7/31 | Back To School Reverse Canvas Project

My daughter is such a bookworm. She hasn’t started reading yet, but she spends hours every day pouring over her collection of picture books. I created the reverse canvas in this tutorial to encourage her as she learns to read. You also could make this Back To School Reverse Canvas Project as an encouragement to your children as they head back to school for another year. Or, if you’re an older sibling, you could make this for your younger sister or brother.

Let me introduce myself: I’m Naomi, I usually blog over at howtoheatpress.com, and today I’m going to show you how to make this Dr. Seuss reverse canvas project. Enjoy!

Back To School Reverse Canvas Project


You could make this project using adhesive vinyl, but I think HTV gives a better effect. Rather than sitting on top of the canvas, HTV bonds with it and appears more permanent.


1. Cut Canvas Away From Frame

I’m using a stretched canvas for this project. Canvases can be picked up very cheaply, and most are hiding a nice frame behind the canvas! I used a craft knife to cut around the outside of the staples to remove the canvas from the frame. Some people prefer to use a staple remover, but cutting it away is much quicker and doesn’t have any negative effects.

2. Create Your Design In Cricut Design Space

Below is the design that I made in Cricut Design Space. I’ve used a free font called ‘Gabbaland‘ which, as you can see, is very Dr. Seuss-ish!

I found this hat JPG file on Google images and converted it into an SVG file using Inkscape. If you’d like to know how to do that, check out this TroyTube tutorial on YouTube.

3. Cut & Weed Your Design

I’m now ready to cut. I have selected the ‘mirror’ option in Design Space, as I am using heat transfer vinyl. My design will be cut in reverse. I’m using black Cricut Iron-On vinyl, and red Siser EasyWeed HTV, because that’s what I’ve got on hand! Remember, HTV goes shiny side down on the Cricut mat.

I used my Cricut Explore Air 2 to cut out the red components in my design. Once my design was all cut out, I weeded away the excess vinyl.

4. Arrange Your Design

Next, I placed the frame on top of my canvas so that I could work out exactly where I wanted to press my HTV.

5. Press The Transfer

Once I worked out where I wanted my design to go, I started by pre-pressing the canvas for 10-15 seconds. Next, I pressed the black words of my design first. I used my iron (because my heat press has blown a fuse and I’m waiting for a new one to arrive!).

I set my iron halfway between cotton and linen and made sure it was empty of water. It’s best to press your transfer on top of a firm surface – I used a wooden chopping board.

Be sure to check the application instructions of your brand of HTV, as each brand may be slightly different. Cricut Iron-On Lite should be pressed for 25-30 seconds at a time, and EasyWeed for 10-15 seconds, with medium pressure.

I used a thin cotton cloth to protect my canvas from any transfer from my iron. I’ve found that if I don’t use a protective cloth and my iron is too hot, I can easily melt the heat transfer vinyl.

Tanner has further instructions here if you are using an EasyPress, and we’ve got some heat press tips and tricks here.

Iron-On Lite is a cold peel, while EasyWeed is a hot or cold peel. I’ve also found that Cricut Iron-On doesn’t actually seem to fully adhere until it has completely cooled. So, if your Iron-On is still lifting up, replace the carrier sheet and give it more time to cool, otherwise apply more heat and pressure.

After pressing my design and removing the carrier sheet, I turned my canvas over and pressed it again from the back.

Here’s my design all pressed! Now to get to work on the frame.

6. Prime & Paint The Frame

With the frame, I started by priming it with an ordinary wood primer. I’m going to be using a red wall paint for a top coat, so it’s important I prime first to make sure it adheres well. However, there are many self-priming paints that will let you skip this step. After priming my frame I gave it a quick sanding to get rid of any roughness.

Then I went over the white with two coats of bright red so that the frame would really pop against the white of the canvas.

Excuse the state of my paintbrush!

7. Reattach Canvas

Once the frame is completely dry, position it on top of the stretched canvas.

At this point, I actually decided to iron around the edges of my canvas and remove all wrinkles. This would ensure there would be no bunching when I stapled the frame in place.

With my canvas the right way up, I used my craft knife to make cut marks out of the four corners. With this method, I could turn over the canvas and simply match up the cuts with the corners of the frame.

I stapled the corners first, and then the middle of each side, while pulling the canvas tight.

Then, I cut off all of the excess canvas with my craft knife and added some more staples to each side to make sure the canvas was tight and secure. I found this method worked really well – it is nice and tight!

Here’s the finished product!

It’s very simple but looks great.

I hope you can have as much fun making this reverse canvas as I have had. Here’s hoping it serves as an ongoing encouragement for all of us to read – and remember, “you have to be a speedy reader because there’s so so much to read…”.

Want more vinyl projects? Check out these other Cricut Projects for Beginners – many of them also great for heading back to school. Thanks for checking out this project!