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Question: I am looking to print something but I am not sure if it would be better to print on paper or canvas. Can you help me?

This is a very common question we get asked and mostly the answer hinges on how you want to display the print after it has been completed. In this article we’ll explain the differences between printing on paper vs. canvas and how that impacts the solutions available to you in terms of hanging your completed print on the wall.

Framing your paper print vs. stretching your canvas

When you print on paper with the intention of putting the work on your wall you’ll need to frame the print. Frames come in many different styles and price points, but most people choose between a frame with mat border or without as shown below.

Example of a frame with a mat border and a frame without a mat border

When you print on canvas you would usually need to stretch the canvas across wooden stretcher bars. This process is known as canvas stretching and is a relatively inexpensive and elegant solution for hanging a canvas print on the wall. In the images below you can see the front face of the stretched canvas followed by a photo of the rear of the canvas.

Image of a Zebra on a stretched canvas

Back of a stretched canvas

Some customers will stretch their canvas and then add something known as a float frame around the edge. Whilst a float frame can add a more “finished” look to a stretched canvas it also adds considerably more cost.

Cost of paper printing & framing vs. canvas printing & stretching

One aspect that might be of importance in your decision making process between paper printing or canvas printing is cost. In the table below we have provided 3 typical approaches that our customers will take when printing and framing or stretching with us:

  • Option 1 – paper printing with a custom made, high quality frame.
  • Option 2 – canvas printing and stretching without float frame.
  • Option 3 – paper printing, but mounting inside a standard IKEA frame.
Option Solution Printing Hanging Solution Total
1 Custom Framing $61 $145 $206
2 Canvas Stretching $84 $93 $177
3 IKEA Frame $61 $24.90 $85.90

*Paper printing based on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308. Canvas printing based on Hahnemuhle Canvas Artist.
*Custom framing based on 2cm smooth black frame vs. IKEA RIBBA to fit 50 x 70cm print – pricing accurate at time of article production.

In conclusion

The relative price difference between paper printing/framing & canvas printing/stretching is not particularly significant [about $29 based on our example above]. Given the price difference isn’t huge the choice of whether to frame or stretch would probably come down to an individuals personal preference rather than cost.

Suffice to say there is obviously a bigger cost saving if you decide to print on paper and use an IKEA frame, and we do have plenty of customers who prefer to take this approach. Do be careful to double check that your desired print size will fit appropriately into the standard frame sizes offered by IKEA [this can be checked on their website]. Do also note that its highly likely your print will significantly outlast your frame 🙂

Can I print on canvas and frame it the traditional way?

We do have some people who float the idea of printing on canvas but framing the canvas inside a traditional frame rather than doing canvas stretching. The short answer is that this is absolutely possible, but there are some considerations that may make it more complicated and therefore more expensive. In general, if you haven’t already printed the work, but you know you want to frame it rather than stretch it, we would always recommend choosing a fine art paper rather than canvas in this scenario. This is because:

  1. Paper is generally a less expensive medium than canvas.
  2. Fine art papers and Giclee printing techniques produce exceptional results.
  3. A good quality fine art paper can last 80+ years. Its not a “less durable” option than canvas.
  4. There is less complexity on the mounting of paper vs. canvas inside a traditional frame, thus the cost may be lower if you choose paper.
  5. If “texture” is what you’re after, there is plenty of fine art papers that offer highly textured surfaces – i.e., Hahnemuhle German Etching.

We struggle to identify any reasons to choose canvas over paper when using a traditional framing technique rather than stretching.

Should you require any additional help please feel free to get in touch.

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