Canvas prints are a popular way to print photos, whether you’re printing digital art or fine art for home use, and there are a few reasons why that’s the case.
They last longer than traditional prints, and they are easier to clean – you can just quickly wipe their surface with a dry cloth.
Canvas prints have a timeless feel to them and, if they’re mounted rather than framed, they won’t become dated or look out of place if you decide to redecorate.
They’re also easy to view wherever you put them, as there’s no glare from a glossy finish. The satin-matte finish that’s usually used for canvas prints means they’re visible in all lighting conditions.
Plus canvas prints are budget-friendly, as canvas paper is relatively cheap, and can be printed at almost any canvas size.
And, if that wasn’t enough, they are easy to make at home, and there’s great satisfaction in doing this.
With little more than some canvas paper, an inkjet printer, and a bit of time, you’ll have a beautiful, professional-quality canvas print ready to hang on your gallery wall.
Now let’s take a closer look at how to print on canvas so you can nail it the first time.
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How To Print on Canvas: 10 Key Steps for The Best Results
Printing photos on canvas material only has a couple more steps to it than printing a photo on photo paper.
There are a few tools you’ll need, and a few things to bear in mind as you go step by step through the process, and here they are:
1. Prepare all the materials
These are the items you’ll need to create canvas prints:
- An image
- An inkjet printer
- Canvas paper
- A suitable acrylic spray or varnish
- A picture frame (if you’re framing)
- A canvas stretcher, staple gun, scissors, and canvas pliers (if you’re mounting)
2. Pick the Right Canvas Type
Printable canvas is sold in a variety of textures and quality, and you also need to make sure you’re buying one that’s made specifically for use with an inkjet printer.
The type of canvas you choose will depend on what exactly you’re printing, and your personal preference with regards to finishes.
But, generally speaking, there are gloss and satin finish canvases (which are done once printed), and matte finish (which will need a sealant to be applied to the canvas after printing).
You can also find UV-resistant canvases, which are especially useful if you intend your canvas print to be a keepsake.
3. Pick the Right Canvas Size
Decide how large you want your final canvas print to be.
To do this, it’s a good idea to do some test prints on ordinary photo paper to get an idea of how they will look.
You need to think about the size of the border you need your photograph to be surrounded by, as you will need this area of blank canvas whether you mount or frame the image.
It’s also a good time to start thinking about how you will mount or frame the image. And, if you will mount it, whether you’ll wrap the edges around the frame for a 3D effect or not, as that will determine the size of the border and the size of the canvas you choose.
Large canvas prints are popular but they might not be possible unless you obviously have big enough canvas paper and a large format printer to accommodate.
4. Prepare the Image for Canvas Photo printing
You need to take some time to get your image to look exactly as you want it to.
Hopefully, your image is a RAW file, for maximum latitude, but if not don’t worry, there’s still plenty you can do with jpegs.
Use photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom and get editing.
There you can adjust the colours, brightness and contrast, the levels and curves, make changes to the saturation and vibrancy levels, and add special effects.
There’s very little you can’t do with this software. If you have advanced skills you can go deep.
And even if you don’t, their automatic tools are extremely powerful and can help you, for example, straighten crooked building lines at the click of a button.
Once you have everything looking great on your computer screen, do a test print on photo paper or even on standard printing paper. Sometimes the colours you see on your screen aren’t exactly the same as the ones that will show on the print.
So, make sure you’re happy with how the colours are turning out before moving on to the next step.
5. Choose the Right Image for Canvas Prints
It’s important to choose the right image for your canvas.
Not what the picture is of – although that is important – because you know that already. What I mean by this is you need to choose the right quality of the image.
You need to make sure that the image you end up printing on the canvas is of the highest resolution possible – it should be at least 300 dpi.
You also need to consider the picture’s size and aspect ratio.
If you choose the wrong aspect ratio, you can end up with a print that either doesn’t fill the whole area of the canvas you need it to, or is cropped in a way you don’t want it to be.
So, this is another reason to make test prints first on normal photo paper.
That way, you can finalize both size and aspect ratio before committing your print to canvas.
Taking time to ensure that your print is high-resolution and sized correctly will make all the difference to the quality of the final product.
6. Decide whether or not to wrap the edges
This is an important final decision before starting to print canvas prints.
If you are mounting and want to create a 3D effect by wrapping the edges of the print around the canvas frame, you need to make sure the size you print will allow you to do that.
It means you need to print with less of a white border, as the part of the image will now be the border.
7. Set up the Printer for Canvas Paper
For printing on canvas you ideally need to use the rear manual feed slot.
It uses the entire printable area of your canvas and is also able to do borderless printing.
Not only that, it can take thicker paper than the other slots, so it’s perfect for canvas prints.
Make sure that your computer print settings are set up properly for this job. Your default settings are unlikely to be correct.
Set up the manual feed, make sure the colour settings are correct for whether you’re printing in colour or black and white, and set the height and width of the paper according to the size of print you want.
Check your borders or anchors (see information about the ‘leader strip’ below), or anything else you need to. You are getting ready for the final print.
8. Print the image
Prepare a ‘leader strip’ to help feed your canvas into the printer.
This is a strip of ordinary paper, and it needs to be an inch wide, and exactly the same width as the canvas you’ll be printing on.
Tape it flush to the back of the leading edge of the canvas. Make sure it’s straight so that the canvas doesn’t feed in at an angle.
This strip is what’s going to help your printer ingest the canvas cleanly.
Also ensure that you add that extra inch to the print settings in your computer, to let it know not to print on the first inch that comes in.
Computers often have an ‘anchoring’ option, which is how you add space to the bottom of the image.
Once that is all set up, you’re ready to go. Print your artwork.
9. What to do after printing your canvas
Wait until your print is completely dry before doing anything else with it. That can take around three hours.
You can then apply a clear varnish if you like, to help the longevity of the print, and also to prevent the canvas from cracking if you’re mounting it on a frame.
Apply the varnish with a roller, vertically and horizontally, to avoid roller marks.
Give the print about thirty minutes to dry, then repeat the process.
Remember, this kind of protection isn’t the only protection you can give your canvas print.
Make sure when you finally hang it, not to put it in an area that receives direct sunlight, as that will gradually degrade the print over time.
Also, especially if you’re mounting on wood, don’t hang the picture anywhere there’s moisture as, not only can that damage the print, but also warp the wood frame.
10. Frame or mount the canvas print
When framing canvas prints, make sure you have the correct size mat window, so that the whole of your print shows through.
Most store-bought frames come with a mat. If the mat window is not the right size, I wouldn’t recommend cutting it, as it’s very difficult to get all those edges perfectly straight, and the window looking neat.
Some companies make custom-sized mats, and their prices are very reasonable.
Something to bear in mind: you don’t have to put the glass in the frame.
The canvas print is already protected by varnish, so it doesn’t necessarily need that extra layer of protection.
And, an added benefit of this is that there’ll be no glare from the glass, so you’ll be able to see the print clearly from any angle, even in a brightly lit room.
When mounting canvas prints on a wooden frame, you’ll need a canvas stretcher, and you can either make that yourself according to the size of your print, or you can buy them ready-made.
Lay the canvas out flat and pull the print to the edges of the canvas stretcher’s frame.
Once all the print edges line up, you can staple the centre of one of the stretched canvas’ longest sides. Turn the canvas 180 degrees and use canvas pliers to pull the canvas taut, before stapling that end to the frame.
Repeat the process for the shorter sides, pulling the canvas tight and stapling as you go, and then get to work on the corners.
This can be a bit tricky, as there’s generally some excess canvas there. Once you know how the fold is going to go, carefully cut away any excess canvas so that the fold will be neater.
Finally, when the canvas is nice and taut and properly secured, trim away any excess canvas on the back. Then, optionally, you can apply tape over the staples to give your canvas print a professional-looking finish.
How to Print on Canvas: FAQs
What kind of printer do I need to print on canvas at home?
Any good quality inkjet printer can print on canvas. You need to ensure the printer can handle the thickness of the canvas sheets and that it provides high-resolution output for quality prints.
Can any image be printed on canvas?
Technically, you can print any image on canvas. However, the image’s resolution will significantly affect the print’s quality. For a clear, sharp print, your image should be high resolution, typically at least 300 dpi (dots per inch).
Where can I get canvas sheets for printing at home?
Canvas sheets for home printing can be bought from various online retailers, photography stores, or art supplies stores. They come in different sizes, so choose according to your needs.
Do I need special ink to print on canvas?
No, you don’t need special ink to print on canvas. The standard dye or pigment-based inks that your inkjet printer uses should work fine. However, pigment-based inks are known to be more durable and fade-resistant.
How do I prepare my image for canvas printing?
You can prepare your image for canvas printing using any good photo-editing software. You might need to adjust the size, resolution, colors, brightness, contrast, or crop the image to fit the aspect ratio of your canvas sheet.
What should I do after printing the image on canvas?
After printing, let the canvas dry completely before handling it. To protect the print and make it last longer, you can apply a clear acrylic spray which will also give the print a finished look.
Can I frame a canvas print at home?
Yes, you can frame a canvas print at home. You can either mount the canvas print on a stretcher frame for a gallery-wrapped look or put it in a traditional picture frame. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, you can get it professionally done.
How do I maintain my canvas prints?
To keep your canvas prints looking their best, avoid hanging them in direct sunlight or high-humidity areas. Dust them lightly with a soft, dry cloth when needed. Avoid using any cleaning products on the print as they could damage it.