Can you really wash off a watercolour canvas?

Painting watercolour on canvas is really liberating. For all sorts of reasons… From the lack of framing, to the freedom to paint large, to the way the colour flows across the surface, to the way that you can correct mistakes….

But canvases are expensive if it all goes wrong. So is it true that you can wash them off and start again?

The answer happily is a resounding Yes!

Here’s my before canvas – it was a short demo piece I did on a workshop about 18 months ago. It’s got a lot of viridian, so I knew it would be a challenge.

First of all, use warm water and a stiff brush. An old scrubbing brush is fine. If that doesn’t remove all the paint, you could use Magic Eraser. That usually removes every vestige of colour. At this point you can allow the canvas to dry and then start painting in the normal way.

I have never found the ground to lift, though some people tell me it will. Should that happen, you have at least saved the canvas and can simply recoat it.

If the colour you have used is a staining one, for example alizarin or viridian, you will find that a light shadow may remain. In which case, just dry the canvas and then add another coat of watercolour ground.

And here is the after: Can you see the shadow? Hint: It’s upside down!

I’ve done a short film on YouTube, so you can see I haven’t made this up. I do a short watercolour tip each week, so please subscribe if you are interested.

If you want some tips on painting watercolours on canvas, you can a pdf of them here:

If you want to see how to prepare a watercolour canvas, take a look here:

If you want to make your own watercolour ground this short film gives you a recipe:

I’ve written a best selling book called ‘Painting Watercolours on Canvas’ published by Crowood Press, so if you want lots of examples and tips you might like that. I also run a Facebook group, so why not join?

2 thoughts on “Can you really wash off a watercolour canvas?”

  1. I bought your book last year. It is well written with clear explanations and many photos. I haven’t yet had time to experiment with your techniques but I read your posts with interest. I definitely want to try different mediums on canvas than just the acrylics I usually use. Cheers from ??

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