Photo Paper vs. Canvas Print for Gifts/Art

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by rgw, Nov 18, 2004.

  1. rgw


    I would like to have one of my photos enlarged, printed and framed as
    a Christmas gift for my mother-in-law. My in-laws have several
    Wyland paintings, prints and sculptures that I would like my image to
    blend in with (meaning I'd like the framed image to look like a fine
    print they probably purchased from a gallery). What medium should I
    choose to have my image printed on to give it that professional
    look? I have found several posts on comparing different
    types of photo paper and I have found posts comparing different types
    of canvas. But I have yet to find a comparison between fine art
    photo paper and canvas and which finished product looks better. I
    don't think I have ever seen a photo printed on canvas, so I don't
    know what that looks like. I am going to send out my image to an
    online photo lab such as, or Any
    input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  2. I?ve had the same problem. I wanted to give a family photo as a gift. I solved the problem by getting two prints made, one on canvas and one on fine photo paper. I really liked the way the canvas one turned out so I had it matted and framed and gave that as a gift. The one printed on photo paper was very good too so I had it matted and framed and kept it for myself.
  3. rgw


    Thanks for your response, Thomas. I'm happy to hear you really liked the canvas print. How similar or different did the canvas print look compared to the paper print? Did the canvas print have as high-resolution of a look as the paper print? Did having the image printed on canvas give it more of a fine-art/professional quality look, or did it make the image look more like a painting due to the texture of the canvas? What are the main differences between the canvas print and the paper print in regards to appearance? Sorry for all the questions. I really appreciate your time!
  4. I can't help you with a comparison but do have some observations to make having had a few pictures printed onto canvas.

    First is the appearance of the picture varies greatly depending on how it has been lit and from what angle you are viewing it. The small bumps and indentations that are characteristic of the canvas surface catch the light at lots of different angles.

    The main effect of this is to lighten the shadow areas.

    The same "bumpy" characteristic of the canvas also serves to hide small details in the image - but this effect is less pronounced on bigger prints.

    Lastly I have found the colours to be quite good but any very vivid colours will be toned down considerably. The overall look is still very good but don't expect miracles on very vivid colours.

    Overall I have been very pleased with the results (sorry I have no idea what printer or canvas they used)

    I also realised that per square inch the bigger pictures were only about a third the cost of the small ones (in this shop anyway) so a good excuse to go BIG with the pictures.


  5. It depends on the image, the process, and the final print size.

    I'm assuming you are talking inkjet printing because you are talking canvas and fine art paper. That being the case, I can give you some generalities that may help point you in the right direction.

    First, smoother surfaces carry detail better. The bigger the print, the less this matters as people tend to back up to view the whole print.

    Second, there's a practical size limit for fine art paper. It has to do with framing actually. To frame a paper print, you have to use a window matte scheme to keep the surface of the print off the glazing. This limits you to the largest size matte boards easily available, which are 40x60 inches in the USA. A few are made at 48x96, but I've never seen them in person or found them in stock at a distributor. This limits your fine art print to about 32x40 inches, matting out to a frame size of about 40x48 inches. To go larger with paper prints, you really have to think about unconventional presentation methods, like mounting onto aluminum sheets, face mounting onto plexiglass, and other things that aren't going to blend well with the existing art as you describe it.

    Third, if you use canvas, you can stretch it onto stretcher bars just like an oil painting. You can then frame it like an oil painting, either in a frame without glass, or in a "floater" frame (a modern look).

    Fourth, if you want to display without glass, you need to coat the print in a protective lacquer. This is especially true with inkjet prints made using pigment inks, because the pigment sits on the surface of the print. Pigment ink does not sink into the print. This means the surface is fragile and has to be protected in some way.

    All that said, I think either way will work. I make prints at 0.8x1.0 meters (31.5x39.4 inches) either way depending on application. Below that I print on smooth matte inkjet papers. Above that I print on smooth canvas (but the texture is considerably rougher than paper).

    I matte and frame the paper prints using the library of congress method:

    I coat the canvas prints with a semi-gloss lacquer, stretch them, and frame them in floater frames.

    I've printed the same image both ways, but not at the same size so I've never had a direct side-by-side comparison. My impression is that you give up some detail using canvas, but that it doesn't matter much on big prints because you have to step back to look at the print as a whole. Other than that, I find them very comparable.

    Your satisfaction with either method is going to depend a lot on the people doing the work. But you knew that already ;-)

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