How to Create Your Own “Hot-Mess” Canvas (Cricut-related project)

This project is relatively simple so even kids can have fun making these! Canvases are inexpensive to make and you can hang them anywhere! Your design could be anything, and the possibilities are endless with Cricut Design Space and access to so many awesome graphics online!

“Hot-mess” canvases are all the rage right now on many Cricut Facebook Groups. It is where I first saw the idea and I just had to try it!

A few things I like about this project:

  1. You can create whatever comes to your mind, that fits your home decor, or style.
  2. It’s a pretty forgiving project … meaning, if your letters don’t come out perfect (the paint bleeds a little), it’s okay and the colors that go underneath do not have to have any rhyme or reason (hence, why it’s a great project for the kids!)
  3. They don’t take long to make!
  4. They make great gifts … you can personalize them for family and friends and they are inexpensive to make.

When I try a new project, I do my research, so I read on Facebook groups what different people used, what worked, what didn’t work, etc. and then I just go for it! Below is a photo of my first attempt, not too shabby.


By now, you might be asking, why are they called a “hot-mess” canvas? Simply because when you paint your first coat of paint on your canvas, it’s all different colors, they are all mixed up, not really in any sort of pattern (though they could be) … hence, it looks like a “hot-mess. You’ll get a better idea of what I am talking about once I explain the directions and share more photos. Ok, let’s get started!


  • Canvas (you can use any size canvas, and cheap ones work just fine, I usually use Level 1 or 2 Artist Loft Canvases from Michaels)
  • Design idea (one that you will create or purchase)
  • Vinyl – don’t use your most expensive vinyl because you will be throwing away the letters/design after painting – You can use 631 or 651 vinyl
  • Paint – okay here is where I began to experiment – you can use acrylic paints for your base hot mess design or you can use spray paints – I used acrylic paints on all 3 of my canvases … for the top coat, I found spray paint to work best, however, I did use acrylic paint on the ‘Fall’ canvas you see above, so either is fine.
  • Paint Brushes and/or Foam Brushes
  • Weeding tool, scraper tool
  • Contact Paper or other Transfer Paper (to apply your design to your canvas)
  • Mod-Podge (optional) – will explain in directions
  • Painter’s Tape (optional)

Above are some photos of my supplies the first time I made a “Hot-Mess” Canvas. I used little plastic cups (I purchased at Walmart in the paper goods section) to put a variety of paint colors in that I wanted to use. I used little bottles of acrylic paint I purchased from Michaels. In my little flower-pot, I have a variety of paint brushes and foam brushes I have purchased from various craft stores. The canvas you see in the photo is a level 3 canvas, but you can use a level 1 or 2. I used Contact paper for transfer and pink 631 vinyl for my design. I have a Cricut Explore Air that I used to create my design, in Cricut Design Space (see below) and the tools you see above are the weeder and scraper.

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 11.13.25 AM
This is what my image looked like in Cricut Design Space before cutting

To create my design, I used images that were found in Cricut Design Space (they were all free images). For the lettering, I used a font named DK Jambo (I believe I downloaded this font from  As I mentioned earlier, there are so many possibilities. You can create your own design or find one online to download (which is what I did for the mermaid design below (found on Etsy is always a good source for cute designs to purchase as well. Just remember, if you are using someone else’s design, they are only to be used for personal use unless you purchase a Commercial license.


Step 1

Create or purchase your design and figure out your dimensions you want your design to be on your canvas. Size your design in CDS and save it! Cut out your design onto the piece of vinyl you selected (such as the pink one in the photo above). Save for later.

Step 2

Paint your canvas … above are the 3 canvases I made and this is what they looked like when I painted the base layer … they look like a “hot-mess”! Don’t they? You can paint a second coat of paint if you want your colors darker or more vibrant. Let your canvas dry completely. This may take a few hours or you may choose to let dry thoroughly overnight. Be sure that the paint is not too thick or gloppy.

Step 3

Apply your vinyl design to your painted canvas. It looks a little weird, I know, but it turns out so cool when finished! Use your contact paper or transfer paper to apply the vinyl to the canvas. This can get a little tricky, depending on what you use to transfer and what kind of vinyl you have used. I used different vinyl for each one, so some worked easily and others did not. You will need to burnish well with your scraper to get the vinyl to stick to your canvas, be patient and don’t give up! On the first one I did, I applied Mod Podge over the base coat of paint and let it dry, then applied the vinyl letters. I do believe this helped to make the letters stick better. However, I did not do this on the other 2 and they came out fine. On the last one (Trick or Treat), I decided to try putting Mod Podge on after I put the letters on to see if it would help with the cover paint bleeding under the letters. I found that it didn’t really help or make a difference. So Mod Podge or spraying an adhesive spray prior to letters or after is completely optional and not necessary.

Step 4

Apply your top coat of paint. You can use acrylic paint or spray paint. Your top coat can be any color you want, but most people will use either white/ivory or black. My first attempt, I went with an off-white acrylic paint. I carefully applied the paint using a foam brush over top the letters and colors and completely covered the canvas. I let it dry for a while, then painted a second coat. I let the second coat dry for a little while to the point it wouldn’t smudge but was still a little tacky, then I carefully removed the letters. For my second canvas, I decided to experiment with spray paint for the top coat. It was much easier and quicker. The paint dries very quickly and for the most part, it goes on more smoothly. However, for some reason, I ended up with a few creases on this one. Not sure if it was because it was a level 3 canvas or that maybe I applied to much spray paint. But I liked the easiness of the spray paint, so I also used spray paint on my 3rd one (black). The first photo below shows just one layer of paint on the Fall canvas.

Step 5

Removing the letters. Some say you should remove your letters while the paint is still wet. I have done it both ways and think either is fine, just don’t leave your letters on too long and let the paint completely cure or else you will not be able to remove your letters. With my first one, I removed the letters while the paint was still wet, but with the other two (the spray paint), they dried pretty quick, so it was pretty dry when I removed the letters. Use your weeding tool or a pointy pair of tweezers to carefully remove your vinyl letters. In the middle photo above, you can see what it looked like as I was in the process of removing letters. In the third photo (the leaf), you can see up close how the different colors I had painted underneath show through on the design. This is what makes this such a fun project.

You’re done, yay! A couple of options … some people like to apply a clear coat on top for protection. Another fun idea is to put a border around your design. You can do this easily with painter’s tape, just make a square around your design and leave a little space between the tape and the edge. When you remove the tape, your beautiful colors will shine through! I would love to see your creations, so stop by my Pinterest page and leave me a photo comment under my blog post. Thanks for stopping by, give me a like, leave me a comment, and/or follow my blog if you want to see more fun DIY crafts!


Edited to add my most recent Hot-Mess Canvas. On this one, I added glitter while the paint was still wet.

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