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What to Do with Old Canvas Paintings?

what to do with old canvas paintings

Do you have a couple of old canvas paintings that you absent-mindedly bought at a yard sale or some that you made yourself? If the paintings you got have no value, sentimental or otherwise, and you don’t know what to do with old canvas paintings, this article will give you a couple of recommendations.

It will teach you a couple of ways to use your old canvas paintings. Just because you don’t like the paintings, that does not necessarily mean they should be in the trash.

What Should You Do with Your Old Canvas Paintings?

If you are an artist, then it is very likely that you have more than one canvas that you want to throw out. If you already have a couple of paintings that you are planning to throw out, think again.

Note that you can still use them in many ways. Here are a couple of ideas on what to do with old canvas paintings:

Sell Them Online

You might think that your old paintings are not worth the canvas they are painted on. However, this is a misconception. Before you throw them in the trash, sell them online, specifically on eBay, Etsy, and any other selling websites. Art is subjective, so there is surely someone out there who would like your art, even if you don’t.

Donate Them to Schools or Nursing Homes

If your composition is age-appropriate, you can donate your paintings to your local public schools. They are always strapped in terms of budget, so free decorations are always welcome. You can also donate your unwanted paintings to nursing homes. They always appreciate free stuff for the residents.

Update the Composition

update the composition

If your painting skills have evolved quite a bit since you made the painting, you can update it by adding new elements to it. For instance, if your old paintings lacked depth, you can now add shadows, lighten the background elements, and a lot more.

This is a great way for you to show yourself just how much you have improved since you made the painting.

Give Them a Funny Makeover

If you check online, especially on YouTube, you will find artists who purposely bought old paintings from thrift stores, and then update the designs to suit their tastes.

Some buy landscape paintings and would then insert pop culture references in them, thus making them great conversation pieces. For instance, you can change a painting that has a lot of detail just by adding Waldo somewhere inside the frame.

You can also make boring paintings more exciting by adding more colors. For instance, if you bought a boring landscape painting, you can paint the sky with psychedelic colors.

Give Them Modern Makeover

You can turn your unwanted painting into a piece of modern art. You can mask off certain parts of the painting so that you can add lines and other geometric shapes using solid colors. You will be using the underlying painting as a base for the new modern piece.

Paint Over the Whole Thing

If you really cannot do anything about the old, unwanted painting, you can just remove as much of the old paint as you can and reuse the canvas. Keep in mind that canvas is not cheap, so you should use paint thinner to remove the old painting and start over.

Now, keep in mind that you will not be able to remove all the paint from the canvas. Your next painting should, therefore, have a dark background color to hide the old paint. If you like using the wet-on-wet oil painting method like Bob Ross, you can paint over the entire canvas using black or gray gesso.

If you find your studio getting a bit too full and you want to get rid of a couple of paintings, don’t throw them in the trash just yet. You can surely find many other uses for the painting, or at least the canvas.

What to Do with Old Canvas Frames?

what to do with old canvas frames

Old canvas paintings are not necessarily destined for the garbage bin. The great thing about canvas frames is that they can last for a long time, which is the reason why classical paintings are still around even after hundreds of years.

Modern canvas frames are a whole lot more robust than the ones used by the old masters, so it would be a shame to just throw them into the landfill. If you have old paintings that you are not particularly proud of, you can just reuse them, instead of throwing them out.

  • First, you should sand the surface of the canvas. You don’t necessarily have to erase all traces of the old paint. Just remove as much paint as possible and even the surface.
  • After sanding, you will need to paint over the entire surface with your choice of primer. If you can find gesso, you should use it. However, I have used regular primer paint for concrete and wood and they have worked well so far. Once the primer has dried up, you can use the canvas for a new painting.
  • If you will be using gesso, you may need to use two or three coats. If you will be coating an old canvas, you have to thin out the gesso a bit using water. This will allow you to apply the gesso layers evenly.
  • Wait for the gesso to completely dry, which takes a couple of hours, before applying the next layer.

Can You Use Oil Paints on Primer Coated Canvas?

Unless you use gesso to prime the old canvas, you won’t be able to use oil-based paints. They will not be able to adhere to the surface effectively. On the other hand, you can use acrylic paints on any kind of primer without any problem.

On the other hand, you cannot directly paint primer over oil paintings. You will need to use a lot of paint thinner to remove the oil paints from the canvas before applying the primer.


You should not automatically throw out your old paintings. You can try to sell them, and if you cannot, just donate them to schools. It is also possible for you to reuse the old canvases by resurfacing the entire thing.

However, I highly suggest updating your old paintings using your leveled-up skills. You can find several answers on what to do with old canvas paintings other than just throwing them away. Whatever you choose to do with your old paintings, you will surely get more value out of them compared to when you simply throw them away.