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How to Print a Photo on Canvas

7 min read

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A few months back, I decided to put some of my favorite memories on my living room wall, a fun DIY project. I checked out a couple of local photography stores and realized that getting photographs printed and framed is a pricey affair.

After some online research and suggestions from friends, I discovered the many benefits of canvas prints. Not only can you print photographs on canvas paper, but it is also a lot cheaper, and you do not need to compromise on the quality.

A real win-win situation!

What is a Canvas Print?

Most people know about canvases as a medium used for paintings. However, they are used for so much more now. Manufactured from organic and synthetic materials, they can be used for paintings, printing photos, and making merchandise like bags and pillow covers.

The canvases are relatively inexpensive and durable. They can even withstand harsh weather conditions, making them perfect for the kitchen and outdoor deck walls. They can last for years, even decades, if treated properly and away from direct sunlight.

How to Print on Canvas: The 6-Step Process

When I first started, I learned that the results from my inkjet printers were far from perfect, my canvas print result was a grainy portrait; clearly, the resolution wasn’t high enough.

The brightness in some of the images also needed adjustment. And I needed to discover the right size sheet for each photo. Not to mention, I learned the importance of fixing the background and cropping out unwanted objects from the image. You may also end up with the rookie mistake of printing a photo on too big a canvas.

Now that I have learned the whole process of printing on a canvas, I have put together some useful information in one place to help you learn, so let’s dive directly into the step-by-step printing process.

Step 1: You Will Need the Right Canvas Type

canvas frames.

Before you print, you will need a canvas. There are different types of canvases available, each with its benefits for the types of images you use.

  • Glossy canvas elaborates the color in the image and gives the images a vibrant look. They can, however, reflect bright lights. Such canvas prints should ideally be placed away from a direct light source. Glossy canvas does not require any sealants and is ready to use.
  • Matt canvas is ideal for high-contrast images as it has a slightly dull feel to it. It gives almost no glare, so these canvases can be placed anywhere. Before you print on the canvas print, check whether they need any further treatment.

Pro Tip: If you’re uncertain about the type of canvas you want to use, you can print out a small sample first on different canvas types and decide which option is better.

Step 2: Select Your Images

beautiful landscape image printed on a canvas.

There are generally two main sources of photos for canvas prints. Either you benefit from someone else’s photos to make your interior decor look amazing, or you opt to take photos and use them. You can also adorn the canvas prints with fine art.   

  • The use of stock photos is ideal if you’re looking to add images of skylines, shots of nature, or colors of life. These are photos taken by professionals, available with different photo agencies for a price, even for free. Since these are available commercially, they are optimized for all kinds of usage. You just need to abide by the terms of use and print them.
  • Taking original photos gives you lots of options in terms of creativity, but it also has limitations. These are perfect if you want to print family photos. Vacation photos are also a great option. Be sure to make necessary adjustments, like modification of colors and cropping out the undesirables.

Pro Tip: For the best canvas print results, you should select high-resolution images. If you decide to click photos, use a high-quality camera. Here are some tips for making photo quality canvas prints.

Step 3: Pick the Right Sized Canvas

white color canvases of all sizes.

Once you know which canvas type to pick, the next step is to pick the right-sized canvas. There are different size options available, depending on your preferences and needs. You can check out the various sizes before making the call. A custom-sized canvas print is also an option if your printer’s software supports it.

It is important that you consider the photos that will be printed on canvas and whether they will look good once resized. You should confirm this in your photo software before buying the canvases. You do not want your photos pixelated when you print them.

Step 4: Load the Canvas into the Printer

inkjet printer.

Depending on the nature of the printer you use, the process can be different. Usually, you will need to update the print settings from the software on the computer and select the appropriate size. Place the canvas in the printer’s tray, adjusting width and height manually before closing it.

If you’re using a normal printer, one that is not specifically made for canvas prints, you should add a one-inch wide paper strip, usually referred to as a leader strip, that runs the width of the canvas. Place it at the bottom of the canvas, which will be fed to the printer first.   

Since regular printer paper is plane, the canvas can get uneven, and printing results can be poor. Be sure to make the necessary adjustments with your editing software to account for the additional paper strip. This should help you avoid spoiling the canvas print.  

Step 5: To Wrap or Not to Wrap Edges

wedding photo printed on a canvas.

You can either leave the edges of the canvas print plain white, without a wrapped edge, or add one to make the canvas prints look fuller when they are stretched. There are different kinds of wrap options available.

If you decide to go ahead with an edge wrap on your canvas print, museum and gallery wraps are the best options. A gallery wrap covers the edges of the stretcher bars with the printed canvas, while a museum wrap leaves the edge of the stretcher bars exposed. It is a matter of personal choice, and both look amazing.   

Pro Tip: A gallery wrap is a better option if you have warm colors on your wall. On the other hand, a museum wrap is a better idea if your room is darker or with dark decor.

Step 6: Print the Images

commercial printer.

Once everything is in order, it is time to print the images. Make sure that you check all the settings one last time before hitting the print key. Depending on the printer and your settings, it can take a few minutes or more.  

The eventual results can vary based on the quality of the printer. It is ideal that you print the canvases on a specialized printer for the finest results.

Pro Tip: Do not go for all canvas prints at once. See the results of one print to ensure there are no issues before getting the rest. 

Conclusion

Printing a photo on a canvas is not a difficult task, but there are a few boxes that you need to tick. The overall process is similar to printing on any other medium. You just have to make sure that you make the necessary adjustments for canvas prints.

From selecting the pictures and examining them for flaws to finding the right canvas and printing the canvas, you must follow the aforementioned steps carefully. You can put them on display with a frame. Once you get the prints right, the final product will beautify your home walls.

portrait photos of a girl.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the best resolution for printing on canvas?

A. Higher resolution always brings better, sharper results. That being said, the best resolution for the prints depends on the size of the canvas.

Q. Can I print photos on canvas using my cell phone?

A. Yes, you can print photos on canvas using an Android or iPhone.

Q. Will colors bleed if I clean my prints using a wet cloth?

A. You should use a damp cloth to clean the canvas prints, which is the standard method. A wet cloth can damage the surface of the canvas, though it cannot lead to the bleeding of ink.  Let the canvas dry completely to avoid any surface damage, though.  

Q. Do professional printers offer better results on canvas?

A. Professional printers are meant to provide higher quality results and offer better quality prints on canvas. You can, however, also get great results from your home printer, provided that you have the right image settings.  

Q. What is the ideal canvas size?

A. There is no fixed size that can be deemed ideal. The canvas size should be based on several factors, including the photograph’s resolution, the photo’s orientation, and the size of the wall where it will be placed.

person hanging canvas photo frames on a wall.

Q. I want to put one of my canvas prints on the kitchen wall. Will the colors bleed with all the grease?

A. Fortunately, the grease cannot make the colors bleed. It can, however, lead to grease buildup on the canvas, which is tough to clean, and you may need special products to remove it. The easiest way to avoid this is to regularly clean the canvas print with a damp cloth.

Q. What kinds of frames look good with a canvas print?

A. A framed canvas looks amazing and adds much to the decor. A wooden frame is the best option for canvas prints, although you can also opt for textured metal frames.

Q. I want to store my canvas after I print it. What is the best way to store it?

A. There are two main options. You can keep a rolled canvas stored in a plastic tube if you can find one according to the canvas size. Stretched canvas prints are difficult to store.  

Q. Do I need a frame for my canvas print to display on a wall?

A. No, you do need a frame to display your canvas print. You can use nails or wire hooks, among other options.

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Catherine Gaither is a professional photographer and bioarchaeologist. She has traveled the world photographing archaeological sites and artifacts, and studying human physical remains. She has written numerous professional publications. She continues to work as a forensic consultant and author.
Catherine Gaither is a professional photographer and bioarchaeologist. She has traveled the world photographing archaeological sites and artifacts, and studying human physical remains. She has written numerous professional publications. She continues to work as a forensic consultant and author.
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