How to Transfer Designs to Watercolor Canvas


This week I used watercolor canvas for the first time. I love painting on canvas but prefer watercolor to acrylic paint so I was excited to try out this product. My niece recently asked if I could make a painting for her room depicting her and her cousins as mermaids, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to try out transferring a design to watercolor canvas.

I found the mermaid image below designed by that was close to my idea. You can download it from the original source here if you would like to use it.

What you will need:

  • Watercolor canvas

  • Watercolor paints

  • Paintbrush or aquabrush

  • Pencil

  • Tape

  • Window


I used Rapid Resizer to transform the picture from a color image into a line drawing so that I could transfer the design more easily.

I also used Rapid Resizer to resize the image to fit my canvas, so it printed across two pages.

I only needed to use three of the mermaids for this project, so I cut them out and arranged them on the canvas to get a sense of how it would look. I also taped the section of the mermaid’s tail back on as it had printed onto the other page.


In other blog posts we have shown the method of transferring an image by taping it to a window and then taping art paper over it to trace the image.

I modified that technique this time by cutting out the shapes and then taping them onto the back of the canvas. Normally you have to use low tack tape so that it won’t wreck your paper, but regular tape can be used with this method as the back of the canvas is durable. You also want to be sure to tape it on well so it will be easy to see from the front side for tracing. You can also use this technique with regular canvas for acrylic paint as well.


I leaned my canvas against the window and traced the mermaid designs with a pencil. If you don’t have a window ledge that works for this then just hold it against the window and trace with the other hand. You may need to push the designs from the backside with your hand against the canvas to see the finer details if they aren’t pressed closely enough to the canvas with the tape.


Once I had traced the design it was time to paint. Watercolor canvas takes paint differently than watercolor paper so it can take a little getting used to. One awesome benefit is that you can wipe away any mistakes much more easily than with watercolor paper.


I used an aqua brush and painted blue around the mermaid shapes and then painted the rest of the ocean. As with watercolor paper, you want to work quickly to blend the lines in and smooth out any areas where the water is pooling. Solid color backgrounds are always a bit challenging so you can also depict these mermaid sitting on rocks that are coming out of the water if you prefer.

I added some waves, fish, and seaweed for the final step. You can add any sea creatures you like, and you can even use the free Letter Stencil Maker on Rapid Resizer to print out a child’s name to personalize the painting too.


I hope you feel inspired to decorate a room with a painting. If you try this project or the transfer method please share an image with us or let us know how it turned out in the comments below.

Thanks for reading and happy creating!