Can You Paint a Canvas Tent?

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There are many different reasons as to why someone would want to paint their canvas tent. Some do it to better camouflage their camp in the woods, others just want to show off their artistic skills, or why not paint a tent for your kids to play in the backyard? Painting a canvas tent also adds a protective layer against the elements of nature, as well as covers up any wear or tear in the canvas.

The short answer is yes, you can paint a canvas tent. But wait, before you go throwing just any paint on your tent, there are some things you should know first. It is important to know that not all paints are suitable for canvas tents. So what paints should you use? Acrylic paint and latex paint are both great for painting tent canvas.

When painting a canvas tent you should always be careful as to not damage the tent, unless you want to wake up soaking wet when out camping in bad weather. So how would you go about painting your canvas tent then? Well, in this article, I will guide you through the process of painting a canvas tent, and help you decide on which paint method is best suited for you.

What is the Best Paint for Tent Canvas?

The best paint for tent canvas is weatherproof, meaning it won’t fade in the sun or wash off in snow and rain. The most common paints you will use when painting your tent canvas are acrylic and latex, each with its pros and cons. However, out of the two, there’s really only one clear winner, and that is the acrylic paint, as it’s more resistant to weather than latex.

To start off, you should only buy as much paint as needed for the job. There’s no need to buy gallons of paint and only use a small amount unless you actually have use for the left-over paint. Also make sure you do the painting in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors, and wear clothing that you don’t mind getting ruined.

Having the right paint is only one part of the puzzle, you also need to get other tools for the job.

  • Paint thinner is handy to clean brushes as well as thin out the paint if you decide to use latex paint.
  • You will also need several brushes in different sizes, a cheap multipack will do just fine.
  • A seam sealer. The Colemans Seam Sealer is great as a cheaper option.

Paint Tent Canvas with Acrylic Paint

If you are planning to use your painted canvas tent outdoors, for camping, a wedding reception, or a play tent for kids, etc., the best paint to use is acrylic paint. Acrylic paint will make sure your paint stays on after drying, even if it’s pouring down, this paint is waterproof and will not wash away easily. Just keep in mind that it sticks to everything, so be careful where you put your paint and only wear clothing and shoes you are ok with damaging.

When painting your canvas tent with acrylic, you only need one thin coat of paint, just make sure you cover everything and don’t miss any spots. If it’s just for decorative purposes then it’s ok to be creative, you don’t have to prime the canvas with one layer. I recommend you use a wide paintbrush if you are planning to coat the entire tent.

Acrylic paint is also great for covering up wear and tear. If you have patched your tent before you might want to add the little bit of extra waterproofing that the acrylic paint gives, just to make sure it won’t leak. If you have repaired your zippers or replaced them with velcro, then make sure you also seal the seams with a seam sealer.

Paint Tent Canvas with Latex Paint

Painting a canvas tent with latex paint is a whole lot different than painting with acrylic. However, there are some benefits of latex paint that you should know. First of all, the latex paint dries a lot quicker, it also washes off easier than other paints so it’s not the end of the world if you happen to get some paint on your shoes or clothing. Latex paint is also a great alternative if you want a more transparent paint job, as the paint is very opaque.

Latex paint only requires one coat of paint to cover your entire tent. In order to easily apply the paint to your tent, it is important that you thin out your latex paint with a thinning agent. If you are planning on using your tent outdoors in bad weather conditions, then I highly recommend you consider the previously mentioned acrylic paint, as latex does not perform as well in the rain. That’s why this article will focus mostly on acrylic, compared to latex, but I still wanted to mention latex as an alternative.

Maintain Your Painted Canvas Tent

To keep the tent in good condition, it is important to also take care of your tent after you have painted it. If you skimp out on the maintenance, you will end up with a fragile tent, prone to breaks and tears, which would mean you have to replace it altogether. By cleaning, repainting, inspecting, and sealing any tears, you can be sure your tent will last for many years.

Clean your tent regularly

Always clean the tent with a mild soap, water, and a soft sponge to get rid of any dirt. This will make sure your paint stays on for a longer time and will prevent the acrylic paint from cracking and flaking.

Repaint when needed

The paint will chip, crack, and fade in places over time, it’s inevitable. Reapplying some paint to areas where the paint has come off will keep your tent as good as new.

Inspect the paint regularly

By regularly inspecting the seams of the tent you can discover any breaks early. The seam sealant will crack over time and start leaking, it’s important to reapply sealant whenever you notice any cracks in the seams.

Store tent properly

Whenever you are packing up and ready to head home, you should not just crumble up the canvas and put it in a bag, as this will cause wrinkles and cracks in the paint. Instead, you should roll up your tent neatly to make sure the paint will last longer.

Let the tent dry completely

Before you put your tent in storage, you should always let it dry first. If you don’t let the fabric dry completely before storage, the water will corrode and weaken the paint, which will end up in cracks and tears.

Why Paint a Canvas Tent?

There are many reasons as to why you would want to paint your tent. I’m not going to list every reason for painting a tent, but I can come up with a few, and I have painted tents previously for exactly these reasons. You might want to paint your canvas tent for the following reasons:

  • Better camouflage your tent when out camping or hunting.
  • Adding an artistic touch to your tent, for festivals, events, or just out camping and having fun with friends.
  • A fun activity with your kids. Perhaps you want to paint a kids’ play tent in the yard.
  • Adding color to an otherwise white and boring party tent, for events or parties.
  • Really any event or activity you have in mind.


Before you go out buying paint, consider which type of paint you want to use to paint your canvas tent. It is highly recommended to use acrylic paint as this will hold up the best in rain and cold weather. If you want more transparent paint, you can use a latex paint thinned down with a thinning agent. In the end, it’s up to you which paint you want to use. Make sure you get the entire canvas tent covered, including the seams, and maintain your tent and it will last a long time.