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5 Canvas Painting Ideas for Inspiration

You’ve primed your canvas and you’re ready to paint. But what exactly should you paint? Don’t despair if you can’t think of anything because these canvas painting ideas are bound to offer some artistic inspiration.

Whether you consider yourself a naturalist, a realist or an abstract painter, canvas is an ideal surface to make your artistic vision a reality. It’s flexible, textural and, when primed properly, archival, which this makes it an ideal surface for creating art. Next time you need a little extra inspiration, these ideas can provide a wonderful jumping-off point for your painting on canvas.


Florals are an ideal subject matter for any type of painting, whether you’re painting in watercolor, gouache, oil or acrylic. Flowers are an accessible subject matter for painters of all levels, from the absolute beginner to the master painter because they’re colorful, recognizable and beautiful.

Working with floral painting on canvas is especially effective, as the texture of the canvas adds personality to your blossoms, and the flexible surface of canvas makes it appropriate for all sorts of applications, whether you’re creating dainty lines with a tiny brush, making abstract markings with a palette knife or creating a classic realistic image using an underpainting.


Paint the season! While trees change seasonally, they can always provide inspiration. Whether it’s the colorful blaze of fall foliage, the pastel palette of spring blossoms, the green leaves of summer or the quiet beauty of winter-bare branches, trees provide a beautiful subject matter for painting on canvas at any time of year. The texture of a canvas is a perfect surface for painting trees, as it offers the opportunity to lay down the paint in a naturalistic, slightly varied way that mimics the perfect imperfection of nature.


When painting in acrylic on canvas, the paint is only part of the fun. There’s a huge array of mediums that can be combined with your paint to add texture, shine and other nifty effects to your canvas.

The painting above is a fantastic example of the myriad of effects that can be attained with different acrylic mediums: The  clouds were made using light molding paste, the water’s sparkle comes from clear tar gel and a touch of sparkle with ice crystal paint, and the sandy texture in the foreground was attained using part glass bead gel and part pumice gel.


A common “up-cycling” technique to create antique-looking furniture applying two coats of paint in contrasting colors and then using sandpaper to partially scrape off the top color. This creates a cool, shabby-chic effect. You can take inspiration from this technique to create fascinating paintings, and canvas is an ideal surface, as it will add even more texture.

To give it a try, paint a primary layer of paint and let it dry. Then, apply a second coat of a different color. While the second coat is still wet, use a knife or stylus to scrape off the paint to create images, or to create an abstract scene.


Have you ever iced a cake? Ever buttered a slice of bread? If so, you’re already equipped with the basic skills required for palette knife painting. Instead of a brush, you apply paint using a palette knife, which resembles a tiny trowel with a flexible blade. You can apply the paint in flicks or spread it on like, yes, butter, to create a textural, painterly piece. Palette knife painting is especially well-suited to the yielding, slightly flexible surface of canvas.

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