Nancy’s Painting Blog

Mounting Paper onto Canvas

Often artists will create a drawing or sketch on paper, and then want to adhere it to a stretched canvas to create a stronger support, or continue adding subsequent layers of paint. Here below is a method I learned from painter/instructor David True, who taught a workshop I attended years ago at Anderson Ranch.

Start with a canvas that is stretched and primed with gesso so it isn’t too absorbent. It should be the same size as the paper drawing, and the paper drawing should have extra border room so about 1/2″ of its edges all around can be chopped off later. Apply a new layer of gesso (not diluted with water) onto the canvas. While the gesso is still wet place the paper over it. Put a piece of tissue or clean sheet of paper over the drawing so you can smooth it out without smearing the drawing. Using your hands smooth the paper into the wet gesso starting from the center and moving outwards towards the edges. The paper will stretch as it gets wet from the gesso, and will move over the edges, so you end up losing about 1/2″ of the drawing along the borders. When it is all smooth, let it dry. After it’s dry you can easily trim the excess paper by running a single edge blade along the outside edges. This technique gives a very clean edge so you can’t tell the paper has been glued.

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Extra Tips: place masonite or something under the canvas to prop it up and give it some stability so that when you rub the paper to smooth it out it won’t sink down in the center with the canvas. Another tip: the most important thing is that the gesso is still wet everywhere when you put the paper drawing over it. If the gesso dries in spots you will get wrinkles there. When you are working with a large size, or in a dry or hot climate, and you have difficulty doing this technique keeping the gesso wet, you can first apply a gloss medium or gel to the primed canvas. When the gloss layer dries, the surface is less absorbent, and then when the gesso is applied it will stay wet longer.

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54 thoughts on “Mounting Paper onto Canvas

  1. I assume that this will work for applying photos as well? Although my photos will not cover the complete canvas. I have had trouble with wrinkles……so I will try the gel medium application, and then the gesso.
    I place a couple of layers (depending on stretcher depth) of rigid insulation behind the canvas when adding photos or whatever to the painting for a support.

  2. Dear Janet,
    For gluing heavier papers such as photographs, use Soft Gel Gloss, not gesso. The gesso is too thin for that, and if it seeps out it may get on the photograph and look like white-out. Also, for heavier gluing jobs like this, after placing the photo over the wet gel, immediately place some plastic wrap on top, then put the sheet of scrap paper on top. Then rub it smoothly and put some heavy books or other weights on top for 15 minutes or more. The plastic wrap keeps any gel that might seep out from gluing the books or weights onto the piece.

  3. How about for a fragile piece of yellowed, brittle paper from an old book? The gesso won't bleed through? Would the gel gloss soak through and change the color of the newsprint-thin paper?

  4. For the yellowed brittle paper you described I would use Soft or Regular Gel (gloss). The gel is thicker so it will help glue the textured (or uneven surface) of the paper. There won't be any bleeding through, but I would still test a small piece of the paper and glue it on a test surface. Let it dry a few days to see if the color changes. It's hard to tell on non-archival fragile materials so best to test it first.

  5. Hello Nancy,
    And thanks for your blog, it’s very helpful, I have a few drawings on journal paper, is it possible to Mount them with gesso? and what about duration ?is this the same as for a piece directly made on canvas?
    Thanks for your replys.

    Guylin MARCELLUS

    1. Hi Guylin, For journal paper I would use a spray adhesive, such as Aleene’sTacky Spray. Journal paper is thin and absorbent (I am assuming) and would be better with a spray, although you could still use gesso. Good quality paint on canvas will most likely last longer than paper glued on canvas. Duration depends on many factors, most importantly the environment the work of art is stored. If you are interested in the work lasting long, I recommend spraying your drawings on paper with an archival varnish, such as Golden’s Archival Varnish, after you adhere the paper to a sturdier surface, and let it dry sufficiently, according to the adhesive directions.

    1. I have not used lokta paper before, but since it is absorbent (handmade paper) you can still use the method here. I would use a matte gel (i.e. Golden’s Heavy Gel Matte). Gels are thicker than mediums, so they stay wet longer, and are therefore better to use on absorbent papers, where a thin medium will soak up into the paper quickly and not adhere to the surface you are gluing it to.

  6. Hi Nancy. Your blog is very helpful. I want to attach acrylic paintings that are on paper, to canvas. The layer of acrylic paint is quite thick on some of the paintings. Any modifications in technique for this situation?

    1. You might want to experiment to see if using a heavy acrylic gel would hold the weight better than using gesso as the glue. Also you can try flipping the piece over, once you adhere, onto a soft foam, so the textural front face of the painting can sink into the foam, while you have access to the back, to apply weight, like some heavy pieces of wood with books on top for an hour or two to get the glue to set.

  7. Hello,

    Could you please tell me if this technique will work also for a charcoal and graphite drawing on a 200 gr paper?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Karen,
      I do not know what gr refers to, however, this technique and how you customize it for your needs, depends on the weight of paper and size of canvas you are mounting it to. This technique should work for all weights and sizes, however, I recommend testing a piece of your paper on a test canvas first, before using your drawing, to make sure there are no problems. If the paper is very heavy you may want to substitute an acrylic heavy gel (ie. Golden’s Regular Gel Gloss or Heavy Gel Gloss) instead of the gesso for the glue.

    1. Hi Dave,
      Newsprint is very thin, so I recommend trying a test using a plain piece of your newsprint, before using your pastel newsprint drawing, to make sure the gesso does not bleed through to the other side. The thinner the glue, the more likely you will have a bleed through. Make sure you do not add any water to the gesso (or add water by accident using a brush that’s been in water) and if it still bleeds, then substitute an acrylic gel instead (also making sure no water is added).

  8. Hi Nancy
    I have painted a painting that I want to print out so I can embellish it and sell on at the Christmas market (it’s a kid’s painting). I was thinking of printing it out on canvas and have the canvas stretched but I don’t like the canvas – the Printer guy only does gloss or satin and I prefer matt. Anyways – I thought if I get the Printer to print on paper which is a matt finish, then I can glue the print onto a stretched canvas and embellish that way. I was thinking of glue but do you reckon gesso is the best way to go then – and it wouldn’t seep through the paper? Many thanks for your help

    1. Hi Sally,
      If you do decide to have it printed on canvas, you can always spray it with a matte spray afterwards since you wanted it matte. However, printing on paper has a different appeal, because the canvas texture is not there. I like paper prints better because of this. So if you print on paper, and yes it will be matte, you can glue the print onto a stretched canvas as you said. You can use any type of glue that is archival and works with paper. I wouldn’t use Elmers because it is not archival so that will yellow the paper and crack off. Any fine art quality acrylic gloss gel will be fine. I like Golden’s Soft Gel Gloss for glueing paper onto canvas or board. You can also use spray adhesives (toxic!) or the gesso as I mentioned in the blog article.

  9. Nancy,

    I want to adhere money to a canvas and paint over top of it. the canvas will have to be rolled afterwords for easy shipping. what would be the best way to adhere the money but still be able to roll the canvas with the dollar bills separating from the canvas?


    1. Think of money as paper, so you are just collaging the paper money to your canvas. Use any acrylic gloss gel and apply thinly (don’t dilute with water, just spread thinly) on either the canvas or dollar bill, then adhere the dollar bill to canvas while the gel is still wet. Let this dry. Before overpainting the dollar bill you will need to seal the ink on the dollar bill. Spray a gloss acrylic product (I like Golden’s Archival Varnish Gloss) over the dollar bill. Let dry. Then you can overpaint. Acrylic is flexible. So at this point your dollar bill is sandwiched between two acrylic products. Therefore while shipping it should adhere very well.

    1. Hi Hannah,
      I have not tried using the process I describe in this article with yupo paper, however, paper is paper, so this method should still work.

  10. Hi Nancy,

    I just did a project with my 4th grader’s class. they made a replica of their house with brown craft envelopes of different paper qualities. some of the envelopes seem coated like scrap book paper, others seem more absorbent like regular craft paper. i will overlap these little flat houses on a canvas (one layer of envelope…i cut the backs off). can you recommend a glue to use? there also may or may not be a layer of acrylic paint between the canvas and envelopes. i think modge over it all? i have never “decoupaged” thanks!

    1. Hi Kim, Sounds like a terrific class project! Just think of acrylic as glue. All acrylic paint and products (such as mediums, gels and pastes) will adhere the envelopes to your surface whether it is canvas, wall or board. My preference is to use a gloss gel, or any acrylic gel that is thick like a hair gel or thicker. Apply with brush or knife somewhat thinly onto the canvas (don’t dilute to thin, just apply it thinly so it isn’t globby looking and will ooze out). Apply the gel in small areas at a time so the gel stays wet by the time you attach the envelopes to the gel. You can gently press the envelopes into the gel by placing a plastic trash bag, or scrap paper over it, so you don’t get the gel all over your hands. Let it dry flat for a few hours. Once dry, you can leave it uncovered (it may look interesting to have the variety of papers giving a variety of sheens overall) or if you want you can apply the modge or some other acrylic medium over all. Decoupage is merely applying acrylic under and over something like paper, fabric or other objects and materials.

  11. I have done a piece of artwork on matboard, and now am wondering how to adhere / mount it onto canvas. Any thoughts? I do have glue, but was wondering whether there are alternatives. Thank you

    1. Hi Frances,
      If you want to adhere the matboard to canvas you will need to use a glue. There are many glues out there, most of which are acrylic. You can choose a more archival glue, meant for fine art work, which may cost more than a cheaper glue like Elmers, but the archival glue should adhere longer with a stronger bond, without yellowing or getting brittle. I would use an acrylic gel, such as Golden’s Regular Gel Gloss. The gels are a thickened acrylic medium, usually thick like peanut butter or honey (depending on the gel strength you choose). The heavier the weight of something you want to glue, the stronger or heavier the gel. So I use Soft Gel Gloss for thin papers, and Heavy Gel Gloss for glueing objects like shells, etc. My question to you is WHY would you want to adhere the matboard to canvas? I would think it would be easier and sturdier to adhere it to a wood panel. Or even taking it to a framer to have them put a nice frame around it. Just some thoughts…..

  12. I need the glue will bond 1/4 inch or 1/2 thick thick foam board onto canvas board. Do I need to cover the canvas before bonding. Foam board is not heavy.

    Thank you for giving lots info for bonding.


    1. If you are glueing thick board (instead of paper as I mention in the blog) I would use a thicker acrylic gel medium, such as Golden’s Regular Gel Gloss, instead of Gesso as I suggested in the blog article. Before glueing it is always a good idea to seal both sides using some type of gloss medium (brush apply one coat on each of the surfaces that will bond), letting these dry, and then adding the gel medium on one of the surfaces to glue these two surfaces together.

  13. I am unsure if this is still being watched in order for replies. However, here it goes. I have been looking for a solid method to apply comic strips, layering them like Sandra Chevrier. Is gesso the method which allow the comic paper to stick for years or is glue simply okay?

    1. Hi Joseph, to apply comic strips onto a surface that will last, you want to use a fine art quality archival glue. Acrylic is glue, actually, so any fine art quality acrylic medium or gel will work. Most glues that are water-based are acrylic, but there are many different types of acrylic. Elmers glue is acrylic but is of lesser quality, so it can be sold cheaply, so it will eventually yellow your paper, or flake off. So make sure you use an acrylic glue that is fine art quality and says “archival” on the label. Acrylic Gels are just thicker acrylic mediums and when applied thinly (not diluted with water to thin, but instead just applied thinly) will be the best as these will not wrinkle the comic strip paper. Mediums are thinner and tend to wrinkle paper. Instead of acrylic gesso to glue your paper, I would use an acrylic matte gel such as Golden’s Regular Gel Matte. You can use a gloss gel too, but the matte may be best if it leaks out along the edges it will not create a glossy edge.

  14. Dear Nancy. I’ve made a few paintings (acrylics on canvas), printed poems on handmade paper, adhered the paper to the finished canvasses with acrylics and painted thinly over the paper to blend in. When I applied varnish to the finished paintings, the paper ‘bubbled’ in some places, but settled again upon drying. I do not paint commercially, but have had a few offers for these paintings from potential buyers. I am, however, hesitant to sell them, as I am afraid the paper will detach wit time and fall off the canvasses, spoiling the entire painting. Any suggestions? Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Deidre, I am wondering about the glue you are using to adhere the paper to the painted canvas. If you glue the paper correctly, wait at least a few days for it to dry thoroughly, then seal over the glued paper, you should have no problem when applying the varnish. I like to use Golden’s Soft Gel Gloss for my glue. I apply it thinly (not adding water, just applying it thin) and adhere the paper immediately before the glue dries. I have stacks of cardboard underneath the canvas so I can press the paper smoothly, then put weights on top for 15 minutes. Not more than that. Then I remove all the weights and let it dry completely. If you live in a humid or cold climate you may want to wait a week. Then I recommend spraying the paper with a clear spray sealer. I like using Golden’s Archival Varnish Spray Gloss. It sounds like your glueing method isn’t working correctly. Hope this helps.

  15. Hi Nancy,

    This has been most helpful! I am not a professional (or very knowledgeable) artist, but I have come up with an idea as a birthday gift for my sister that I would love to verify the best way to ensure it will last! The previous question by Deidre somewhat addressed my question, but I just need to clarify…

    I typed out & printed a passage of scripture my sister loves onto a slightly yellow, 25% cotton, linen resume stationary. I then cut the paper into the silhouette of a fat little bird. I am painting a background that includes a branch for the bird to be “perched” upon.

    Once my acrylics have dried, how long should I wait before I attempt to adhere the paper to the painted canvas? What would you use* for the adhesive?
    *Please note that I live 2 hours from any significant city, so I can only get supplies at my local big name/bargain/retail store 😉

    I did note your recommendation for the stacks of cardboard and 15 minutes of weights; and spraying afterwards with a clear spray sealer.

    Thank you in advance for sharing your knowledge!!
    ~ Rainey

    1. Hi Lorraine,
      This sounds like a lovely gift! Once your acrylic background painting is dry to the touch (takes an hour here in the dry desert climate of Santa Fe, but may take a day in a humid climate) it is fine to glue your paper to the painting. I would use an acrylic gloss gel for the glue instead of the acrylic gesso I mention in the blog article. My favorite is Golden’s Soft Gel Gloss. Apply it to the back of your paper using a knife. Apply it thinly but don’t dilute the gel with water to thin, instead just use the knife to spread it thin. Then glue as per the article, pressing, etc. You mentioned the difficulty in getting supplies. Can you order online? You don’t want to use a cheap glue here or it won’t last.

  16. Nancy, I have several large drawings (2′-6′)-using a variety of inks/acrylics altered with oils and soaps on several types and weights of papers. I want to flatten them by mounting to canvas and see that you recommend soft gel gloss, not thinned. I’m assuming this will work but before getting the gel, I’m wondering why you recommend gloss rather than matte? Same for adhering photos to ceramic surfaces?

    1. That’s quite a large size paper you want to mount. I recommend having someone to assist you holding the paper up while you spread the gel. Regarding your question as to why I prefer gloss over matte, although both will work fine, is this. Acrylic is glue. Acrylic is naturally glossy. Any type of matte acrylic product, such as matte gel, matte medium and matte varnish have matting agent, a fine white powder like talc, added to it to make it matte. Matting agent is not a glue. So any matte acrylic product will still act like a glue and adhere very well, however, by using a gloss gel you have a stronger more purer glue, in my opinion. I will use matte gel as a glue when the paper is thin, or using a thin fabric to glue, because then the gloss gel won’t add a shiny element to the paper or glue.
      Use matte when a gloss product will show through and you don’t want it too.

  17. Hi Nancy

    I have a 5x4in mixed media painting on wallpaper that I would like to adhere to canvas. I have applied gesso to canvas and plan to use acrylic gloss gel. My question is do I have to stretch canvas on bars before adhering painting?

    1. If you are glueing mixed media onto canvas I am glad you have decided to use gloss gel as a glue. If you stretch the canvas on bars before adhering the painting you may have some difficulty adding weights for pressure in the beginning drying stage of the glued paintings. It can be done, but you would have to add support under the canvas, then add the weights. This system will only work if your painting is much smaller than the canvas. In other words, you will not be able to evenly apply pressure if the painting extends all the way to the edges of the stretcher bars. I think it would be best to glue the painting onto the unstretched canvas, apply pressure for 15 minutes to half an hour, then remove weights and let dry for at least three days (or one week if you are in a humid or cold environment). Make sure during the drying time the temperature of the room does not go below 55 degrees. When you stretch the canvas (with the glued painting) onto stretch bars do not overstretch while pulling. Stretch gently enough for it to be taut but not too much that the glued painting is overstretched.

  18. I want to draw on a book page and mount it. Is it beat to draw before mounting or ok to still work with it afterwards? Would you use the thin gel?

    1. You could do it either way. you can draw first then mount, or mount first then draw. If your drawing materials are delicate it might be best to draw, then spray fix, then mount. But you can also protect the drawing by covering it with release paper (or other protective paper), then mount, then spray. I would not recommend using any “thin” mediums for glueing. The thin mediums (Gels are usually a thickened medium, so not sure what you mean by a thin gel) will dry fast which means they may soak into the paper or the surface you will be mounting it to, before you get to adhere them together. So thin mediums usually create wrinkles and pockets that don’t stick. I recommend using a gel like Golden’s Soft or Regular Gel Gloss to glue paper onto a rigid support. As I mention in my article I use gesso to glue paper onto canvas, but will use a thicker gel to glue paper onto a panel.

  19. I have a very large reproduction wall map of 1739 Paris printed on heavy stock paper consisting of 25 separate sheets; each sheet is about 15″ x 20″ so that the entire map is about 76″ x 98″. I’d like to mount this on canvas or fabric with top and bottom wood dowels, just like old-fashioned oiled scroll wall maps. I can stretch the fabric onto a large plywood or foamboard backing, but I think the main challenge here is that each map sheet needs to be mounted with edges flush against adjacent sheets. Is this project feasible using any of the methods that you describe in your article and comments?

    P.S. Here are links to the boxed map sheet product, and a former Restoration Hardware item in which the map is mounted on wood, rather than fabric:

    1. This sounds like a challenging mounting task. Use a heavy weight canvas. Secure the canvas to keep it from wrinkling and moving while you mount your maps. Slightly stretch the canvas so it is very taut but do not stretch it so the fabric gets pulled. Use a spray mount adhesive that is permanent so it is a strong adhesive and won’t lose its grip after time. Spray each map with the adhesive in an area that is far enough away from your canvas that you won’t be spraying on images already mounted. Immediately after gluing, press each map using weights over a board that completely covers the individual map that is glued. Keep the weights on the glued map for the time required listed on your adhesive container. Each map will take time, so this could require a period of up to a week to complete.

    1. Canvas panels are cheaply made. They use cheap canvas and glue it onto cardboard. If you apply anything thickly onto it such as paper and glue it will warp. To prevent this in future projects use wood panels instead. If you must use the canvas/panel, then you can reduce the possibility of warping by sealing the back first, by brush applying an acrylic medium or gel and letting it dry for a few days, before applying any type of paint or glue onto the front.

  20. Nancy, this is an incredible resource. I have fragment drawings (like a puzzle) that piece together, overlap here and there, but form an image in the end. I draw on the Bristol paper with pencil and charcoal.

    My plan is to mount this so the pieces don’t fall everywhere. Should I use acrylic gloss only or could I use acrylic paint? Also should I stretch canvas first or after? The drawing is maybe 5ft x 3ft, but made of 20 pieces.

    1. I would definitely stretch the canvas first before gluing because if you stretch after gluing you may disturb the glued pieces. Actually you could glue your papers onto the unstretched canvas, but then glue it to a wood panel instead of stretching it on stretcher bars. That would work nicely. I recommend gluing the papers directly onto a wood panel and skip the canvas. Wood panels would be a good choice because a rigid surface is easier to glue onto then canvas, which once stretched, needs to be supported underneath to press down firmly while gluing. And since you are working large (5′ x 3′) the panel will be optimal over the canvas choice. Any acrylic product (paint, medium, gesso, paste, gel) will act as glue, which means while wet it will adhere other materials to it. I would use a Regular Gel Gloss or a gel gloss that is a bit thick to add ease to the glue process.

  21. Hi Nancy — I have a thick poster board sheet that has been covered with acrylic paint. This will be the background for a collage consisting of small 1”x2.5” pieces of archival white drawing paper that have black lines made using a thick sharpie marker. What process/medium would you recommend for affixing the small papers to the background sheet? Thank you

    1. Hi Lynn,
      Since you are collaging paper onto painted paper, I would use a Soft Gel Gloss. The gel is thicker then a regular medium and will stay wet longer, making your gluing easier. Some of the gel will squeeze out the edges from the smaller shapes. If you apply a final coat with your preferred sheen at the end, then it won’t matter that the gloss gel has squeezed out. If you are not applying a final coat, then you might want to use a matte gel instead of a gloss gel. This way if the gel squeezes out it won’t be noticeable like the gloss will. I do recommend a final coat, though, because it will help protect the paper and the marker.

  22. Hi Nancy, I am making a pendant banner for my sons birthday. The banner is canvas and the letters are chipboard. I’m not quite sure what to use to glue the chipboard letters to the canvas. The measurements of the canvas are 6.5″ l x 4.75″ w x .06″ d. The measurements of the chipboard letters are 4″ l x 3.5″ w x .06″ d. Thank you so much!!

    1. I think an acrylic gel will work fine. I recommend Golden’s Regular Gel Gloss to apply the chipboard letters to the canvas. I think a spray adhesive would work too.

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