Can You Paint A Canvas Tent?

Adding a touch of color or your unique design to a canvas tent can bring it alive in so many ways. For instance, you can easily liven up your backyard by painting a circus themed design on your canvas tent. This is one of the many ideas you can adopt for adding a pop of color to a canvas tent and making it look brand new again.

Canvas tents can be painted. Adding a touch of paint to the canvas will help to protect it against environmental factors such as heat, cold weather, and rain. Painting a canvas tent also helps to enhance its appearance and cover signs of wear and tear over time.

There are several ways one can go about painting a canvas tent in addition to choosing the tools for the job. The type of paint you plan on using is the most important aspect of course. When painting your canvas tent to spiff up the appearance, you’ll want to choose a paint that has excellent longevity, is weather-resistant, and compatible with canvas. 

Canvas tent
ID 69957730 © Lucagal |

Painting A Canvas Tent With Latex Paint

Latex paint is a suitable option for painting a canvas tent

. Painting a canvas tent with latex paint comes with many benefits because it is fast drying, is fairly opaque, and is easy to wash off if your painting tools get dirty. Latex is a water thinned paint, and for that reason, it is relatively easy to wash off compared to acrylic paint.

Because of its opaqueness, latex paint can cover canvas completely with just one coat. The word “latex” refers to rubber. If you’re familiar with latex products such as clothing and gloves, you’ll notice that the material is very rubbery, has a thick consistency, and is rather difficult to squeeze into, if you’re wearing it of course!

Latex paint, although made out of some of the same materials, should not be confused with latex fabric. Latex paint is however, a paint that requires a thinning agent for easier application onto canvas. Thinning it out will allow it to be more flexible and comfortable to work with as you paint the canvas. 

Because latex paint is one that requires the use of a thinning agent, it does not hold up as well to harsh weather conditions compared to acrylic paint. Keep this in mind if you are looking for a paint that is well-suited for the outdoors. Considering this type of paint is not extremely durable, you’ll need to touch it up over time as it begins to wear out. 

Despite it not being as weather resistant as other canvas friendly paints, painting with latex paint will save you the time and the hassle of struggling to clean up afterward. 

Cleaning your paint brushes and rollers is no challenge at all, as latex paint easily washes off with water. This means that any brushes and rollers you use will be able to be easily cleaned after they’ve been dipped in paint. You also don’t have to worry about it running your clothes.

Latex paint can be purchased at your local hardware store along with paint brushes and rollers.

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Painting A Canvas Tent With Acrylic Paint

If you’re painting an outdoor canvas tent, your best bet is to opt for acrylic paint. Acrylic paint is recommended for outdoor use because of its durability and flexibility. Should your canvas tent ever come face to face with harsh weather conditions or needs to be stowed away, the paint will hold steady to the canvas.

It’s important to choose a paint that will act as a water repellent when applied to the canvas, and acrylic paint will do just that. Harsh weather is not the only thing acrylic paint can withstand; to be more specific, it’s able to stand up to the effects of the sun and particularly sweltering heat and cold weather.

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In addition to its overall strength, in terms of being durable and flexible, acrylic paint is also relatively easy to apply. This is also something you’ll want to take note of when deciding which paint to use, as acrylic paint is a strong adhesive to canvas and other similar materials. 

Its strong adhesive properties will cling to the fabric and will not fade away or wash off whenever you clean the canvas. This means you can easily wash your canvas tent and worry less about ruining the paint job. With that being said, its strong adhesive properties do come with downsides. 

Here’s one hint, don’t wear your favorite steel-toe boots for this job. You’ll want to wear shoes and clothing that are worth ruining!

Because acrylic paint clings to the material on which it is painted, cleaning up acrylic paint can be rather tricky and requires the use of paint thinners. Using paint thinners when you clean up brushes and rollers that have acrylic paint on them will make the process much easier because the binder in the paint will break the paint down.

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For more information about thinning acrylic paint, visit here. Paint thinners can be found at your local hardware store.

Spray Paint

If you plan on using spray paint to paint a canvas tent, consider using a “medium viscosity” acrylic paint. This paint quality will give you a thinner consistency of paint without sacrificing the color, which is what you want when you spray a canvas tent with paint.

If you don’t have medium viscosity paint handy, you can thin the paint yourself by using a 30% thinning agent to paint ratio. Once you’ve thinned out the paint, tape off or mask areas of the canvas that you don’t want paint or overspray on. 

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Spray paint can be applied using a standard can, an electric paint sprayer, or a pneumatic paint gun with an air compressor. For small detailed areas, intricate designs or artistic pictures, an air brush kit connected to a small compressor is your best option.

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Roller and Brush

When using a roller or brush, you have complete control over how the paint is applied to the canvas. The only downside with using a brush and roller over a spray gun is that the brush marks and strokes may be visible once dried. 

There are simple techniques for painting with these tools, such as making clean even strokes all going in the same direction, if possible, and marking off the areas that you don’t want to be painted so that you can easily follow the outline of the tape or mask as you paint.

Using a brush allows you to get clean edges, so first consider using a roller to cover larger areas of the canvas and a brush to reach smaller areas that require precision.


As with any major or minor painting project, you’ll want to practice before making the first strokes. Making a few practice strokes will give you a feel of how the paint will look on the canvas, how many coats you will need to get the right shade you’re looking for, what look you’re going for appearance-wise, and more.

It’s recommended that you first practice on scrap canvas if you have any available before painting the actual canvas for the tent. Practicing beforehand will not completely protect you against mistakes, but it can allow you to familiarize yourself with how fast the paint dries and how much to thin the paint if at all. 

Acrylic paint tends to dry faster, so you’ll definitely want to test a small area to see how long you have before the paint begins to settle permanently. Once you’ve got a good estimate, then you can begin painting. The same recommendation applies to latex, sprayed paint, and all other paints as well, as drying times vary.

Before you begin painting the canvas, you’ll want to thoroughly clean and wash any dirt off of the canvas and set time aside to allow it to dry afterward. Once the canvas has dried, apply seam sealer to all seams. This will prevent any water from coming through the seams. You will need to allow all of these coats to dry before painting.

Next, apply tape to any areas of the canvas that you don’t want to be painted. If you’re creating a design, apply tape to the outline of the design to make visible what areas need to be painted with a stencil. The same goes for creating patterns on the canvas. Next, thin the paint as needed either with water or paint thinner.

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Once all of the previous steps have been completed, you can begin painting the exterior and interior, if desired, of your canvas tent. If you’re using more than one color, start painting with the lightest color or the color that will serve as the background for your design first.

Once you’ve finished painting all areas of the canvas, apply a second coat of sealer over the first coat of paint and make sure it’s dry before you do so. Once all layers of the paint have dried, you can remove the tape and all other stencils you may have used. 

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Final Thoughts

It is possible to paint a canvas tent and doing so is the perfect opportunity to unleash your creative side and allow your imagination to do all the work. If you’re painting for routine maintenance, no need to worry, you can use your imagination for that as well!


Beau is an electrical engineer with a knack for DIY repair and construction. When he's not tinkering with his projects he's on the road travelling and enjoying an exciting lifestyle with his young family.

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