This is a DIY tutorial on how to make both a regular Hot Mess Canvas and a Reverse Hot Mess Canvas art project.
These hot mess canvas’ are super popular right now so I thought I would try and make my own.
I first attempted to make a regular hot mess canvas and got a little impatient waiting for paint to dry, literally.
I wanted to figure out how to get the same effect without having to do a two step painting process.
Before getting started with your hot mess canvas, it is important to already have a design ready. I decided to go with simple text this time. I chose the phrase “I got it all together but I forgot where I put it” because I thought it would be an appropriate saying for this project.
I also created a unicorn one for my daughter for fun.
Both this Hot Mess Sayings and unicorn printable template and SVG cut files are available for free in my resource library.
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Materials for DIY How Mess Canvas
Blank Canvas – Keep in mind the size of the vinyl you will need when deciding on canvas size. If you have a continuous design that is larger than the maximum vinyl size, it may be more difficult to do the project.
Vinyl – I like to use permanent vinyl for this project. This is the Oracle vinyl I bought from Amazon.
Paint – I found acrylic paint to work best for this project. It works best brushed on and doesn’t smear after it dries. Chalk paint is not as vibrant and doesn’t work as well with the transfer tape.
Transfer Tape – This is my favorite brand from Amazon.
Cutting Machine – I use a Cricut. Check out my recommendations for Cricut machines and accessories for beginners for more info.
How to make a regular Hot Mess Canvas
Step 1: Paint blocks on the canvas
This might seem relatively straight forward but it turned out more difficult than I originally thought. The issue is acrylic paint can build in globes and streaks and doesn’t dry as fast.
I found it best to work with the lightest color first, then layer on the darker colors.
Make sure the “resolution” of your blocks is suitable for your end design. If an entire block covers a whole letter, there’s not much mess in your hot mess canvas.
If you end up messing up a little bit, it doesn’t really matter because it is supposed to be a hot mess.
Step 2: Let the paint dry
It takes at least 12 hours. I like to leave it be overnight.
Step 3: Transfer over the design
If it is a simple letters like part of this design, I just place it by hand. I only use transfer tape for a more intricate part of the design.
A note on contact paper on canvas
It might be tempting to use contact paper instead of vinyl because it is cheaper. I wouldn’t do it. Contact paper can breakdown with all this paint. It is also weaker and harder to pull off after the final paint layer.
Step 4: Whitewash the whole canvas
Technically any color works, it just needs to provide enough contract with the base colors used.
I like to start with the lettered area and just pat the paint on with the brush. This minimizes paint seeping underneath the vinyl.
Depending on how saturated your base color is, you might need a second layer of paint.
Step 5: Peel the vinyl decals off.
Try to do this with tweeters right after the final coat, especially if you used acrylic paint. Thicker layers of acrylic paints tend to peel in chunks if you wait for it to dry.
How to make a Reverse Hot Mess Canvas
Step 1: Place the stencil design on the canvas.
If you have any floating element in your design like an enclosed “o”, you will have to use transfer tape.
I like to use small blocks of transfer tape to keep more intricate parts of the design intact.
I then peel it directly onto the canvas.
I also used smaller blocks of transfer tape because it is easier to remove. When removing the transfer tape, you have to sort of pin down the floating piece with tweezers.
Alternatively, you can make cut-outs in your enclosed designs. I’ve written a more detail article on how to make your own stencils here.
Step 2: Paint blocks around the cutouts
Paint as you would normally with a regular hot mess canvas. You just now only need to do it around where the cutouts are in the stencil.
How to stencil on canvas without bleeding
If you are using a different type of paint that is runnier, I would consider using some glue to minimize bleeding of the paint.
I like to just dab on some Elmers glue or Modge Podge if I have it around the edges of the cutout. I use a q-tip for this.
I then paint while it is wet.
How to fix stencil bleed on canvas
If for some reason it still bleeds, you can easily clean it up a few ways.
Rubbing alcohol works to remove acrylic. Paint over the bleed areas with white also works.
Step 3: Remove the stencil
I like to remove most of the stencil while it is wet.
I actually prefer the reverse hot mess canvas method because it minimizes paint and there is no second layer. You can also make sure you get enough “mess” in the right area (the cut-outs).
How to Make a Stencil with the Cricut