In another post, I described how to remove old paintings from panels. In that post, the old painting was on a nice, sturdy, 1/4 inch Masonite panel.

Today’s project is also on panel, but it’s a canvas panel.

And not just any canvas panel, but a Raphael Linen canvas panel. This is the good stuff!

The panel I am using for this demonstration is 20 x 24, 1/4-inch composite panel with oil primed Raphael linen canvas mounted to it. It has been previously painted on, but that painting never got off the ground and has been standing in a corner for most of the past year. It’s time to do something with it.

But I want to preserve to linen texture, so I’m going to have to be more careful in removing the old paint. That means no power tools!

I also began the process with a single edge razor blade. These inexpensive blades can be used for a variety of art-related tasks, but they are especially good at removing old paint.

Hold the blade with the cutting edge flat against the panel to avoid gouging the panel. (The corners of the razor blade can be rounded if you prefer, but this is not necessary). Pull the blade across the surface with medium pressure (about a five on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the heaviest). Work over the areas where the paint is the thickest, but don’t ignore the other areas.

Work in several directions, too. Side to side across the painting. Up and down. Diagonal. The result will not be an eggshell smooth surface, but it will produce the smoothest surface possible.

Scrape the entire surface at least once in every direction. Usually, I scrape the panel in one direction, then turn the panel and scrape again in a another direction. But areas with heavier paint application may get additional scraping.

The goal is not to remove every bit of paint and get all the way down to the canvas, but to get as much of the old paint off as possible. As it happened, I was able to get down to the oil priming on the canvas with only a couple of layers of scraping. The paint came off quite easily (which indicates some adhesion problems with the original work).

If it had been more difficult to remove, I would have scraped more, but also kept a close watch on the amount of pressure I used so as not to damage the canvas itself.

Once as much of the old paint has been removed as possible, wipe the surface with a clean rag or paper towel. Make sure to dispose of these properly, as well as the shavings and dust.

As shown here, this canvas panel needs more work. The blues came off easily. The greens are resisting a little bit more.

I’ve cleaned the surface of the canvas for this photograph, but will work on it again, focusing on those areas where paint still remains.

There will potentially be a lot of shavings and dust, so be prepared. Work in an area that is well ventilated and it’s a good idea to at wear a mask over your nose and mouth. I usually do this type of work outside the house to avoid leaving shavings and dust around the studio. If you have to work inside, a vacuum cleaner is invaluable for picking up the remnants of your work.

This only works with rigid supports. There are ways to remove old paintings from canvas (yes, even stretched canvas), but the kind of rigorous treatment I gave this panel would grind a hole in a stretched canvas! You don’t want that!