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Decorating your dorm room is a super fun way to personalize your space and add personality to the cinder block, or otherwise plain, walls. In my time as a college student, I’ve made and accumulated many canvases as well as seen a trend in the number and types of canvases that have appeared in many other dorms. Here, I’ve made a list of the three most common types and explained how to make them for your own dorm room!

The Quote Canvas

You’ve all seen the inspirational quotes that scatter your Pinterest feed. Similarly, those same quotes are scattered across dorm rooms everywhere. Here, I’ll show you two variations of the quote canvas. The first type I made recently and the second variation I made last summer.

Type 1: Painted Background

This type is probably the MOST basic canvas we’ll discuss in this post. For my canvas, I opted to do a floral background, but you can also do stripes, polka dots, etc. I freehanded the flowers and then added the leaves and vines. As you can see, the flowers are not perfect (see the awkward massive flower in the bottom right corner), but in the grand scheme of things, perfection isn’t the objective and no one else will notice a little mistake.  For the initial quote, I always write out the words in pencil first, making sure to leave larger spaces than normal between the letters and making the “hole” letters (like “o”, “a”, etc.) larger than I typically would. Writing the quote in pencil prior to painting allows me to make sure that my script looks as I want it to before I commit to painting on my canvas. Then I take a small brush and go over my pencil lines. I usually use 2-3 coats of paints, to be sure that the quote is completely opaque. Once the paint has dried, I outline the script with black Sharpie to make the canvas easier to read and add in the quotation marks and attribute the quote appropriately.

Type 2: Mosaic Background

In my opinion, the unique background of these canvases make them slightly LESS basic than the average quote canvas, but I’m probably biased. I made these during the summer of 2016, so I don’t have pictures of the process (because I wasn’t intending on writing about the process). The process for both was identical. I first ripped up about 8 sheets of patterned paper. I get mine from Hobby Lobby and the paper comes in little books with curated pattern themes so, in theory, patterns from the same book should fit well together. For an 8×11 inch canvas, I used about 2 (4.5×6.5 inch) sheets of 4 different patterns, so 8 sheets in total. I did have to recycle some of each pattern paper, however, to get the mosaic look, you need at least 4 patterns in order to have enough variation. After I picked my 4 patterns, I ripped each sheet of paper into smallish, uneven pieces. Once I had all my paper pieces, I used a decoupage glue to stick them to the canvas, trying not to put pieces with the same pattern too close together. I started from the outsides of the canvas and worked my way in. Once I had “mosaiced” the canvas, I waited for it to dry a little and then painted a layer of the decoupage glue over the entire canvas to set everything. Once the canvas was all dry, the process was very similar to the other quote canvas. I traced my quote in pencil, went over it in gold paint, and outlined the paint in black Sharpie.

Type 3: The Home State Canvas

The home state canvas in deceptively simple. On the wall, it looks like it took a long time to make because of the detail of the state silhouette. However, this canvas took me less than 45 minutes in total. First, I searched for outlines of Michigan on Google Images. Once I had one printed out, I cut out the two pieces and taped them down where I wanted them on my canvas. I outlined the two parts with pencil and then went over my pencil outline before painting the inside of the state. Once the state was opaque and dry, I outlined my script and, similar to the other two canvases, I used gold paint and a Sharpie to finish off the canvas.


I'm a junior studying political science and Spanish at the University of Notre Dame. I'm from Grand Rapids, Michigan and enjoy hot yoga, coffee dates and Bath and Body Works candles.
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