Painting a needlepoint canvas is very simple if you are doing so for your own pleasure. It's when you get into the business of hand painted needlepoint that it gets harder as the standards are very high in the hand painted needlepoint industry for top quality canvases.
Here I give the basics on how to get started painting a canvas for yourself.
First, you need to purchase some good quality canvas --- we use the Zweigart orange line deluxe mono --- you have your choice of different meshes --- that's up to you, what type of design it is and what you plan to use the canvas for afterwards.
Be aware some colored canvas grounds you may consider painting on, will often not paint well because not all paint colors will be opaque enough and the background will bleed through your paint colors causing them to look different and hard to tell what colors they are later. But if that doesn't bother you, then go for the colors.
Most of us needlepoint professionals paint on 18 or 13 mesh canvas. Meshes of 18 and smaller will give you more detail and 13 will be easier to see. It depends on your design and what you want to paint --- 13 mesh canvas is rough on the brushes --- eats them up quicker than 18 mesh.
Remember the end use of the canvas and what type of yarns you plan to use in your design will determine the size mesh you want. You may not want to paint a large project on a small mesh canvas because it will take a long time to paint not to mention stitching!
Some of the popular threads can only be used on 18 mesh and others are only good on 13. There are other sizes of canvas to choose from but I'm only mentioning the two most popular sizes in painted needlepoint today.
There's also Congress cloth which isn't really considered a needlepoint canvas but stitches up with the same needlepoint or canvas work stitches --- comes in 22 or 24 count evenweave and you can paint beautiful detailed designs on that.
Practical Needlepoint Canvas Painting
Don't forget a large sheet of white paper to lay over your working surface so the acrylic paints won't accidentally seep on to your tabletop or working surface. The white paper background also allows you to see your tracing on the canvas meshes.
Buy some good acrylic paints --- better quality paints have more pigment and covers the canvas better --- you'll have to mix your paints to the proper consistency that suits your painting style --- liquid enough to cover smoothly but not clog the needlepoint canvas holes. Since you'll be painting for yourself, it doesn't matter if your coverage isn't perfectly smooth or even.
Something to consider, if you have specific colors of threads in mind, you can paint your canvas with the appropriate matching colors by either mixing or buying the right shades. You may not always be able to match your favorite paint colors with threads you can buy. There are more colors and shades of paint than there are matching thread colors!
Get some good quality synthetic brushes --- the type of brush you buy will depend on your painting style --- I use a round watercolor brush and I only use one size for all my painting --- other people use different sizes and types of brushes for painting fine lines, etc.
Test all your acrylics before using --- remember you have to block the needlepoint after you stitch --- paint a square of canvas, let dry and run water over it.
To place a design on canvas --- trace over a light table or window if needed --- with an HB pencil or slightly harder --- the H on the pencil tells you how hard it is because you don't want to smear graphite on the canvas with softer pencil leads. The higher the number in front of the H shows how hard it is and therefore the lighter the line will be when drawn on the needlepoint canvas and less likely to smudge. A 3H pencil will produce a thin faint line compared to an HB which is in the middle range.
I don't like to outline my tracings in dark lines such as those waterproof fine drawing pens for a practical reason, sometimes these lines will show through pale colored threads after stitching.
I also use a kneaded eraser to lift any pencil lines I want to change. This eraser doesn't rub out but gently lifts a lightly drawn line off so you can make adjustments to your tracing or drawing .
One good reason not to use too heavy a hand when tracing since you don't want lots of messy lines to mar your clean tracing or want the underdrawing to show too much through the painting. The kneaded eraser will lighten up the lines to let you still see the tracing and the paints will cover the rest.
Needlepoint Canvas Painting and Design
Choose your designs carefully because not all artwork will translate to needlepoint. Usually the simpler the design, the better.
A face for example can look wonderful painted up, but think of the needlepoint stitches you are planning to use!
Many small details on canvas are often stitched with tent stitches which traditionally slants to the right. If you are doing tent stitching for facial details, be aware eyes, mouths ands noses can sometimes end up looking like slashes across the canvas rather than what they're supposed to look like. So you will have to paint these and any details to fit in with the stitch or stitches you plan to use.
When you are painting the canvas, adjust your curved tracing lines to graduated steps as you paint, your eye will see the "curves" after painting even if they appear jagged. It takes practice and artistic skill to be able to paint curved , animated shapes on canvas without looking boxy and stiff.
After the canvas dries completely , you are ready to needlepoint and enjoy your stitching!
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