Hand-Painted Canvas, the design is painted on the canvas by the designer, or painted to their specifications by an employee or contractor. Canvases may be stitch-painted, meaning each thread intersection is painstakingly painted so that the stitcher has no doubts about what color is meant to be used at that intersection. Alternatively, they may be hand-painted, meaning that the canvas is painted by hand but the stitcher will have to use their judgment about what colors to use if a thread intersection is not clearly painted. Hand-painted canvases allow the stitcher to give free range to their creativity with threads and unique stitches by not having to pay attention to a separate chart. In North America this is the most popular form of needlepoint canvas.
Charted Canvas designs are available in book or leaflet form. They are available at book stores and independent needlework stores. Charted Canvas designs are typically printed in two ways: either in grid form with each thread intersection being represented with a symbol that shows what color is meant to be stitched on that intersection, or as a line drawing where the stitcher is to trace the design onto his canvas and then fill in those areas with the colors listed. Books typically include a grouping of designs from a single designer such as Kaffe Fassett or Candace Bahouth, or may be centered around a theme such as Christmas or Victorian Needlepoint. Leaflets usually include one to two designs and are usually printed by the individual designer.
Free-form needlepoint designs are created by the stitcher. They may be based around a favorite photograph, stitch, thread color, etc. The stitcher just starts stitching! Many interesting pieces are created this way. It allows for the addition of found objects, appliqué, computer-printed photographs, goldwork, or specialty stitches.
While traditionally needlepoint has been done to create a solid fabric, more modern needlepoint incorporates open canvas, techniques which allow some of the unstitched, or lightly stitched, canvas to show through. Some of these techniques include "shadow" or "lite" stitching, blackwork on canvas, and pattern darning.
Needlepoint continues to evolve as stitchers use new techniques and threads, and add appliqué or found materials. The line between needlepoint and other forms of counted-thread embroidery is becoming blurred as new stitchers adapt techniques and materials from other forms of embroidery to needlepoint.