Painted floor rugs have been around since colonial times when expensive carpeting was not available, and the always-creative homemaker was determined to make her house attractive.
These decorative and functional rugs are a great way to add color and pattern to any room and are a project anyone can tackle.
Not to mention hand painted area rugs are durable, dust-free and will give you years of enjoyment and use if made well.
Gather Your Supplies
A canvas drop cloth, in either 10 or 12 ounce cotton, is ideal for this project and an economical choice available at most paint stores and home improvement centers. They are available in many sizes and can be cut to any dimension.
Acrylic paints and gesso will be used to create the designs, and polyurethane varnish protects the rug from soil and wear. An assortment of plastic disposable bowls will be needed in which to prepare your paint. A painter’s tray will also be necessary if you are planning to use a roller.
A paint roller is a good idea to apply the gesso, particularly if the rug is large. It also can be used for the paint if there are large background areas that will be painted in a solid color. It should have short nap so that the gesso will go on as smoothly as possible. Sandpaper is used to smooth the surface of the gesso.
A selection of acrylic artist’s brushes in a variety of shapes and sizes are used to create the painting. Small house painting brushes may be added to the supplies, if there are large areas that require brushwork.
Painter’s masking tape is necessary to mask out straight edges, and a yardstick and pencil complete the list of supplies for creating an eye-catching, colorful design. If templates or stencils are necessary for repeat designs, they can be cut from cardstock or thin cardboard.
Finishing the edges of the rug will require one inch, double-sided carpet tape to secure the hem and an iron to flatten the rug and fold the hem.
A Drop Cloth For The Drop Cloth
Before beginning this project, lay out plastic sheeting to protect the floor. Secure the sheeting to the floor with tape or hold down the corners with heavy objects. If the rug is very small and can be painted on a table, cover the table with sheeting or plastic garbage bags.
Open the canvas drop cloth and iron out flat. The paint will dry hard, so any wrinkles and creases need to be removed before applying the paint.
Mark the borders of the rug with painter’s tape so the hem fabric will be preserved. This is necessary so the fabric can be ironed and turned under to finish the edges. Allow four inches of fabric on all sides for hemming.
Apply two layers of gesso to the cloth, allowing adequate time for drying between coats. Keep the hem fabric clear of any gesso, using the masking tape to prevent paint from reaching the reserved fabric. Using a roller for this step saves time, but you may need to use a brush in conjunction with it to blend out any thick or thin areas in the primer. The gesso should be as level and smooth. Sand the gesso between coats and before beginning to paint to flatten any ridges and remove texture from the surface. Use a damp cloth to remove the gesso dust from the canvas.
The design can be an artistic creation, simple geometric forms or a repeated motif in colors that harmonize with the room.
Compose your design on paper before you start with the canvas. If this is a free-hand composition, you have artistic license and can paint freely as the muse guides. However, if this composition has a geometric motif with bands and repetition set out at specific intervals, a grid work method may simplify transferring the design from paper to the canvas. Here comes that dreaded math again. Take time to calculate spaces between and around design motifs. Small inaccuracies will assume far more magnitude on the larger canvas than on your small sketch. Take your time and get the math right.
Draw the design with a pencil and use a ruler and masking tape to define straight lines. If you are using a grid work, use the yardstick and make light pencil marks to lay out the lines.
Just as an artist lays in fundamental shapes to begin his painting, merely sketch the basic shapes of the design to set up the composition. Indicate the center point and corners of template motifs to assure they will be positioned properly.
Time To Paint – Finally!
Now that everything is in place, at last you can begin to paint. But wait, how large is this canvas? If it is so large that you cannot reach the center from the perimeter of the cloth, you will need to begin your painting from the middle and work your way out.
If you have large areas to cover with the same paint, mix a generous batch of the color, as you may not be able to recreate the shade if you need to blend additional paint. Extra paint can be stored for future use by covering it with an air-proof lid.
Begin painting your background and define the shapes of your composition. As each coat dries, you can add more layers if necessary. Use several thin layers, as opposed to one thick application, to prevent paint from peeling.
When an area that is masked is completed and thoroughly dried, carefully and slowly remove the tape by pulling it away from the painted side at a low angle. This will help to prevent paint from tearing away from the cloth as the tape is removed. Any areas from which paint has peeled should be touched up with a small paintbrush, blending well to avoid a patched-up appearance.
Templates Versus Stencils
If you are using templates, carefully copy them with pencil onto the canvas and paint them using standard methods. Each one will be a little different and give a painterly quality to the rug.
If you wish to use the designs as stencils, you will use a different technique. A stencil is created by preserving the negative space and cutting out the positive space. To use a stencil, first tape it in position with masking tape. You will need a flat, round stencil brush, a plate or palette and some scrap paper. Lightly tap the flat bottom of the brush into the paint, just coating the tips of the bristles.
Now lightly pounce the brush onto the scrap paper to remove excess paint. Begin tapping the brush onto the canvas inside the stencil. When the paint is depleted, reload the brush, remove the excess and continue in the same fashion. Stenciling gives a more uniform feel to the motifs and can be effective combined with other techniques.
Tying Up Loose Ends
When your painting is complete, allow it to thoroughly dry. Apply two thin coats of water-soluble polyurethane, following manufacturer’s recommendations for drying.
When the polyurethane has properly dried, remove the painter’s masking tape from the perimeter of the cloth. You are now ready to hem and bind the edges.
Flip the canvas over, and using a yardstick to maintain a crisp, straight line along the edge of the paint, fold the selvedge over it tightly and iron to create a sharp fold. Mark and trim the selvedge to two inches.
At the intersection of two sides, fold the hems so the edges meet. At that point, make a small mark on both edges. Flatten the fabric and mark a straight line between the two points. It should intersect the junction of the fold lines. Cut away the triangle you have created. Do this for the remaining corners.
Fold the selvedge in half, lengthways, and fold again. Iron the folds so they are flat and position carpet tape to the underside, between the hem and the back of the rug. Use a butter knife or wooden block to rub the length of the hem firmly. This will ensure that the tape has bonded the layers together.
Allow the rug to remain flat for several days to cure before placing it in the room.
Now you have a wonderful, custom floor covering that packs big decorating wallop for small change.
The process is a little time consuming, as the paints needs to dry properly, but the results are dramatic and show off your creative flare in an impressive way.