How to Make Canvas Printing Work for You, Part 1: Materials, Finishes and Textures

Mountain Dreamworks Fine Art Canvas Banners
The most typical canvas application is a gallery or museum wrap over a frame. However, some print shops use canvas for framed art or banner-type applications like this one by Mountain Dreamworks, Ketchum, Idaho, printed on Sunset Select Matte Canvas.

Is canvas printing a fad? It’s certainly a growing and profitable segment of the print market, and if it’s a fad, it’s one that should continue for years to come, which means it’s probably not just a fad.

According to InfoTrends, a printing industry research firm, printed canvas is expected to grow from about 500 million square feet in 2013 to 860 million square feet in 2018 for a five-year CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 11.6%.

InfoTrends also reports that canvas represents about 12 percent of the total online photo printing market in the U.S., and that social media sites, like Instagram, have actually helped fuel growth in this market. After all, while it’s nice to share photos with your friends on a computer screen, many consumers still desire something distinctive outside of cyberspace they can hang up on the wall.

That’s healthy growth and represents a lot of opportunity in various market segments, including: limited-edition art reproductions, consumer photography, home and corporate décor, hospitality, hospitals, restaurants and bars, and just about anyone or any organization looking to spice up their spaces with the unique canvas look.

Canvas by Chromaco
Perfect reproduction of Colleen Wilcox’s art by Honolulu-based Chromaco on Sunset Reserve Matte Canvas.

For print shops, sign companies, commercial printers, photo labs, photographers and fine art reproduction companies the big questions are about utilizing the best production methods, choosing the right materials and finding the best ways to finish canvas based on their market, both as it stands now and where they want to be in a year, two years and beyond.

Materials and Textures
There are quite a few characteristics to take into consideration regarding inkjet canvas currently available on the market: base material, weave, weight finish and optical brighteners (OBAs). All of these characteristics, both by themselves and combined, factor into which canvas is chosen for a given project.

Choosing the “right” canvas is mostly subjective since different people like different looks. Some may like a more textured surface, while others will prefer a smoother surface, for instance. It may also depend on the lighting situation where the canvas is being displayed.

When you’re discussing a canvas print project with a client, make sure you understand their expectations and be cognizant of the environment in which the canvas will be displayed. All of these factors, including budget, will help determine the right canvas for the project. First, let’s look at the base materials, starting with the most common, polyester/cotton blends.

Poly/Cotton Blends: Traditionally, artist canvases were made of linen or cotton. Poly/cotton blends seek to split the difference between the aesthetic qualities of cotton with the consistency polyester provides. Most of these blends are 60/40 in favor of polyester since the polyester helps ensure that the canvas is consistent in the manufacturing process, and thus prints consistently from roll to roll and lot to lot. No one likes surprises, and a poly/cotton blend ensures that first print will look the same as the 50th print.

Polyester: Typically used for higher-volume projects because it’s less expensive, polyester canvas is smoother than poly/cotton blends or 100% cotton canvas. It’s often used for décor applications, decorative signage and even banners and wallcoverings. Some like the smoother surface for photography reproductions where texture may detract from the image, while artists prefer the texture of a more traditional-looking canvas. While the tactile and aesthetic qualities of canvas – base material, texture and finish – are mostly based on what a given client likes, the economics of production may dictate its use.

Cotton: 100% cotton canvases tend to have the most texture and personality, which is what most people think of when they envision art canvas. But because they are made up of 100% natural fibers, there are more likely to be variations in whiteness, weave and texture from lot to lot. To some printmakers, this variability in the color and look of their prints is an advantage because it gives each print a very original look. That’s great for a custom, one-of-a-kind print, but may not be so great for projects that require consistency from print to print, even shorter-run limited edition prints.

Richard Herschberger Sunset Production Matte Canvas
Sunset Production Matte Canvas is 100% polyester, and as the name implies is geared toward higher-volume production work that still requires quality reproduction.

In addition to the base material, the texture of canvas is determined by the diameter of the threads used to create the canvas and how tightly the threads are woven. The tighter the weave, the less texture you’ll see in the finished canvas.

The ratio of threads on the loom running in the X and Y directions also affects the texture. A canvas with a 2-over-1 weave has more texture than a 1-over-1 weave since there are more loops per square centimeter.

A highly textured base canvas may lose some of its textured look if coatings are applied to change the finish or make it more water- and UV-resistant. Just be aware of this as you apply coatings; the more you apply will fill in the peaks and valleys of the material, altering the texture to a smoother finish.

Inkjet canvases typically range in weight from 16 oz. to 22 oz., though there are lighter and heavier canvases on the market. A heavier canvas will obviously be more durable during stretching and finishing and when it’s handled, but a thinner canvas will usually be more economical. Again, the client may prefer the aesthetics of a heavier-weight canvas or may not care either way.

Finishes: Matte, Satin and Gloss
The finish of a canvas – whether it’s matte, satin (luster) or gloss – is once again almost wholly dependent on what the client prefers, though the lighting environment will be a factor. However, there are certain qualities of each finish to keep in mind…

Matte: This finish is usually preferred for fine art and lighting situations where glare could be an issue. The “problem” with a matte finish is that it has a smaller color gamut. If there are a lot of bright colors that require greater accuracy, a satin or gloss finish may be best. However, adding a gloss coating to a matte canvas can help mitigate this restrained color gamut, and make the images pop more than if they weren’t coated. Still, many matte canvases have a good color gamut that will work well in most applications.

Satin: As the name implies, you’ll get a nice satiny sheen with this finish that is not as susceptible to glare, but expands the color gamut. You’ll typically choose this finish simply because the client likes the look of it.

Gloss: This is a great option for canvases designed for solvent or latex printers because you can print and skip the coating step, saving time and money in the process. For aqueous printers you have to be extra careful when you stretch as a gloss inkjet coating is more likely to crack. For artists who prefer a matte finish but are especially picky about hitting their colors as closely as possible, you can print to a gloss canvas and apply a matte coating.

Sunset by Fredrix Matte Canvas
Sunset by Fredrix Matte Canvas is OBA-free, but with a brighter white point than most OBA-free canvases on the market.

OBAs and Archivability
Optical brighteners, or OBAs, have been used in traditional photo papers since the 1950s and photographers have had a love-hate relationship with this additive ever since. While increasing the whiteness and thus the color pop of printed images, many are concerned that this decreases the archival qualities of the print.

Archival specifications are defined by various international institutions such as ISO, DIN, and the Library of Congress. Within the specifications, there are allowances for chemical additives to brighten and stabilize papers.

Many of the most popular fine art papers and canvas on the market today utilize optical brighteners to create consistent color base materials. These papers have been tested by various organizations, such as Rochester Institute of Technology, Wilhelm Imaging Research, and others, obtaining 100+ year ratings.

For a more thorough discussion of this topic, click here to read an article by Dr. Ray Work, To Brighten or Not to Brighten.

For the rest of this series, click on the following links:

Part 2: Printer Technologies for Canvas

Part 3: Latex, Solvent and UV-Curable Printing

Part 4: Coating Canvas

Part 5: Canvas Wrap Options


Look out Below! Sales and Application Guide to Floor and Carpet Graphics

Selling, printing and applying indoor floor graphicsAdvertising on floors is certainly not a new concept. Ever since the first electrostatic printers hit the market in the pre-Internet days, printer and media manufacturers have been preaching the possibilities of floor ads.

While most print shops were sold on the concept from the beginning, many end-use customers have been somewhat behind the curve. Now, businesses across the board are catching on and specifying advertising on floors for point-of-purchase, trade show, general retail, and special event promotions.

“Floor graphics reach a lot of people in a lot of different ways,” says David Snyder, owner of Premier Media Group (PMG), Lubbock, Texas. “We use floor graphics in our production area as safety signage for our employees and visitors, especially around our screen printing carousels and other automated equipment. At special events, arenas and trade shows, floor graphics can be used as directional and informational signage. For advertising at the point of sale it’s one of the most effective ways to reach the consumer.”

How to apply indoor floor graphicsSnyder says that PMG has seen a sharp rise in floor graphics orders over the past year or so as more companies and organizations have realized the benefits of this in-your-face advertising medium. This observation is echoed by Tim Green of InfoTrends, a research company based in Weymouth, Mass., who wrote in Fabric Graphics magazine: “For a reasonable price (less than $10 per square foot) retailers, museums, theatres, hospitals, airports and malls can better optimize their space using custom, digitally printed floor graphics. In recent InfoTrends studies, we found that professional wide format digital print buyers expect to increase their spending on floor graphics.”

Other studies by the Point of Purchase Advertising Institute (POPAI), Advertising Research Federation and Information Resources Inc., show an increased sales volume of products promoted with floor graphics of 10-13 percent.

Simply put, floor and carpet graphics boost visibility for the advertiser, not only at retail, but in other special event and trade show venues as well. With increased competition at the point of sale and beyond, savvy companies are finding that floor graphics simply sell their brands.

Floor graphics make consumers stop, look, and think and provide a cost-effective advertising medium in an increasingly fragmented advertising world. Floor graphics simply make the point and engage the viewer where it counts.

Applying floor graphics on marbleBrandon Bauer, graphics manager for Ben E. Keith in Denton, Texas, has found that floor graphics are an effective way to get the beverage distributor’s specialty brands the space they need at the point of sale. And, Bauer has transferred the floor graphic recipe to bar-top tables in Texas Roadhouses throughout the northern Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“We’ve been using LexJet’s floor graphic materials as cut-out graphics on bar tables at Texas Roadhouse, and I’ve heard that they like it so much that they’re making sure all their locations across the country have them,” says Bauer.

Beyond tabletops and countertops, floor graphics printed with the shop’s HP Z6100 have helped Ben E. Keith realize greater and more prominent placement at their accounts. And, the graphics tend to stay on the floor for longer periods of time, ensuring constant brand awareness.

Installation Guidelines
For floor and carpet advertising, the two most important things to keep in mind is to make sure the application surface is clean and dry before installation, and to keep the cleaners away (floor waxes, vacuums, etc.) for about 24 hours after the application.

How to apply and use carpet graphicsAfter that, it’s okay to treat it as if it’s part of the floor with typical floor cleaners/wax. When applying the graphics to a tile floor, keep the edge of the graphics a half-inch or so away from the grout line. If the edge is too close to the grout line, the material is more likely to lift at the edge.

Also, and when possible, try to cut the graphic so the corners are rounded, which also decreases the likelihood that the graphic will lift at the edge. For all types of floor and countertop graphics, warm water, mild dish soap, and a sponge can be used to periodically clean the surface of the graphic.

The following instructions for installing floor and carpet graphics are specific to LexJet’s Simple Indoor FloorAd, Simple Clear Indoor FloorAd and Simple CarpetAd combined with an approved laminate (see below). Both solutions are warranted and are UL listed for slip resistance. If you’re using another combination, be sure to consult with the manufacturer about warranties and slip resistance. There are also combinations available for aqueous printers. Whichever product combination you choose, the same principles below apply. For an installation video for both floor and carpet advertising, click here.

For more information about effective floor graphics material combinations, and for LexJet’s Indoor FloorAd and CarpetAd Advertising System installation guidelines, contact a LexJet account specialist at 800-453-9538.

New InfoTrends Service Can Help Print Service Providers Pursue Packaging Business

InfoTrends recently completed an in-depth study on color digital printing in packaging and prime labels, and believes that packaging represents a significant opportunity for the digital printing industry. Unlike other applications, it faces no threat from digital media and it is growing with the human population.

As a result, InfoTrends has announced a new Packaging Business Development Strategies Service that can help print-service providers better understand what opportunities may exist within this rapidly changing field.

The Packaging BDS service is designed to provide “how to” guidance for new service providers that want to effectively go after the digital packaging opportunity. It also offers existing service providers the tools they need to enhance their businesses.

InfoTrends will provide clients of the new service with tools and advice for:

  • Prospecting and recognizing digital packaging opportunities
  • Understanding vertical markets
  • Identifying key applications
  • Recognizing tool and equipment options
  • Developing skills for sales, marketing, operations, and customer service
  • Building a pricing strategy
  • Creating promotional strategies
  • Understanding the role digital packaging plays in commercial print

For more information on the Packaging BDS service, contact Scott Phinney at 781 616 2100 ext. 123 or e-mail