What’s Old is New: How to Upcycle Art on A Budget

Every room could benefit from some art on the walls.  But art can also be expensive to acquire. One way to get around this is to get your artwork from thrift stores and garage sales.  It’s usually pretty easy to find cheap art there, but there’s a good chance the art you find won’t be to your personal taste. That doesn’t mean you have to pass it up!  With some creative thinking and a few supplies you can turn almost any thrift store find into an upcycled art masterpiece. Let’s take a look at some easy techniques to try.


Selective Chalkboard Paint

Source: The Mosaic Butterfly

With this technique you can turn an old work of art into a functional memo board.  For this you’ll need a piece where a section of it can be blacked out by chalkboard paint.  If it’s a portrait, you can keep the image of the person and blackout the background. In scenes like the one featured, the tree becomes the chalkboard.  Once you decide on what element is going to become the chalkboard, carefully tape around that section with painters’ tape to prevent paint from ending up where you don’t want it, and paint over with chalkboard paint.


DIY Paint by Number

Source: Under the Sycamore

For the more artistically inclined, you can upcycle your art by painting over it.  While you can paint over it any way you see fit, we like this DIY paint by numbers approach.  It keeps the subject of the piece intact, but allows you to brighten it up and give a more traditional style a contemporary twist.  Click here for more detailed instructions on how to do this technique.


Word Art

Source: A Bird and A Bean

This is a good option if you like the colors of a piece but not necessarily the subject matter.  Word and phrase art has been a popular wall choice for a few years now, and this puts a bit of a new spin on that.  All you have to do is pick a word or phrase you really like (and that will fit the space available) and mask it out using painters’ tape or contact paper.  Paint over the rest of the painting, peel off your letters once dry, and voila! More detailed instructions can be found here if interested.


Silhouette Painting

Source: The Bee and The Bobbin

Somewhat similar to the word art technique, this takes the classic art of silhouette cutting and turns it into something new.  This style of upcycle will work well for those old still lives that can be found in thrift stores across the country. It works best with darker colored paintings, but could look good in a variety of different ways.  While the original tutorial is no longer available, it can be achieved using similar steps to the chalkboard and word art options.


Dipped Art

Inspired by the artist Oliver Jeffers, we’ve really been digging dipped paintings lately.  To truly achieve dipped paintings you need to dip the painting into a large container of paint, but we found an easy way to achieve the same look.  Using painters’ tape, paper, and spray paint you can get the results without using as much paint. Make sure to watch our video for the full instructions.


Sometimes all an old piece of art needs to look good as new again is a fresh frame.  If you find a work of art you love, no matter how old, don’t be afraid to display it proudly.  But, if you find some pieces you know have potential but definitely need some help, try out some of these techniques to create something totally new and your own.  Have you already tried one or more of these? We’d love to see your results!