How to Fix Painting Mistakes on Canvas

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I love painting on a canvas. What I don’t love is making a mistake and then having to figure out how to fix that mistake.

It may not even necessarily be a mistake. There are plenty of times when I paint something and then realize I want to paint it differently. Then I have to figure out the best way to get rid of the first thing so I can do the other thing.

While it isn’t always easy to fix a mistake that has been made on a canvas, it is possible. Today I am going to share some tips I have learned over the past few years that have helped me when I need to change something or fix a mistake on a canvas.

Let’s dive deeper into how to fix a painting you don’t like.

How to Fix Oil Painting Mistakes

Let’s say you have made a mistake on an oil painting, or you would like to change something. Before you can do anything, you will need to check to see if the painting is dry, which can take up to several days.

If there is any excess wet paint on the canvas, you can remove it with a butter knife, using the dull side. Plot the remaining paint with a rag to help it dry faster.

You might even want to consider blending the wet paint with the surrounding colors. This won’t remove the mistake but it will make it less noticeable. Then you can let the paint dry and paint over it.

If there is any thick, dried paint on the canvas, use an X-acto knife to chip off as much as possible. Another option is to paint over it if the paint isn’t too thick. Use another color or rework the piece completely to hide mistakes.

You can also fix mistakes in an oil painting with turpentine. Dap a rag into the turpentine and blot the dry paint where the mistake is located.

This will dissolve the paint. Allow it to dry and then you can paint over it.

When using turpentine, be sure to wear protective gear, including gloves and goggles.

See more: 6 Oil Painting Techniques You Can Follow

How to Fix Acrylic Paint Mistakes

Remove Acrylic Paint From a Canvas

It is easy to fix mistakes on an acrylic painting while the paint is still wet. Once the paint is dry, that’s a whole other story!

If the paint is dry you will need to use a solvent to remove the mistake. You can use solvent for fixing mistakes or completely stripping the canvas so you can reuse it.

The problem with using a solvent is that you don’t always get the best results. You can usually get rid of dried acrylic paint, but there is going to be a bit of staining left behind.

As with working with turpentine, be sure to wear protective gear when working with any solvents.

You can check my guide on how to get paint off a canvas for more tips.

How to Fix Dried Acrylic Paint on Canvas

I would like to finish by mentioning how you can fix small dried acrylic paint mistakes on a canvas. One option is to repaint the areas, and then build more details on top of this spot. It is important to use highly-pigmented paint that is opaque.

Some artists use rubbing alcohol to remove small mistakes. I don’t care for this method because you could end up removing more paint than you want to remove.

How to rewet acrylic paint

To make dry paint wet again, here are a few methods you can try:

One option is to use a fine mist spray bottle filled with water to lightly spritz the dried paint on your palette or canvas. Another method is to use a palette knife to scrape off a small amount of acrylic medium or water and mix it with the dried paint to rehydrate it. 

Additionally, you can use a wet palette, which involves placing your acrylic paints on a palette with a damp sponge or paper towel underneath to keep them moist. This way, you can easily rewet the paints as needed while you work.

How to Spot-Clean Acrylic Paint

If you have made a mistake and you do not want to paint over it, you can spot-clean that spot with the above-mentioned solvents. Soak a small piece of cloth, a cotton ball, or a cotton swab with the solvent and press it against the area you want to fix.

Another option would be to use a bit of hand sanitizer. Squeeze some of this over the area that needs to be fixed and let it sit for about half an hour.

Once the paint has softened, you can use a putty knife to remove a lot of it. After removing the paint be sure to wipe the area with a clean rag to get rid of any last bits of paint. You may need to repeat this process a couple of times to get rid of as much paint as possible.

See more: 7 Acrylic Painting Techniques On Canvas

Choosing the Right Solvents

If you are working with acrylic paints, the best solvents to use are turpentine, mineral spirits, and rubbing alcohol. These are all relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain.

You can also use hand sanitizer (don’t use one that contains aloe vera) to fix mistakes on a painting. Or, you may want to check out one of the artist-grade solvents that are made for removing paint from a canvas.

When working with any type of solvent, make sure that you are working in a well-ventilated area. Do not work near open flames or other sources of heat, and always wear protective gear.

Check my guide to learn more about the difference between mineral spirits and turpentine.

How to Strip a Canvas

What happens when you complete a painting and you just aren’t happy with the finished product? Well, you can strip the entire canvas and start from scratch.

To do this you will need to completely soak the entire canvas with a solvent. This will require placing the canvas in a container that is large enough to hold it.

Pour the solvent into the container so there is about an inch of solvent. Then, place the canvas into the solvent, painted side down. Allow the painting to soak for around an hour, and the paint will be softened.

Take the canvas out of the container and scrape away as much of the softened paint as possible. Use a putty knife for this. Once you scrape away the paint you will need to use a soft rag to wipe off any remaining paint.

It may be necessary to repeat this process until you can get as much of the excess paint off the canvas as possible. Then you can wipe the canvas clean with hot water and dish soap. Use a rag or a dish brush, and then allow the canvas to air-dry.

There is another way that you can strip a canvas of acrylic paint without having to use any solvents at all. This method involves using sandpaper.

I don’t care much for this method, but only because I can’t stand the sound sandpaper makes. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. It does work well though.

All you need to do is sand down the unwanted layers of acrylic paint with fine-grit sandpaper. Do this until the canvas is smooth to the touch.

You will then need to paint several layers of white gesso to cover any paint that is remaining. Three or four coats should do the trick.


I like to think that there are no such things as mistakes in painting. Everything you do is a learning experience. If you make a “mistake”, it can be fixed.

Whether you are working with oils or acrylics, you can remove paint from a canvas and start all over again. You can fix small areas or get rid of all of the paint on the canvas and begin a brand-new painting.

*image by Krakenimages/depositphotos