How To Repair A Damaged Or Ripped Canvas Painting

No matter how careful we are with our artwork, canvas paintings can get damaged. Some of the most famous paintings in the world have sustained damage over the years and have needed repairs made to the canvas. What at first can seem like a complete disaster, is in fact usually repairable, so let me show you how  to fix a damaged or ripped canvas painting.

repair a damaged canvas

* If your painting has a dent in it read how to get a dent out of a painting here.

The damage above happened when a friend was visiting my studio and accidentally knocked over a wooden print stand, the corner of which went right through this painting that was on the floor leaning up against the wall. You can see the damage to the canvas was quite substantial, not only had the rip gone right through the painting, but the canvas had torn in two directions, both diagonally and horizontally.

how to repair a whole in a canvas painting

You can see here that the fibres of the canvas were pulled apart when the damage occurred, leaving a jagged uneven edge.

how to repair a torn canvas oil painting

If this painting were a priceless Rembrandt I would align all of the individual fibres of the canvas and glue each one back together separately. However, this painting is priceless Chris Chalk, and as he (me) is still here to repaint the damaged area after the repair, I can make a simpler repair.

equipment needed to repair a damaged canvas painting

To repair a damaged or torn canvas painting you’ll need:

    • a piece of canvas the same ( or at least similar) to that of the original canvas.
    • a pair of sharp scissors.
    • some acid free glue (in this case PVA – Polyvinyl acetate).
    • a flat piece of MDF or hardboard.
    • a weight or something heavy to use as a weight.

PVA Polyvinyl acetate glue

First using your scissors to cut a piece of your spare canvas to make a patch. Make sure when you do this the patch is large enough to cover the damaged area of the painting, plus at least 3cm extra overlap, so that the patch can be glued to plenty of undamaged canvas around the tear. Once you’ve cut your patch to the correct size, apply PVA glue to one side of it.

fixing canvas patch to damaged oil painting

With the painting laying face-down on a clean flat hard surface, offer-up the canvas patch to the back of the painting and push it down into position. Make sure you’ve applied enough PVA glue so that every part of the patch is glued to the original canvas. If you have any excess PVC that get’s pushed out from under the patch just wipe it up with a wet cloth, PVA is water soluble and cleans-up easily.

canvas painting repair

Make sure the new patch is in the correct position and that the damaged area of the canvas is under the middle of the new patch. You can see here, because the damage to my painting was near the edge of the painting, to achieve that I’ve had to push part of my new patch under the wooden stretcher-bar.

mending a damaged canvas painting

Once the patch is placed in the correct position we need to place another flat surface down onto the back of the patch so that as the glue dries it creates a perfectly flat repair. I’m using a thin sheet of hardboard to do this.

gluing a damaged canvas painting

Again, because the damage in my case is very near the edge of the painting, I have had to push the thin sheet of hardboard I’m using between the original canvas and the wooden stretcher-bars, not just in the middle of the painting, but also on the right-hand edge.

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28 thoughts on “How To Repair A Damaged Or Ripped Canvas Painting”

  1. Hi there! We have a canvas painting at my Grandmas house that was torn when it fell on a TV. It was painted during WW2 in Germany and brought back by my great Uncle. It isn’t a famous artist or anything but I have no clue how to fix it – or more importantly who to send it to. Do you have any suggestions? I can do the first bit of this but I am certainly no painter. 😂 thank you!

    1. Hi Ross, that looks like a print, as you say not an easy fix. One option might be to photograph the picture, repair the image in photoshop, and have a new print made ~ Chris

  2. Hi Chris,
    I have a 19th century landscape painting that has a big crack/hole where the canvas is peeling back about 1.5 inches square, so quite large. It is in a large panel of blue sky, so hard to camouflage. I don’t know if a patch would work well since the canvas is quite dry and might crack if I try to flatten it. Any ideas on how to repair it? Is there a way to relax a dry canvas? Is re-lining the only option? If so, I don’t think I can do that myself, or do you know a good website that explains re-lining for amateurs?

    1. Hi Deborah, As your painting is a good age I would suggest contacting a local museum or art gallery, who should be able to put you in touch with a professional art restorer. These organisation use these services regularly. I wouldn’t suggest trying to release the canvas yourself on such an old painting ~ Chris

  3. Hi Chris thank you for your reply. I am afraid I chose the PVA and it does look good, all I have to do now is to retouch the paintwork using your advice, but will probably be nowhere as good as yours. It is a small area only, so will take my time. Once again thank you.

  4. Hi Chris
    Thank you for the information. What are you thoughts on using beeswax instead of PVA, but then again would it be as stable as PVA? I have a small oil painting with a small tear, and I am quite nervous about repairing though I have done it before but a long time ago, I will just to take the bull by the horns. Thank you once again

    1. Hi Gaynor, I’m not sure beeswax will work, I’ve not tried it, but I doubt it has the adhesive strength to cope with the stretch of the canvas. Let me know how you get on if indeed you do use it though ~ Chris

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