Dictionary Pages, Old Sketches, and More Creative Ways to Seal the Backs of Paintings

If you’re not keen on the appearance of an unfinished canvas, don’t worry—you have options. Simple, easy to find things like cardboard or brown paper are a great way to seal the back of a piece and they provide dust protection, too.

And if you’re looking for a creative way to seal the backs of your pieces that won’t break the bank, there are lots of those as well! Using newspaper, old dictionary pages, and even discarded sketches adds extra interest to your pieces without the need to buy additional materials. Read on for how to make it happen.

Supplies I Used

I do not use Amazon for this. I buy my pages from DatedPaper on Etsy:

Reclaimed Dictionary Pages

Newspaper

There are many different ways to recycle newspaper, and using it to seal the back of a painting is a very creative way to keep it out of a landfill. Newspaper also has the added benefit of size; you can cover the back of larger canvases with one seamless page.

If you are going to use newspaper, I would recommend using a thicker newspaper and using pages that are at least 75 percent covered in newsprint, instead of pictures, for a nice, uniform look.

Old Book Pages

I love the smell and feel of old books, don’t you? Antique pages are usually thick enough to hold up against wear and tear, and they come in a variety of sizes. You’ll likely find it difficult to finish a very large painting with book pages, but anything under 8×11 inches is relatively easy.

If you hate the idea of ripping pages out of your own books, don’t worry! You can still use this method. I purchased some antique dictionary, reader, and math book pages from an Etsy store and have found a lot of great ways to incorporate them into my artwork.

Old Book Pages

Unwanted Artwork

Along with acrylic pouring, I love to sketch. Unfortunately, my sketches don’t always turn out the way I expected! Using cutouts from these sketches for smaller canvases is a great way to repurpose unwanted artwork, and it keeps it out of the garbage. I’d recommend using thicker pieces like watercolor paper or sturdy sketch paper for this purpose.

Time to Seal

When you’re ready to seal off the back of your painting, you can follow the same steps you would use to attach standard paper backing to your canvas: Measure your paper; cut nice, straight edges; and either glue the paper to the canvas with super glue or use heavy-duty double-sided tape. Make sure all of your edges are firmly sealed to the canvas to avoid any lifting around the back of the piece.

Signing Your Piece

I personally like to sign my acrylic pour paintings on the back; this way, the owner of the piece can hang it however they like. This can be challenging if you are using something like newsprint that has a lot of words, but the solution is simple; either sign in the margin of the page, or place a blank, square label over the print and sign on that. I also recommend attaching a business card to the painting back so that your information is readily available.

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Special Consideration: Language

An interesting issue I ran into recently when sketching on a dictionary page was a rather private definition. While I am not easily offended, some consumers would prefer to keep their pieces G-Rated. Because of this, if you are using newsprint, book, or dictionary pages, I strongly suggest that you read them thoroughly. Make sure that the print on the page is appropriate for your targeted audience so that you don’t face issues later on.

That’s it!

Finishing that back of a canvas gives it a clean, professional look—and using antique pages, newspaper, or upcycled artwork adds extra interest to your already stunning piece! Make sure to show us your finished paintings in the Acrylic Pouring Facebook group so we can see how you’ve applied this technique.

Sara Wagner is an author and artist from Upstate New York. She is the owner of Studio Blackwater and can typically be found covered in paint, cats, or her two young daughters. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram as @studioblackwater.

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