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seems like a photographer here might have experience with this... yesterday I bought 15 canvases 36x48 and larger for $60... so the deal of a century... except they all have photos glued to them. I tried a heat gun (slow and a bit dangerous), hot water (no help), and wallpaper removal (very little help). These were all done by a professional shop so it's not modge podge glue, and I suspect that they were glued and pressed since the surface is so flat and rolls over the edge slightly. 

Any ideas would be appreciated. Steam? Submerse in near boiling water? Find a walk-in deep freeze?

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Not all glues are the types that can be undone without destroying the pieces.

You may try "Goo Gone". However, as Greg pointed out, not all can be removed. I recently had to deal with a problem wherein cold press laminate was applied but suffered a damage. Trying to remove the laminate was fruitless. Gave up and scrapped the piece. After talking with 3M (the laminate producer) they know of nothing that will remove it. Especially when it has had time to  "set up".

Depending on the use for the canvas: If the photos are on the back or if possible, why not apply something over the photos. Cover them with new material as part of the artwork.

"Bleach out" the photos and paint them into the final product.

With enough analysis of the chemicals used, the photos can be removed. All chemical bonds can be broken. However, is the research, and effort worth the savings?

Have you tried nail polish remover? Acetone?

My challenge so far has been more of the paper/photo removal than the glue underneath. I tried nail polish removal on the glue as a test and it works, just stinky. Some of these are 10+ years old and the surface is super slick and flat with no texture, so the first one I just gessoed-over looked cheap. Maybe I need to add some texture to my texture 

If the acetone (nail polish remover) is working for the glue removal, then your problem is solved. Just score / scrape the photos so the acetone can get under them, to the glue. There are different types of nail polish remover acetone and non-acetone. Test what works best for you. As I am not a painter, make sure the products wont damage your canvas for accepting what you intend to apply later.

The age of the prints will have a bearing on how they were done. The older process was to strip the emulsion layer from a paper print and permanently bond it on top of canvas. In that process the emulsion conformed to the canvas underneath and would have the texture come through. Those will be just about impossible to remove in one piece and the effort may way exceed the value of your time and effort.

Another process was to dry mount (heated waxy tissue) the entire print on top of the canvas. That wasn't such a good idea and the canvas texture barely, if at all, came through. The best thing though is that process is reversible by applying heat. Use a paper barrier on top of the print and use a hot iron. You'll need to start at a corner and gradually work your way across the print, lifting a section at the time.

If it's a vacuum sealed adhesive, it may well be permanent. If that's the case, spray it with some textured spray paint, gesso over it, and do your painting.

Sometimes a bargain isn't a bargain :-(


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