How to Paint a Canvas Tent

As I cherish my tent and it’s not some disposable product we’re talking about, I prefer to think out some kind of plan or guideline before I start painting. I’d rather keep my tent durable and therefore look for the best possible way to paint a canvas tent without the risk of affecting its waterproof treatment. These are the steps to turning your canvas Sibley into a well thought out creative masterpiece:

1. Pick the Right Paint

Don’t start by choosing just any paint in the shop around the corner, look for paint that works on canvas. CanvasCamp tents have been treated to be waterproof and resistant to mould, so what you are looking for is paint that does not jeopardise its treatment, but still sticks to the fabric. Both Dylon and Jacquard fabric paint do the trick. For other effective fabric paint brands, drop by the local paint shop with a piece of cotton and ask the paint specialist.

2. Clean the Canvas

For the best possible result, make sure the fabric is clean and dry. Brush off any dirt or mud. Do not use detergents of any sort! A hard brush will do. If you cannot seem to get the dirt off, use specialised products such as Ultramar, but then you will have to reproof the fabric and wait until it’s completely dried out before you can go and test the paint on an inconspicuous spot.

3. Test on a Small Piece of Fabric

First test the paint on a small piece of fabric before splashing it onto your tent. You can use a piece of the bag, which is often made of the same canvas, but with a different treatment than the tent. A simple drawing, name or shape on the tent walls, right beneath the slant roof, is a good alternative.

4. Work Out a Draft

Now think about what you want to paint on the canvas, what size and which colours you’re going to use. Once you know all that, doodle it on a large piece of paper to see what it’ll look like. This will serve as your example throughout the painting process.

5. And… Go!

Once you’re confident about your idea and drawing skills, you can start painting on the canvas of your tent. As the canvas will absorb the paint, you may want to put newspapers inside to protect the groundsheet, especailly with SIG tents – tents with a sewn-in floor. It might be a good idea to make an inventory of the irremovable stains before you take out your brush. A well-aimed flick of paint can conceal even the dirtiest of spots and make your tent sparkle as if it were new.

6. Let it Dry

Let the paint dry overnight before you go on to the next panel. When your masterpiece’s finished, let it dry for a few days. Use a piece of thin cotton fabric, like an old T-shirt, and hot iron to heat-set the colours when the paint is completely dry. Iron over the fabric, pressing it against the paintings.

7. Reproof the Painted Spots

Your artwork is now finished and the tent ready to be pitched. However, if you want to be sure the tent does not leak in the first few downpours, I suggest you reproof the painted spots. Set up the tent in the garden and “attack” the paintings using an reproofing spray such as Ultramar Protector Canvas.

The creative part is your responsibility, yet with the 7 steps above you won’t have to start your latest project blindly. We cannot wait to see what you’ve done with your tent! Post a photo of your masterpiece to our Facebook wall or Twitter page and set the trend!

You paint the tent at your own risk. How and if you paint it is your decision and yours only. If you prefer to play it safe, you can simply keep the tent as it is, proudly twinkling in its warm and glamourous sand-coloured jacket.

For more tips & tricks on how to paint a canvas tent, sneak a peek at Bells & Labs' comprehensive blog post, the writer of which already seems to master the art of painting on canvas.