Thursday, March 8, 2012

DIY Painting Tips for Tipi Tepee Teepee Owners

Canvas is the preferred choice for painting by artists today. Art Supply stores everywhere sell per-stretched canvases that have already been gessoed for you. These manufactured canvases are great for everyday practice or the traditional commissioned piece but what do you turn to when you want something that is unique to start? Tiny Tipis offers you an idea: Paint Your Own Tepee. Tiny Tipis offers custom paint and bead work but we understand that some people may want to take the art into their own hands. Thus we are handing out any of our knowledge for free so you can customize your own canvas teepee. The tips that follow in this article can be applied to Tiny Tepees or Large Teepees as well. 

When you start your painting adventure you will need to have the following items handy:
  • Paint Brushes of various sizes. For a softer line use synthetic bristles, for a more crisp and clear line use natural bristle.
  • A container of water. Make sure you use a container you don't care about in case you want to toss it afterwards.
  • Acrylic Paints in the colors you will be using. The choice of acrylic paint is important and will discussed further below.
  • An Acrylic Thinning Solution such a Flow Release, Liquitex, or anything comparable that you find at your local hobby store.
  • An old rag you can wet and dab with in case of spills or mistakes.
  • A board or hard surface you can use as a palate to mix your paints on.
  • A strong string, straight edge (ruler), drop cloth, and a pencil.

The type of paint you choose will effect the final product greatly. Two standards must be met for the paint to be as sturdy as possible when finished: It must be Acrylic and it must be Fluid. Fluid refers to water based and can be thinned with water but is not recommended as this changes the pigment content (making the colors less vibrant) and the ability of the paint to bind to the surface of the canvas. If you aren't sure by looking at the label then ask someone who works at the hobby store, they should be able to direct you to the correct paints.

Once you have gathered your supplies you are ready to decide what design you want to paint on your tipi. Stencils work great and are very easy to do. The more geometric the pattern the easier it will be as well. Decide if your tipi will be displayed standing up in a cone shape or laying flat in a display. If your teepee will be displayed flat then you can paint on it as you would a regular canvas. If you plan to set your teepee up after painting then you will need to consider the 3D nature of it. Here are a few tips on making simple designs for a standing tepee:
  • To paint horizontal stripes: Find the Center of the Tepee 2 inches above the Tie Flap. Anchor one end of your string here so that neither the tipi or string changes position. Find the point where the string meets the edge of where you want your stripe. Place the pencil at this point on the string and secure it by tying it in place or holding it firm with your fingers. Pull the pencil around the tipi in a semi circle where you want your stripe. Don't draw too dark or use a pen in case you mess up. Keep repeating this where you want the edge of a stripe to be until you have all your guide lines drawn.
  • To paint vertical stripes: Find the Center of the Teepee two inches above the Tie Flap. Mark this spot and ensure the tipi and mark won't move while you are drawing. Line one end of your straight edge up with the mark you made just above the center and the other end where you want the stripe to start at the base. This way the stripes will taper as they go toward the top creating the illusion of a taller Tipi.
  • To paint triangles along the base: Decide how many triangles you want around the bottom of the tipi. Divide the length of the hem by how many triangles you plan to paint and use this number to make the bottom edge of a stencil. The other two sides of the triangle will be equal to each other. Smaller triangle sides will create a shorter border around the base of the teepee while longer sides will make a taller border. When your get your stencil made lay it on the canvas and trace around it lightly over and over until you have the whole hem covered.
Now you are ready to paint! Use a drop cloth if you are doing this indoors on floors you like or gather clean rocks to keep the edges from blowing up if you are doing it outside. If you are painting a Tiny Tipis brand Tipi I would suggest indoors since they are small enough to run away from you with a good gust before they get staked down.

If you desire the paint to stay on the surface like it would with a traditional stretched canvas you will need to gesso the surface first. If you want the paint to soak into the canvas more then you won't need to worry about that.

Mix your paints according to the directions on the labels. Remember you can use water to make your acrylics thinner and soak in better but water will destroy the bonds of the paint quicker than product made specifically for that. The purpose of thinning is so that the paint soaks into the canvas more and also to reduce the chance of the paint cracking as it gets older or if you have to fold the tipi cover. If you plan to set your tipi up outdoors I highly recommend Fluid Acrylics By Golden Acrylics in conjunction with their brand of Flow Release. This will withstand the test of time and the elements better than anything else on the marker but they are pricey if you are on a budget.

If you make a mistake while painting quickly dip your rag into your bucket of water and dab the mistake. Don't rub! This will spread the paint around making your mistake even bigger! If you gessoed your canvas tipi cover first it will be a little easier to clean up any mistakes. Go slowly when painting close to the lines since a slight twitch of the hand can cause your perfectly smooth line to look jagged. The smoother your lines the more professional the painting will look.

When you are done painting make sure to let the Tipi Cover dry for at least 4 hours before moving it. If you move it before the paint dries fully you risk drips, smears, and areas of darker pigment where the paint pools.

   This informative article brought to you by Tiny Tipis LLC. Tiny Tipis is a small handmade company providing environmentally friendly products to help customers reduce their carbon footprint. We focus on using high quality materials with attention to detail and running our company as close to zero waste as we possibly can. All shipping materials are recyclable, compostable, and/or biodegradable. See more of what Tiny Tipis does for our planet at any of the links below:

 Thank you for being environmentally responsible!!!


  1. Yeah! You are right canvas is the preferred choice for painting by artists today, you added useful diy painting tips but i want to say something that if you can add some photo so it will be an impressive post.

    1. Thank you for reading Ian! Here is a link to a hand painted Tipi I made recently: More photos to come soon. :)