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What is a Canvas Print?

By Donn Saylor
Updated May 17, 2024
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A canvas print is the reproduction of a painting, photograph, or other image onto a piece of stretched canvas material. The original image is typically smaller than the image that ends up on the canvas. This type of production, enlarging the original image without losing its detail or quality, is known as wide format printing or large format printing. Though they come in a variety of shapes, canvas prints are commonly square or rectangular in shape and are made for framing or hanging.

The canvases used in canvas printing are generally made of cotton or linen. In the past, hemp was often utilized in the production of canvases, but now most manufacturers find cotton, linen, and other readily available materials to be much more economical. A more recent type of material developed for canvas prints is Poly Canvas, which is derived from plastic.

The weight of canvases used in canvas prints are usually categorized by a number system. The higher the number on the scale, the lighter the canvas is. This system helps manufacturers determine which type of canvas will most complement the ink transferred during the production process.

Artwork is transformed onto a canvas print through one of two major modes of reproduction. One is known as offset printing, in which an image is inked, transferred from a plate to a rubber mat, and then transferred again onto the canvas. While this has historically been the most popular method of canvas print production and is still used widely in the publication of paper products such as magazines, computerized printing processes are becoming more and more common. Inkjet printing and dye sublimation, both of which utilize computer printers, are a practical way to mass produce canvas prints. This more technologically advanced type of printing also makes it easier to produce a large format print, maintaining the integrity and finer points of the original image.

After the image transfer process is complete, a canvas print is stretched over a wood frame and secured with strategically placed tacks or staples. This is known as a gallery wrap. A gallery wrap is different from a standard stretched canvas, however. Stretched canvas is a part of a longer process in which a canvas print is prepared for framing, and the nails, tacks, or staples are often still visible. With a gallery wrap, the fasteners are hidden from plain sight—usually along the sides of the canvas—and the print is immediately ready for a frame or for hanging directly on a wall.

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Discussion Comments
By indigomoth — On Jun 25, 2013

This can get quite expensive if you go to the wrong place. If you're looking to get some photos put onto canvas make sure you shop around. You want somewhere that's going to do it well and at the minimum of cost.

That usually means going somewhere where they have a guarantee that if the print doesn't come out right they will do you another one. Because large canvas prints can cost hundreds of dollars and you don't want to spend that and then have your child's face stretched around the corner of the piece.

By browncoat — On Jun 24, 2013

@clintflint - In some ways I agree with you and I definitely wouldn't say no to every kind of canvas print, but most of the time the cheap ones are very generic. I was living with a girl once who insisted on crowding the living room walls with random pictures of cars and cities. She didn't know which cities they were or what kind of cars, she just liked the look of them.

I thought they just looked cheap. I mean, I never said anything to get, but they were so obviously just cheap canvas prints without any kind of artistic value that I was kind of embarrassed by them.

I'd rather stick some real art by a starving artist up, or even something that means something to a person, like a film poster or pictures of your family, than to just fill the space with random photos of cars and cities.

By clintflint — On Jun 23, 2013

This has become such a cheap way of getting art, it's really nice for those of us who can't afford to buy real canvas art. If you look in the right place in department stores, they will have a whole bunch of canvas art prints which you can take home without needing to frame them or anything and just hang them up.

They are usually cheaper than framed prints, I suppose because the frame can be expensive. I don't think a home seems like a home until you've got a bit of art up on the walls.

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