Give Old Artwork a Makeover with these Helpful Tips

Use paint to breathe new life into dated artwork.

By Erica Young


You know that piece of canvas art you bought eight years ago? It was trendy at the time, but now it’s starting to look a little dated. You might be tempted to chuck it and get something new. Before you do – consider giving that old canvas a makeover. You can turn ugly into fabulous with just some paint and an adventurous attitude.


If you’re not an artist, and most of us aren’t, it might be scary to paint over an old piece of artwork. But this project involves an abstract design, and abstract artwork leaves a lot of wiggle room for mistakes. So don’t be intimidated, even a novice artist can pull off this artwork transformation. Here are the simple steps to update your old abstract art.


1. Make a Plan

Assess your artwork, and decide what you want to change. Starting over from scratch would be tricky, and if you’re going to do that – you might as well buy a blank canvas. The point here is to take the artwork that’s already there and make a few tweaks to transform it into something more current. With this piece, I wanted to brighten it up and add more color. That meant getting rid of the dark brown areas but preserving the aqua and teal color.




2. Choose Your Colors and Start Painting

Okay here’s the scariest part, your first brush of paint. I chose a color scheme of pink, white, yellow, and blue – so I started with the pink. Using a cheap foam brush, no need to get fancy, I applied my first coat of pink over one of the brown areas. I used a mix of acrylic paint that you can purchase at any craft store, and leftover wall paint that I had on hand.




3. Apply Base Colors

I knew I wanted to get rid of the dark brown, so my first goal was to paint over those areas with my base colors. I chose white and pink to be my biggest swathes of color. Choose the colors you want to see most, and apply those as your base areas.




4. Layer, Layer, Layer

The trick to abstract art that doesn’t look flat is to add dimensions with layers. After you’ve done your base colors, go back and layer on other colors with a smaller paint brush. I started with big strips of white and pink, then went back to add accents of yellow and darker pink. Step back every once in a while to check your design.




5. Finishing Touches

Lastly, I added some saturated aqua and dark teal colors to tie in the blues that already existed on the canvas. There are no strict rules with a painting like this, go with your gut and have fun. I also added more white and yellow to the bottom of the canvas to give the overall painting more consistency.




6. Display Your Masterpiece

Looking at the final product, you’d probably never guess that it started out as brown and blue artwork. Now it looks fresh, fun, and colorful. Hang up your finished piece and admire your new title as an abstract artist!




Before you get rid of old décor, consider how to update it. I had this painting in my donate pile – but I happened to notice my paint collection in my closet, and a lightbulb went off. Now I love looking at this piece every time I walk by it.


Images used with permission, courtesy of Erica Young

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