Weekend project: Paint a floor canvas

Use a projector to capture classic decorative designs, then turn them into a floor mat that pops

Paint a floor canvas

E. Spencer Toy; James Carrier

Step-by-step: How to paint a floor canvas

Simple to make and surprisingly durable, painted canvas used as a floor mat adds graphic punch to a room.

We started by choosing printed designs and photocopying them. The decorative patterns were reflected onto the canvases with a projector (available from art-supply and crafts stores) then each design was traced and painted.

We found that simple, high-contrast patterns worked best.

Click through to see how to make one yourself.

Rolling paint on a canvas mat

E. Spencer Toy; James Carrier

Steps 1 - 3

1. Lay out a preprimed canvas with a 1-inch allowance on all sides for finishing the edges. We started with 3- by 5-foot canvases (about $8-$10 each at an art-supply store).

2. With a foam paint roller, apply one coat of acrylic latex paint for your background color. Be sure to cover the entire front of the canvas. Allow to dry completely.

3. Using a sturdy, nonmarring tape, hang your canvas on a flat, vertical surface in a room that can be darkened, so the projected image will be easier to see. 


E. Spencer Toy; James Carrier

Steps 4 & 5

4. Place the projector, with the photocopied pattern beneath it, on a flat surface approximately 8 feet from the canvas. Move the projector forward or back until the pattern on the canvas is the desired size.

We used an Artograph Tracer projector (available at crafts stores; $80) to transfer our designs onto canvas. The Tracer will enlarge images up to 14 times their actual size. The Tracer Jr. ($50) will enlarge an image up to 10 times the original. We needed the stronger projector to enlarge an image in one step to fit a 3- by 5-foot canvas.

5. Use a pencil to trace the pattern onto your canvas.


E. Spencer Toy; James Carrier

Steps 6 & 7

6. Once you have completed the tracing, use a paintbrush with a flat, rounded tip (called a cat's tongue) to paint within the lines with your second paint color. If you are painting a light color onto a dark color, you may have to use two coats. Allow to dry completely.

7. To make the surface durable, apply matte varnish according to the manufacturer's instructions with a foam roller.

Fold under edges of the canvas

E. Spencer Toy; James Carrier

Step 8

8. To finish the edges of the canvas, fold under 1 inch on all sides. For a mitered edge, use scissors to cut a triangle out of each corner. Use fabric glue to secure the folds.


  • Used bookstores are a great place to hunt for inexpensive books containing decorative patterns.
  • If you are tracing your pattern onto a dark color, use a white pencil.
  • If your canvas starts to warp or wrinkle, roll it firmly around a gift-wrap tube and leave it for several hours.
  • To give the floor coverings added durability, apply at least three coats of varnish.
  • When finishing the edges of the canvas, use books as weights to keep edges folded under while the fabric glue dries.
  • Put a thin foam pad under your finished mat to keep it from slipping.

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