Can You Paint a Canvas Tent? (Hint: Yes! Here’s How)

Canvas tents make great shelters for events and outdoor camping alike.

They’re also boring to look at, which begs the question…

Can you paint a canvas tent?

Yes, you can paint a canvas tent to give it a unique, custom look. Whether you’re looking to customize a canvas tent for your business or event, or to spice up your plain ol’ off-white camping tent, adding a splash of paint is a great option.

So, let’s learn step-by-step how to paint a canvas tent, the best type of paint to use, and more tips and tricks to turn your dull tent into a work of art.

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Canvas Fabric?

First, let’s look at your paint options and find the best type of paint to use on the canvas tent fabric.

Between latex and acrylic paint, the latter wins in almost every case.

While latex is fast drying and goes on fairly quickly, it’s not going to be near as weather-resistant as acrylic paint. So, if you’re planning to paint a canvas tent that will be used outdoors, acrylic paints are the way to go.

And you’ll want to use waterproof canvas tent paint, like Arteza Outdoor Acrylic Paint. This weather-resistant outdoor canvas paint is designed to resist water and stick to canvas surfaces even in extreme temperatures.

Arteza Outdoor Acrylic Paint, Set of 20 Colors

Arteza Outdoor Acrylic Paint, Set of 20 Colors

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You can also dye a canvas tent using Rit Dye. This method works well if you want to change the color of an entire tent, for example, a white canvas tent to blue. And it’s a straightforward process to dye a whole tent with just a little dye and your washing machine.

Rit Dye

Rit Dye

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Keep in mind, dyeing a tent will only work if you have not applied any waterproofing products to your tent. Waterproofed canvas will resist the penetration of the dye. Fortunately, many canvas tents are naturally waterproof through a “seasoning” process instead of a waterproofing sealer product.

Related: Are Canvas Tents Waterproof?

Once you’ve got your paint picked out, it’s time for a little DIY tent painting!

How to Paint a Canvas Tent Step-By-Step

To paint and change the color of a tent is a simple 4-step process that anyone can do. Let’s jump right in!

1) Spread Out Your Tent

Lay the tent out on a flat surface, making sure the tent material is as taut as possible to minimize wrinkles and paint overlap.

Tip: Set cardboard, a tarp, or newspaper beneath the tent material to catch paint drips or overspray. If painting your pop-up camper canvas, ensure the canvas portion of the camper is fully extended, and the fabric is taut.

2) Clean Your Tent

Acrylic paint won’t adhere well to dirty tent fabric. Be sure to wash and dry your canvas tent before applying the paint. Skipping this step is the number one reason the paint won’t properly stick to your canvas tent.

3) Paint Your Tent

Now, for the fun part!

To paint your canvas tent, you’ll have a few different options to apply the paint – paintbrushes, rollers, or spray guns are the big three.

Each option has its pros and cons, and you’re not limited to just one, either. In fact, you may want to use several if not all of these options to get the look that you want.

  • Rollers are great for covering large areas or painting an entire tent.
  • Spray paint guns or air brushes are excellent for both hand drawing designs on your tent and covering large areas quickly, depending on the size of the spray nozzle. Read the paint labels as you may need to use a thinner to adjust the viscosity of the paint if using this method.
  • Using a paint brush is great for both stencil and free-hand designs.

No matter which option you choose, you may want to start from the top and paint your way towards the opposite bottom corner as if you were writing in a notebook. And be careful going over your freshly completed work as it can smear the paint. If you need to add another coat, it’s best to let the paint dry first before adding more coats.

Tip: Use stencils to create professional-looking designs, scenes, backgrounds, and more! Stencils with adhesive backs will help prevent them from sliding around.

4) Allow Paint to Dry

Allow the paint to dry thoroughly before attempting to move your tent to avoid smears. You can place a fan on the tent or simply let the natural breeze speed up the drying process.

And that’s it! You now have a freshly painted canvas tent!

Maintaining Your Painted Canvas Tent

As long as you washed your tent thoroughly before painting it and used a quality weather-proof acrylic paint, your tent should maintain its look for a reasonable amount of time.

But, there are some additional steps we can take to maintain your tent, including:

  • Only hand wash your tent with mild soap and a sponge. Power spraying or using a high-pressure hose will shorten the lifespan of the paint.
  • Don’t pitch and leave your tent in direct sunlight for extended periods as it can fade and break down the paint and tent fabric faster.
  • Touch up the paint when you notice any cracking, fading, or chipping.
  • Do NOT stuff your tent into a bag when not in use. Gently roll it up or fold it as not to crack or chip the paint.
  • Ensure your canvas tent is dry before storing it, as they are prone to mold and mildew growth, which will shorten the paint’s lifespan (especially when you have to scrub the painted fabric to get the mold off).

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