An in-depth look at canvas inkjet printing and the factors to consider for producing various print volumes, from short-run custom to high-volume production printing, including: materials and finishes, printers and ink sets, coatings and finishing. 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. 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 consider 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 in production. 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 the 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.