How to tell a good canvas print from a poor quality one

We are often asked why our are prices are more expensive than some of the other art retailers that are importing from overseas, our answer is always the same, our focus is and always has been on quality, the difference between an artwork manufactured using premium-grade materials versus one printed on a flat bed printer (for mass produce print products, not art), all the difference between one printed using UV resistant branded inkjet inks versus ‘made in China’ inks that faded within a couple of years, or even the difference between using warp-proof, kiln-dried New Zealand Pine like ours are made with versus the knotted, rough edges timber that is typical of those that come out of China on sites like Aliexpress.

In this article we will endeavour to answer these questions with some good clear explanations and pictures where possible to show the difference.

Firstly, it ís all about the finish. If the canvas isnít stretched over the middle point of each stretcher bar (there are four of them in the classic version) and the clamps used to hold it in place are unevenly distributed, you might have a problem. Itís a strong indicator that the canvas might not be optimally stretched and that it might well come loose from the frame after a few months. More often than not, it ís defects like these that explain the low price. This isn’t the case for all low-cost manufacturers and distributors. It is definitely an indicator of quality and the care and concern the printer takes with their product.

Check the wood
The next essential is the stretcher frame itself. This is the name for the wooden frame that supports the canvas and provides stability for your print. This can throw up a range of problems if the manufacturer has decided to cut costs and follow the easy path. A substandard approach to wood processing will reveal itself before too long with weather-induced frame warping and other defects such as knots. A low-grade stretcher bar will make the canvas not sit flush on the frame for example it will have a bumpy finish, additionally, any defects such as knots will accelerate the canvas deterioration.

A good printer of a quality canvas will take the necessary steps to ensure their wood frames meet the criteria listed below.

  • Careful selection of wood from responsibly maintained forests
  • Drying process to prevent weather-induced distortion and other damage
  • Further processing to make stretcher bars perfectly smooth and even
  • Manual assembly of stretcher bars
  • Only use Quality Kiln Dried timber 
  • Hand stretching of the canvas to achieve the perfect level of tension

All of this is done to resist the adverse effects of the local climate, as the fibre of the canvas is vulnerable to changes in humidity, temperature, and sunlight. A canvas that gets too heavy will work itself loose, which in turn leads to creasing of the image. This is easily the most common canvas defect. The Australian climate is probably one of the harshest in the world, at Blue Horizon Prints we understand this and all art has been specifically created using materials that are resistant to our climate, ensuring that your artwork will last for many years with no deterioration at all.

If you’re buying online, you cant feel the quality by hand so the best you can do is some careful fact-checking. Spruce and pine woods are the most widely used materials for the production of canvas stretcher bars, and also the most trustworthy when it comes to endurance. Pay attention to the type of wood used in production and if this is stated whether it undergoes an industrial drying process, a common corner that is cut is using timber that hasn’t been properly dried as it’s much cheaper and quicker to use this.

The colours need to pop!
The original colour palette of a photo image can be somewhat subdued when it appears on a canvas print, due to the naturally softening qualities of the canvas fabric. However, this is never apparent enough to be seriously detrimental to reproduction quality.

To get the best results you need to use the best tools. This is particularly important when it comes to selecting a printer and inks. We use the best quality of Epson printers. We always use genuine Epson Ultrachrome pigment inks. These are considered by many to be the best in the marketplace and the proof is in the pudding when you see the strong, vibrant colours that leap from the canvas.
Manufacturers will go to great lengths to convince potential customers that their prints avoid this natural process, but this is all but impossible unless the organic canvas material is replaced with a different substance. The quality of the final product is ultimately decided by the printing technology used.

How good is the canvas surface?
Lastly, the real quality of canvas on the wider market can often contrast wildly with the fancy presentation of the merchandise. You might have encountered terms such as ìgiclÈeî and ìmuseum qualityî. While they sound glamorous, these terms are often used for no reason other than to justify overpricing the stock. Make sure you read the reviews ñ or ideally watch some videos showing how the product looks in a real living space!

We print on 100% cotton 390gsm canvas. We only use the best quality canvas with our canvases being carefully selected and imported to provide the best surface for our prints. The 100% cotton canvas is of the very highest quality and made to last. This is an archival-quality canvas.

Thereís enough information floating around for you to do a little research before you make your purchase. When it comes to price, our general advice is to follow the middle road! Itís true that an extraordinarily low price can be a strong indicator of second-rate manufacturing. Meanwhile, some companies make grand claims about revolutionary printing techniques in order to inflate their prices to eye-popping levels ñ when the product quality itself is often no more than decent. Some of the key items to consider when choosing a canvas print, and the indicators of quality canvas prints are:

Hands down, no arguments – this is the single most important factor in determining whether you get a great canvas print – or any other type of print for that matter. And itís hardly rocket science, right? If your image is not of sufficient resolution – it really doesnít matter how good the canvas print company is because it just can’t be printed.
When it comes to printing on canvas, we recommend using a digital photo of at least 250 KB, but the larger the photo, the better the result. If youíre heading out with your camera and want to take a picture for a new canvas, set your camera to the highest possible resolution.

You might find that the file size of photos taken on your phone is too small, especially if itís a picture youíve been sent through an app or Facebook. If your photo isnít quite large enough for a canvas, why not try making a collage canvas?

We’d rather refund an order than print a poor-quality image. And we do that all the time. But often we donít have to cancel the order – we can just ask a ton of questions about how the customer took the photo or how it was sent to them and then we can locate the high-resolution version of the file. That requires an effort and level of service that some of the big companies wonít or canít provide because they are so automated. Weíre still small enough to care but big enough to be able to refund an order rather than just take the money!

When it comes to image quality and resolution, it is possible to draw up some general guidelines. For example, Facebook photos are generally only suitable for very small canvas prints – or bigger canvas prints if they are part of a collage. Likewise, Instagram photos suit smaller canvas prints – up to 50x50cm.

If a photo is on your phone generally itís just too small and low resolution to make a great canvas print from it! The safest route with a small image is to e-mail it to us first and ask our advice on whether itís going to be a good fit for the canvas size you want. We are always happy to be asked, ìCan I print this photo and what size would you suggest?

At Blue Horizon Prints we use premium quality, UV resistant inks and the highest grade 100% cotton canvas to make sure our Canvas Prints Photos & framed prints online pictures are the best in the market, all printed on market-leading Epson wide-format printing technology. If you are unsure about how to have your photo printed onto canvas pictures or have any questions please donít hesitate in contacting us, we are always happy to help, we can be contacted by phone, email, contact form or our new live help. Our goal is to make the words Canvas Prints Australia synonymous with Blue Horizon Prints.

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