paper as smooth and taut as possible.

    Place the pattern template on the paper and tape down all four sides.

    Position the needlepoint canvas over the pattern template and adjust it as needed until you are comfortable with the placement. Tape down the canvas at the top or one side only to form a temporary hinge to hold it in place as you paint. This will allow you to move the canvas to clear holes of excess paint and to make sure you are working true to the design.

  3. Draw the Design

    Draw the shapes of the main motifs or large design areas on the canvas. Don't worry about the intersections at this point. They will be adjusted as you paint.

  4. Mix the Paints

    Mix the paints to the desired color. For best results, the paints should be thinned to the consistency of heavy cream so that it will flow well, but still cover the canvas.

  5. Paint the Design

    Each color should be clearly painted on each intersection of canvas mesh (see the above image of a corner of the Leprechaun's Hat painted canvas). An intersection of canvas mesh with more than one color is confusing. When painting free-hand, rather than from a chart, watch for multicolored intersections and be sure to repair them by making certain they only contain one color.

  6. Let the Canvas Dry

    When you have finished painting the canvas, let it dry completely. Any holes blocked by paint can be easily opened by inserting a tapestry needle and wiggling it around in the hole. Now you can bind the edges of the canvas and start stitching.