An Introduction to Canvas Printing is an independent review guide covering business and educational products and software. This website contains affiliate links and we may be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking these links.

A decent way of improving home décor is to hang beautiful and eye-catching photos, especially family photos and printed artwork, on the walls.

This enlivens the living room, as well as creates the ambiance of a settled and happy family. Even so, how can one get an ordinary family photo, usually taken by a digital camera or high-end smartphone, to be reproduced as a large art or print that can be framed and hanged on the wall?

One of the best ways to do this is to have the digital photo reproduced as a canvas print, and then frame the canvas.

What is Canvas Printing?

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Canvas print should not be confused with a mounted print or acrylic print. In the mounted print, a paper print – not a canvas print – is attached to a backing board, which makes it easy to frame or hang on the wall.

The photographic paper can be used in this mounted print. If this printed photographic paper is placed between two sheets of acrylic or plexiglass, then the result is acrylic paint.

Additionally, there exists art print where the image is printed onto cardstock or pasteboard, which is usually a paper thicker than the photo paper.

The key process in canvas printing after optimization of the digital image is physical printing.

The Printing Process

image from CanvasHQ

In canvas printing, the image is printed onto stretched canvas to produce canvas art. This printing is normally done by an inkjet printer that can reproduce the digital image as high-quality canvas art.

This canvas art is usually the final output of an art project, where intangible art is reproduced on a physical medium. This means that digitally-created art can be printed on canvas.

The main methods of canvas printing are:

Offset Printing

This is the traditional method of canvas printing where a rubber blanket is used to transfer the image onto the canvas.

Dye-diffusion printing

This digital printing technique was formerly called dye sublimation printing until it was proved that the dye used turned into a liquid phase when heated.

In this method, heat is used to transfer dye from a sublimation transfer sheet onto the print medium, that is (i.e) the object to be printed.

To begin with, the piezoelectric print head of the printer deposits jets of liquid gel ink onto a high-release inkjet paper which is thus transformed from a paper and into a sublimation transfer sheet.

This sheet and the print medium (called the substrate) are then placed onto a heat press machine, and the process of sublimation begins.

Depending on the substrate and dye used, the machine precisely sets the temperature and pressure, along with the duration, of the heat press process that allows for image transfer onto the substrate.

This printing technique is suitable for polyester canvas. CanvasHQ uses this technique, along with dye sublimation.

Dye sublimation

In this method, a special ink that sublimates when heated is used by a heat transfer imprinting printer to print an image on a print medium such as canvas.

It operates in the same way as dye-diffusion printing. Even so, heat transfer of the dye is achieved at a higher pressure and lower temperature in dye sublimation as compared to dye-diffusion printing.

The digital printer used for canvas printing ranges in size from a small consumer model to a large format model. This printer allows for adjustments to made during printing.

The main adjustments made during printing include auto-adjustments of saturation, contrast, and brightness so as to optimize the fidelity of the printed image (to the digital image), hence outputting the details in the digital image in the canvas print.

Canvas vs Paper

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Printing the image on canvas creates a more artistic feel as compared to printing the image on a photographic paper. The reason for this is that the canvas print evokes the artistic feel of an acrylic or oil painting.

This raises the question, what is canvas, and how does it differ from paper?

Canvas is a fabric made using hemp, cotton, linen, or polyester fibers. As compared to paper, the canvas is a stronger, more flexible, and more durable material.

Normally, most modern canvas fabrics are made using polyester or cotton fibers. So, what is the difference between cotton and polyester fabrics as it relates to canvas printing?

The difference is the value of color exactness. In cotton canvas, ink seeps into the fibers where it is absorbed, hence creating a long-lasting matte canvas print that evokes the feeling of museum-quality art.

On the other hand, the ink does not penetrate into polyester fibers but instead stay on their surface, hence creating vivid prints with sharp edges if a high-quality printer is used.

Comparing the two, cotton canvas creates a less vivid but more paint-like print as compared to the polyester canvas. Additionally, the polyester canvas is normally cheaper than cotton canvas.

Cotton canvas is best for reproducing artwork because of its texture that easily produces a matte finish, which creates the painted effect.

We recently reviewed CanvasHQ, and with regard to this, they use a cotton canvas for reproducing artwork that has the feel of an oil painting.

The canvas print can then be framed, or be prepared with a frameless border. Relatedly, canvas printing can be done on either a framed or unframed canvas.

In the framed canvas, the canvas is stretched onto the frame. The gallery-wrapping technique is used to produce unframed canvas print. In this technique, the canvas is first wrapped around stretcher bars, and the bar is pushed apart to stretch the canvas.

If the image is to cover the rounded edges of the stretcher frame, then the printing is done to produce a full-bleed print.

Framing the Prints

frames -CanvasHQ

Framed canvas print allows the frame color to tie the print into the local ambiance of the room by matching the color scheme of the walls to the frame color (scheme).

Likewise, it can modify the mood evoked by the printed photo or artwork depending on the frame type. For example (e.g), a black border frame ensures the focus of the audience is on the printed image, while stylized frames give the image an emotional character.

Moreover, framing a canvas print allows one to place the artwork in different frames, and if the frame is topped by plexiglass, then the printed image will have a glare or even shimmer under bright illumination.

Relatedly, one must know that a larger canvas print needs a larger frame, which can make the framed print heavy, bulky, more expensive, and difficult to transport.

A frameless canvas print creates a focus of attention, especially if it uses a polyester canvas, which explains why this frameless artwork enlivens the room.

Types of Finish

finishes CanvasHQ

The polyester canvas allows CanvasHQ to create a print that has either a glossy or iridescent finish. As mentioned, the canvas print has a matte finish if a cotton canvas is used.

Canvas fabric is best suited for printing a high-quality photo, as a poor-quality photo does create a very poor printed image.

As a preventive measure against poor print results, there needs to be a system in place to alert one of a poor photo/image quality before the image is printed onto canvas.

CanvasHQ has this system in place. Also, it is for this reason that it has the free touchups tool which allows for poor-quality photos to be upgraded to an acceptable canvas-quality image.

Moreover, allows for the addition of image effects on the submitted digital image to enhance its aesthetic quality. The image effects offered are classic black-and-white (B&W), classic color, highkey B&W, perfect color, cannonball, landscape clarity, vintage wash, and 72 & Sunny.

About V50

The editorial team here at is made up of a number of writers based all over the world. Our interests and experience cover the full range of what we talk about here. Clare Turner is one of our key contributers writing about the home. David Lachance is our resident e-commerce and business guru, if it's anything to do with that, he's your man. Kevin Simpson takes care of the website layout and publishing and also heads up our education section, with in-depth reviews and articles on courses and training. Find out more about all of us here.

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