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Upcycling with oil paint

The Joy of Upcycling

Reshape and create the world as you want it to be with upcycling.

Upcycling gives a new lease on life to objects that have seen better days or are in danger of being thrown away due to changing tastes and fashions. Search though thrift shops, car boot sales and markets to find unusual items that will let your creative juices flow as you use your newly found object as a jumping off point to create a truly magical, one-of-a-kind piece infused with your own personal style. From customising old oil paintings to breathing new life into a household piece through furniture upcycling or even creating an inspired mirrored art piece there is no shortage of ways to use oil paints in new and interesting ways.

Repurposing a Painting

Creating a new piece of art from an existing one makes for a wonderfully thoughtful gift that also gives you the opportunity to work a special and heart felt customisation into the piece. It may seem daunting to add to something that has already been created so our advice is to start small; you don’t need to reinvent the whole picture, instead consider adding small touches such as bunting between buildings, a boat floating on a pond or even something as simple as adding a set of initials inside a heart to a tree trunk. This can make for an ideal 1st Wedding anniversary for a lucky couple, get adventurous and add them into the painting wearing their wedding day finery! Oil paint layers so effectively you can easily create depth and the illusion of finer details by using a small palette knife.

If you are looking for a more modern take, why not paint an uplifting phrase over the old painting? The juxtaposition of bright or bold colours over a traditional painting will make your affirmation stand out. Try holding your brush from the furthest end of the bristles as possible for greater, calligraphy like control of the text you are adding.

In order to get the best look for your upcycled canvas you will want to use an oil painting as your starting point. The reason for starting out with an oil painting is because you will be able to clean it without removing the original art, and a clean surface to paint on is imperative to get the best results. In order to prepare a dusty painting, gently wipe over the surface canvas with a damp cloth and then allow the paint to dry completely. Canvas’s that have a grimy or greasy quality to them will benefit from being given a gentle wipe with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol and then left to dry overnight to ensure the surface has completely dried out. Whether you use water or alcohol to clean the original, if you start seeing colour come off onto the cloth you are rubbing too hard! Once you have a clean canvas you can begin making your mark!

Delightfully Decorated Homes

Revitalising your home can be breath of fresh air and there is no better opportunity to make your mark on the place where you lay your head than by upcycling furniture to truly reflect your personality. The first step is to find your furniture! Carefully appraise the things that you already own to see if you can add your own touch of flair to them while repurposing them.

Consider what sort of look you want to achieve with your new and improved furniture. Modern, classic, an antique look or something that is uniquely you.

Oil paint is a great medium to upcycle furniture and bring it back to life as it cures into an incredibly hard finish with a shine that makes for a professional looking finish, it is also incredibly durable and easy to clean making the finished piece practical as well as personal.

Add a modern twist to an otherwise run of the mill stool by dipping it’s legs in a Galkyd or linseed oil mixture with a colour that will brighten up your day. Continue the geometric feel by using painters tape to mark out a pattern of smooth lines, you get to decide whether to match the colours to the legs or perhaps go for an ombre feel with a complimentary shade.

Upcycling furniture with oil paint on large surfaces does require some prep work. An oil based primer is essential for getting good coverage with final coats and if you are working with wood you may also want to consider sanding the furniture before priming.

Getting Inventive

If you are more accustomed to using oil paint on canvas, there is no reason why you can’t upcycle your very own works! Turn a canvas into a clutch and simply replace sections of material with the canvas of your choice. Your artwork doesn’t need to be confined to the wall, or worse stacked in a pile at the corner of a room. Free your art from the embrace of it’s stretchers and make it a functional one of a kind accessory.

However you decide to use your oil paint techniques, let your inspiration take form as you enjoy using this complex and vibrant medium. With so many colour choices made from the finest pigments, Reeves   oil paints will allow you to create one of a kind works of art.


  • Reeves Oil Paint
  • An old piece of furniture in need of a makeover
  • A whole lot of inspiration

Share your work with the world

Tag your masterpiece with #wearereeves. We’ll feature the best on our Instagram page.

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