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How To Choose Between Canvas and Framed Prints

One of the most common questions I get is what exactly are canvas prints, and what are the differences and/or benefits in relation to more traditional matted and framed prints. The short answer is it all depends on your personal tastes and preferences, budget, interior design, and location where the photograph will be hung. Let’s look at each option, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and why you would select one over the other.

I have been printing and framing my own work from the very beginning of my career as a landscape photographer, and it is very much a part of the creative process for me. The print is the final “performance” of a photograph, and as such is open to interpretation by the print maker. I chose early on to be completely involved with this crucial step and have invested lots of time, energy, and passion in producing prints that offer the best interpretation of my photographs.

Prints on Paper

Printing on paper is the traditional way of displaying a photograph, and it certainly has an aesthetic quality that is unique and well understood. Most of my printing has been onto paper of  various finishes and textures, and I currently use a fine art 100% cotton based mat paper. When matted and framed,  this creates a very dramatic finish that I like very much.

Advantages of Framed Prints:

  • traditional look and appeal
  • our beautiful wood molding selections can add a formal and decorative accent to your home or office
  • Paper prints exhibit more detail than canvas
  • Black and white prints excel on fiber based papers

Now for some important disadvantages:

  • glare and reflections from light
  • a smaller image size for a specific wall space (accounting for a 4-5″ border around the print for mat and frame)
  • larger sizes are heavy and expensive
  • perception of being separated from the print (becomes much more apparent when you experience the same photograph as a canvas)
  • frames need to match the decor of home or office

Prints on Canvas

Looking to combat some of these disadvantages, as well as offering new and great looking options for customers, I began experimenting with alternatives a few years ago. I hesitated printing to canvas because I did not want to compromise important elements to my work, namely detail, texture, and richness of shadows. However, very recently both inkjet printers and new formulations of canvas have allowed me to maintain these important critical details. I now print onto canvas without hesitation. After printing and letting the canvas dry for 24 hours, I double coat the canvas with a protectant against UV and dust, then stretch onto 2” stretcher bars.  I create the entire finished product in my studio by hand, guaranteeing consistency and quality control.

Advantages of Canvas Prints:

  • do not exhibit any glare or reflections
  • largest image size for a given wall space (no mats or borders)
  • weigh much less that framed prints
  • much easier and economical to create extremely large sizes (up to 40″ x 100″)
  • canvas prints provide a frameless presentation which creates a window into the scene
  • creates a painterly effect which is very pleasing
  • can be installed in semi-humid environments (bathrooms)
  • lack of frame blends well into any style decor in home or office
  • can be placed into wood floater frame for a “finished” look (seen above)
  • creative multi-panel options available

Some disadvantages:

  • texture of canvas can sometimes be distracting (I choose the images I print onto canvas carefully)
  • photograph can not be changed (permanent)

Deciding the Best Option

In the end, it all depends on your tastes, preferences, and needs. I have installed many canvas prints in corporate offices where any other option would have been cost prohibitive and certainly not as large and dramatic. Likewise, many customers love the frameless look and the flexibility of positioning without the need for specific lighting. I really love the non glare feature, flexibility with large and panoramic sizes, and wonderful texture and color that a canvas brings to a room.

Of course, a beautiful frame is a classic, traditional look that will never go out of style and works well in an appropriate setting. For me, some photographs just work better on smooth photographic paper. Matted and framed, the image stands apart and creates a nice accent to a formal dining or living room.

I like both, and certainly can help you decide which might be best for your application. We offer free consultations, and guarantee all of our prints for life, so you can be sure we’re not happy until you’re completely satisfied with your canvas OR framed print.

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This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. I am working in pastels right now. Does it look natural to print a pastel image on canvas? I bought a roll of canvas but have not used it yet as I was wondering if it would look odd and unnatural. What do you think?

    1. Hi Mary – Hard to say, it all depends on what final effect you want. While photography is traditionally printed on paper, and most people expect to see it that way, canvas creates a different effect, one that I think works well with certain images. Only you can decide it it works for you. I always think experimentation is vital to any art form – give it a try.

      RR

  2. I love the look of the Gallery wrapped canvases, especially in a casual family room. Seems to soften the edges and be more inviting. Frames have their place, but can be very formal. I see more and more people ordering canvases, especially the big 40×60’s for the large impact. Kinda like yours above.

    When it comes to big spaces like your above I love the continuity of a large canvas. My perfect canvas, the ocean, beach, kinda like yours.

    Hey Mary, I saw a pastel on canvas on Pinterest, it was a print for a girls baby nursery, adorable, so it depends on the decor. Dawn

  3. RR jr.
    I am looking to buy a vintage Japanese print on e-bay…both canvas & print are offered & there are many photos to choose from. Contrary to what you stated, as the size progresses on canvas so does his asking price. Typically, from an 8 x 10 canvas, to a 24 x 36 the price almost quadruples, from mid- twenties to well over a hundred dollars. He tubes the prints on paper & I believe he will do the same with the canvas.What questions should I ask this person ??? If my canvas print is tubed, won’t that ruin it??? Should I be leery of paying over a hundred dollars for a 16 x 20 or 24 x 36 canvas that is not even stretched…Or stretched & then undone to ship… For a 24 x 36 photo he charges in the low thirties…an 18 x 24 is in the low to mid-twenties…

  4. Hi RR Jr,
    I am planning to get a big print of my daughter’s swimming photograph. It’s a front close up of a butterfly stroke. It will go on the wall in her room. May be a 20″/30″. Do you recommend a canvas print or a mat print with a frame?
    Thanks.

  5. Hello Robert,
    I don’t know how else to contact you except for here.
    I live in a little town in Queensland,Australia and am looking to learn how to put photographic prints on to canvas. I can not find any thing appropriate in Australia.Do you teach such, or would you be willing for me to be your apprentice (will pay for the teachings) for a little while.I know it will seem like a strange request but I am willing to fly to the States and accommodate myself for a while. I have another 2 years before I retire and am looking to learn a new skill. If you can not see yourself in a position to help me can you recommend where I could enroll to learn this skill.
    I do hope to hear from you. Yours Sincerely Anne Livingston

  6. Thanks for this great post, Robert. I found your site while searching Google for information on the best medium onto which I should print some nature photos I recently took with my Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge phone. I’m just starting to explore your site. I think I will be printing it onto canvas. Do you have a recommended web site for a printing service? Thanks again.

    Rich

  7. Hi Robert, what kind of canvas would you recommend using for prints and where can I buy it? Also, what exactly do you use for a protectant?

  8. Thanks for this post, really helpful and intresting canvas prints.I really want to know more about difference Between Canvas and Framed Prints. I individually probably will never do it because I appreciate developing supports for my perform but still it’s awesome to know. I really enjoyed your photography! I would suggest one more website you can visit here: http://www.canvasndecor.ca/canvas-print.html

  9. It’s interesting that you mentioned how a paper print allows you to see more detail than on canvas. Buying framed art would also be a good way not only to get more detail but to accentuate those details with the kind of frame that you have. Sometimes that frame can be as eye-catching as the painting is!

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