How to Remove Paint From a Canvas: My Experience

Sharing is caring!

There is no artist who ever lived who hasn’t made a mistake and had to figure out how to get rid of it. Sometimes it isn’t even a mistake, but there is something that the artist would like to change.

If you have already added paint to a canvas, how do you remove it to fix or change something? It isn’t as difficult as you might think.

The easiest method is to remove the paint with rubbing alcohol which is at least 60% alcohol. The alcohol will break down the paint so you can easily scrape it off with a palette knife.

In this post, we are going to talk about how to remove wet and dry paint, as well as how to remove oil paint, acrylic paint, and watercolor paint from a canvas.

Let’s get started.

How to Get Paint Off a Canvas

Whether you are trying to fix a mistake on canvas or make a change in your painting, there are ways to get paint off of a canvas. You can remove paint that is wet or dry.

Remove Dried Paint From a Canvas

Are you looking for a way to remove dry paint from a canvas? The method you use will depend on the type of paint you are using.

If you are using water-based paint, such as acrylic paint, you can lightly dampen a towel with water and press it against the painted area. This will help to break down the paint so you can easily remove it.

If you are using an oil-based paint, you are going to need to use a solvent such as linseed oil.

There will likely be some texture that you will need to remove. You will need to use sandpaper for this. Rub the sandpaper over the area until you are as close to the canvas as possible.

Once you remove as much paint as possible, paint over the area with titanium white. Once the white paint has dried, you can fix the mistake or make changes.

Remove Wet Paint From a Canvas

It is usually much easier to remove wet paint from a canvas than it is to remove dry paint. You can use a palette knife to scrape away any of the wet paint that is on the canvas.

If you are working with oil paints, you will also need to use a solvent such as linseed oil or denatured alcohol. This is going to make the job a whole lot easier, but you may want to allow the area to dry and then repeat the process.

When working with acrylic paint that is still wet, use a paper towel dipped in soapy water or denatured alcohol.

Once you have removed as much of the paint as possible, let the area dry. Then, paint over it with titanium white to make the area look new again.

Prime the area and prepare it for the new paint you are going to add.

Be Careful

Whether you are removing wet or dry paint, you need to be careful that you do not damage the canvas or the rest of the painting in the process. Scrubbing too hard or too long can push the paint into the canvas, making it even more difficult to remove.

You will need to work quickly and methodically to get rid of as much of the paint as you possibly can.

How to Remove Acrylic Paint From Canvas

Since acrylic paint dries so quickly, many people think that it is going to be difficult to remove any if you make a mistake or want to make changes to your painting. It isn’t overly difficult, but you must work quickly.

First, scrape the paint with a palette knife, and then wipe the area with a wet paper towel or a clean, wet rag. If the paint is dry, you will need to dissolve acrylic paint by rubbing alcohol before continuing.

Once you have removed as much of the paint as possible, cover the area with a coat of titanium white. Once the white paint has dried, you will be ready to begin painting again.

How to Remove Oil Paint From Canvas

The process of removing oil paint from a canvas is much different than removing acrylic paint. For one thing, oil paint dries slower, so you can get a lot of wet paint off before it dries.

Use the edge of your palette knife to scrape away as much of the paint as possible. Then, use a rag or paper towel dipped in linseed oil to wipe off more of the remaining oil paint.

If the oil paint has already dried, use fine sandpaper to smooth down the surface. Use some linseed oil to remove any residual paint on the canvas after sanding.

Just as you would do with acrylic paint, once the paint has been removed cover the area with a coat of titanium white. Allow the white paint to dry and then get back to painting.

How to Remove Watercolor Paint From Canvas

Most people don’t use watercolor paint on canvas, but it is done occasionally. If you are using watercolor paint and you make a mistake or want to make a change, it can be done.

First, make a solution of dishwashing liquid and warm water. You can also use rubbing alcohol for this. If the paint is dry, scrape as much off as possible with fine sandpaper. Use the soapy solution to get rid of as much of the rest of the paint as possible.

Chances are that there will be some paint remaining. Once again, titanium white comes to the rescue! Apply a coat of titanium white, allow it to dry, and then continue painting as normal.

Another option to use instead of titanium white is gesso. Or, you can use watercolor ground. This medium will essentially turn most surfaces into a surface that can be used for watercolor painting.


When you come right down to it, there is no such thing as a mistake in art. Sure, there are accidents, but these accidents can both help you to learn and to create something completely different than your original ideas.

If you do have an accident, there are ways to fix it no matter what type of paint you are using. Just make sure that you prime the repaired area before you begin painting again.

Up next:

*image by Krakenimages/depositphotos