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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 just has a dent in it, read how to get a dent out of a painting here.

The damage to the painting above happened when a friend who was visiting my studio, accidentally knocked over a wooden print stand, the corner of which went right through this painting as it was on the floor leaning 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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46 thoughts on “How To Repair A Damaged Or Ripped Canvas Painting”

  1. After you are done, how noticeable is the tear? I have a painting that I did that I want to enter in an art contest. I was just wondering if the judges would notice.

  2. Hi, thank you so much for publishing this.
    My partner is an artist and just had a nearly complete piece blow over into the edge of a table.

    I understand how to tighten a canvas, as well as how to patch.
    I’m wondering–if you thought both were necesary (dent that tore eventually…),

    in what order would you do these? would you wet the canvas to tighten it up, and then glue the patch??
    or the other way around.

    thank you!

    1. Hi Stuart, without seeing the damaged painting it’s hard to advise, but usually it’s best to patch the canvas first, then tighten. Feel free to email me a photograph of the damage and i can advise further ~ Chris

  3. Hello, I have a piece of art from my late Grandmother that has a hole in it, was wondering if you could repair. Can send more details if you’d like. This painting means so much to me so hoping you can help.

    My email is listed and phone is 339-203-2734

  4. Thanks for the lesson on repair. My canvas is ripped almost exactly like yours but I painted mine with acrylic paints. I assume a gel medium for acrylics would work to help fill out the break in the canvas when I go to repaint the area?

    1. Yes acrylic gel would work to fill the indention left after repairing the canvas. You may not need it however, acrylic dries fast and can be put on thick, which may be enough to fill the area. Just be sure to try and match the painting’s surrounding texture when you apply paint/gel to the damaged area ~ Chris

  5. 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 Tiffany, try getting in touch with your local museum or large gallery, they should be able to put you in touch with a painting restorer as they use this kind of service ~ Chris

    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

  6. 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

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How To Repair A Damaged Or Ripped Canvas Painting