How to Upcycle Thrift Store Artwork

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You know the saying, "Everything old is new again?" That's especially true with vintage art. The next time you see an inexpensive painting at a thrift store, grab it! Transforming dated art into trendy decor is easier than you think: all it takes are a few simple supplies and a short amount of time. Once you have everything you need, you can use these three techniques — stenciling, dip-dying or outlining — to turn a discarded work into a centerpiece for any room in your home. Hang just one find or turn your treasure trove into a gallery wall, and you'll have a display that's classic and totally cool.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Things You'll Need

  • Thrifted artwork
  • Painter's tape
  • Spray paint
  • X-Acto knife
  • Craft paints
  • Paint pens
  • Detail craft brush
  • Vinyl cutter, like a Cricut or Silhouette machine (optional)

Stencil a Word on Artwork

Step 1: Select a Painting

When selecting a painting to stencil, look for artwork that has an attractive frame and colors that appeal to you. The background should be subdued, so that the stencil is easy to read.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 2: Choose a Word and Cut Out the Letters

Choose the word you’d like to stencil and cut out the letters with an X-Acto knife from a strip of painter's tape. You can also use an electric cutting machine like Cricut or Silhouette.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 3: Adhere the Stencil and Paint on the Word

Carefully center the word on the canvas and adhere the stencil — make sure the edges are secure, too. Then, with a small foam brush, lightly dab over the stencil with craft paint. Let the paint dry, and then remove the stencil.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)
(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 4: Display Your Art

Place the artwork back into the frame, and display it with pride.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Dip-Dye Your Painting With Spray Paint

Step 1: Choose Your Artwork

A second option for updating artwork is to spray paint a section to give the canvas a "dip-dyed" effect.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 2: Section Off Your Painting

Mark off a straight line across your painting with painter's tape. The tape line can be vertical, horizontal or even diagonal. Again, make sure the tape is well-adhered. Then, protect the portion you don't want spray painted with newspaper.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 3: Spray Paint the Section

Spray paint the desired section in a fun hue that matches your decor — gold will go with almost anything!

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 4: Remove the Newspaper and Display

When the spray paint has dried, remove the newspaper and hang up your new piece of art!

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Add Pops of Color to Your Painting

Step 1: Choose Your Artwork

A third option for transforming artwork is to paint directly onto the canvas with bright shades. When choosing artwork for this project, consider the existing shapes in the painting. Something with fuzzy lines or looser brush strokes will be more challenging to outline and re-paint.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 2: Outline and Fill the Existing Shapes

Outline the existing shapes in the painting with paint pens in like-minded shades. Then, fill in each shape with a contrasting color using a small-tipped brush and craft paint.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)
(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 3: Spray Paint the Frame

Tape off the canvas with painter's tape and newspaper, and then spray paint the frame in a coordinating color.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

Step 4: Hang Your Artwork

That's it! Once the spray paint has dried, this art is ready to be shown off. Whether you add an inspirational word to a landscape, brighten up a still life with spray paint or put a graphic spin on a traditional piece, thrifted art can be upcycled to fit modern decor with these easy ideas.

(Image: Charlotte Smith)

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