Art can perk up the personality of a space quicker than most other decor elements. While you could certainly spend a small fortune on a single piece of artwork, not all of us are equipped with that kind of budget. Besides, art needn’t be expensive to make a stylish statement. In fact, thrift stores, bargain bins, sites like Facebook Marketplace, and maybe even your own closet or garage may be brimming with potential pieces that you can refresh to fit your own aesthetic.
From painting over an old canvas to sprucing up a tired frame, there are a number of ways to give outdated artwork a modern makeover. Once you’ve found your diamond in the rough, here are nine different ways to freshen it up.
Create Textured Canvas Art with Spackle
What you’ll need: spackle, putty knife, paint, paint brush
A scroll through any famed interior designer’s feed will tell you that textured canvas art is highly desirable right now. Luckily, it’s easy to create the look with a humble container of spackling paste. You could cover the entire surface of an existing canvas with it, or you could cover just a portion and leave some of the original artwork peeking through (as Meg Baker of @baker.blooms demonstrates in the photo at the top). Begin by applying a thin layer of spackle on top of the canvas with a putty knife. Use the tip of the knife to stipple and smear it, creating both texture and movement. Let it dry overnight, and then paint it with whatever color(s) you think will give some pizzazz to your space.
Turn an Old Canvas Into Sculptural Art
What you’ll need: sculptural element hot glue paint paint brush
If your canvas art falls a little flat, add a 3D element to it. All it takes is gluing some kind of object(s) to the canvas and painting it all one color for a cohesive look. It could be origami, or shapes cut out of cardboard, or you could create raised shapes with hot glue. Got old Amazon boxes? Take inspo from this DIY by Collective Gen and turn packing foam into geometric shapes. Perhaps you prefer the repetition of concentric circles? Then you should see how Jorge Gomez used floral foam wreaths to create 3D art. Whatever kind of objects you choose, the sculptural shapes are sure to really pop off the wall.
Add a Technicolor Element to Faded Thrift Store Art
What you’ll need: Painter’s tape, paint, paint brush, adhesive craft foam, scissors
It’s always exciting to score a secondhand painting while thrifting, but sometimes the colors in old artwork have faded by sun exposure. To inject a dose of color, add a touch of technicolor, such as painting only a portion of the artwork in a bright hue to create a paint-dipped look. You could also flick colorful paint colors onto the artwork for a rainbow splatter effect, or take a cue from Jennifer Perkins’s DIY and use craft foam to create modern mosaics on top of the original art. If you’d prefer to simply freshen up the muted colors with a modern palette, you could draw right on top of the artwork with paint pens. With any of these options, your tired old art will nab new life as a technicolored masterpiece.
Or Completely Paint Over a Thrifted Canvas to Make Abstract Art
What you’ll need: primer, paint, paint brush
Even if a thrifted canvas is outdated or totally faded, you might still want to scoop it up. It’s easy to give it a modern-day makeover by simply covering the painting with an abstract pattern. Begin by priming the old art to conceal the existing design and literally give yourself a blank canvas. The beauty of abstract art is you can really paint whatever you like, but check out this DIY by the Savvy Apron if you need a bit of inspiration. Lines, circles, rectangles, smears, and brushstrokes are all easy to freehand — and if you mess up, you can simply prime and repaint until you get the look you want.
Give Plain Frames a Campaign-Style Makeover
What you’ll need: painter’s tape, liquid gold leaf paint or gold paint pen, paint brush
Plain frames are classic because of their simplicity, but sometimes the art displayed within them demands a little extra oomph. You can easily up the elegance of your picture frames by adding campaign-style corners. There are a few ways to create them. For the most authentic look, attach flat corner braces with a brass finish in each corner of the frame. However, you could also get the look by taping off the corners and brushing on a gold leaf paint like in this DIY from The Southern Gloss. And for an even simpler method, you could just use a gold paint pen. It’s really that easy to turn basic frames into campaign-style cuties.
Cover an Old Print with Chalk Art
What you’ll need: chalk markers
If you’re looking for a method to update glass-framed art, try drawing or writing over the glass portion of the frame with erasable chalk markers. You could write an inspirational quote in large text like Crafting Fingers did in this DIY, or you could draw any kind of design on top, from flowers and leaves to calligraphy and scroll motifs. Tip: If you decide to let some of the art show through, pick chalk colors that coordinate with the hues in the print. Not only do the chalk markers jazz up old art with a fun contemporary twist, you can also wipe it clean and change it anytime you’d like.
Upcycle Old Frames Into Beautiful Shadow Box Art
What you’ll need: foam board scissors hot glue
Shadow boxes are fun for displaying a variety of curiosities, from keys to crystals. And while you could buy a ready-made case, it’s much more affordable to upcycle thrift store frames into beautiful shadow boxes. Start by removing the frame’s backing and securing the tabs to hold the glass in place. Cut a piece of foam board large enough to rest on the backside of the frame, and then glue whatever objects you’d like on top of it — seashells, coins, or any other small item, such as the butterflies used in Jenni Yolo’s DIY . Finish by hot gluing the foam board to the back of the frame, and hang your beautiful new shadow box prominently on the wall.
Give an Old Thrift Store Frame a Gilded Makeover
What you’ll need: gold spray paint or Rub ‘n Buff
Thanks to sites like Etsy and Artfinder, it’s easier than ever to download and print new art to replace the old prints found in thrifted frames. But if the frame itself could also use a little spruce-up, turn it into a gilded beauty by either spraying it with a few coats of gold spray paint or brushing some liquid gold leaf onto it. You could also use Rub ‘n Buff to get the look, like in Nadine Stay’s DIY. All it takes is rubbing the metallic wax onto the frame with your finger, and then buffing it with a clean cloth to bring out the gold luster. Any of the techniques will give your art the look of an expensive antique without the high price tag.
Stencil Over Old Artwork to Mute the Colors
What you’ll need: stencil, painter’s tape, paint, paint brush
If you’re not crazy about the colors in a canvas painting, you can tone them down by painting over them with a stencil. A large lace pattern works well to obscure the painted image without completely covering it up, like in this DIY by Average but Inspired, but you could use any kind of stencil design. Be sure to tape off the frame first, then place the stencil on top, and brush paint over the cut-out portions. Keep moving and taping the stencil until the entire painting is covered, and blend any harsh edges from the stencil with a paint brush. It delivers an ethereal abstract vibe to your old art.