I like the idea of having canvas photo prints on the wall but I also have enough of an ego to think that I can take a photo good enough to warrant printing my own canvas. Also I think it’s a bit more personal too when it’s your own photo/ art.
I take alot of photos and never do anything with them, I always think about framing but to get the benefits you need to print big or do a series of panels, which is what I’ll be showing how to do along with a bit of printer/ photoshop advice. Just so you know Photoshop CS3 has some excellent tools for stitching photos together to make panoramas.
There are alot of shops that will print and box frame your photos on canvas for you and you can get canvas framing kits to help, so no worries if you don’t have a capable printer, it will probably just cost a bit more. I genuinely think anything over A3 you’ll want to pay to get printed anyway – because I doubt you’ll want to spend £1,000+ on an A2+ printer just to print one picture.
However, I am lucky enough to have worked for Epson so I own a Stylus Photo R1900. It’s fairly cheap I guess for what it can do but it’s limited to A3, so its just on the edge of the realm of large format printers. But doing your own framing is only cheap if you already have the printer – I doubt any decent shop will charge you more than £25 per A3 canvas print so don’t buy a printer specifically to do one print!
The right printer, media and ink
Whether using Epson printers or not to print canvas you need a decent printer and it’s all about the type of inks used, your average inkjet ink won’t stick to canvas and you need a printer that can also deal with thicker media and roll feeds. The R1900 can do that and it’s the cheapest one that you can get from Epson (around £400) – also look for the R1800, R2400 and R2880 as good ones to try. I would recommend the R800 but the smallest canvas roll you can get is A3 (13inches/ 330mm wide), there is a cheaper A3 one, the 1400 but don’t bother as its inks (Claria) will just flake off canvas. Not sure about whats out there from Canon, HP etc… but I guess what I’m saying is check what your printer can do any decent manufacturer or shop should do you a test sample regardless.
Ok so you got the printer, now remember that I have worked for Epson, so please take what I say as slightly biased and with a pinch of salt: Get the genuine Epson ink and media! (or the equivalent for your printer). You will honestly see the difference, in the case of the Epson stuff all the media is coated specifically for the inks and printer, so cheaper non-Epson paper/ canvas won’t work as well and you’ll see prints fade, smudge, chip off and blur – same for HP, Canon etc… If you use refills on these inkjets you’ll see the same kind of thing but you’ll also jam up your print heads – its the biggest cause of issues with the photo printers – that and continous ink feed systems. So if you use the shitty materials for this then expect the shitty results that’ll follow!
For the R1900 you’re talking about £95 for a full set of inks and £35-40 for the canvas roll. The £140 media outlay might seem high but this will let you do around 12 A3 panels, so works out about £10 per A3 panel with plenty of ink to spare to do other stuff, if like me you do A4 panels then I’ll easily get 20 on a roll – either way using this stuff is going to get you good results, even on auto settings. My only gripe with the R1900 is that it cains the inks so you have to be sure not to waste any prints – if I could, I would have the R2400/R2880.
Anyway so you get the idea: good printer, good media, good ink. Or just get your canvas printed by someone else – I’ll do it for you if you pay for the ink, media and postage!
Making the frames
Now you can spend some money and buy the wood, glue, tools etc… to make your own frames but you can get frames for around £2-3 for A4, maybe less (any good sources please let me know). Take a trip to your local wilkos, poundland etc… and find some existing box canvas prints (or cheap wooden photo frames). Check the dimensions to make sure your canvas will adequately cover the entire frame, the sides and some of the back for the best results, if you’re using a roll feed on the printer then the frame can be as long as you want just as long as the canvas can cover the frames width. I took a piece of canvas with me and a tape measure to ensure I got the best frames and odd looks from fellow consumers and store staff.
That’s it! Your frames are built – just strip off the existing canvas using some needle nose pliers and pull out the staples and you’ve got your frame ready in far less time and effort as constructing one yourself. Don’t worry about damaging the old canvas, chances are if you were cheap like me the picture on there was crap anyway.
Setting up to print your canvas
Whether or not you’re printing your canvas these instructions still apply. We need to create a template to help us print, crop and frame the canvas – please scroll down to the framing section to get an idea.
First measure up the width and height of the frame from edge to edge, now measure how thick the frame is and finally measure the width of the wood used to make the frame.
For example my frame is 30 cm x 20cm, my frame thickness is 2cm and the width of each piece is 3cm. So my material needs to be at the very most 30cm x 40cm to get the best results. If you want to try and use as much canvas as possible for your print then just ensure that it covers the sides of the frame and around 1cm on the back to give you something to staple into and tension.
My printed area is going to be the area of the frame (30 x 20 cm) plus the sides, so that’s 34 x 24 cm.
For folding the canvas and getting a nice fit you’ll need to cut the corners off so make sure to add lines to your template. If you scroll down you’ll see why/ how this is done.
I used Photoshop CS3 to do my print templates but you should be able to follow the steps and do this in any basic application that lets you draw a few guides and lines over a photo. I guess if you’ve got a decent photo printer then you’re using Photoshop – CS3 and onwards has a much better print interface.
Create a new document, from the measurements of the frame and make sure its at a minimum of 300 dpi resolution and use RGB colour.
Next show your rulers (CTRL + R) make sure you’re setup for mm or cm (Edit, menu then Preferences to change).
Drag guides to mark the sides of the frame.
Draw lines for cutting the corners off.
Create a white frame around the outside in a new layer – to save wasting ink on the material being stapled to the frame.
Now you can put your photo in this document for printing and it will be perfectly positioned for you. This works also if you’re doing multiple panels. I won’t go into colour correction here, I’ll assume that you’ve done all this.
First to save wasting paper do a very small test print to make sure your print heads are aligned and nothing funky is happening in your images.
OK so we’re ready to print. You’ll need to first load the canvas roll typically at the back of the printer – this can be a pain to do as the printer won’t feed the roll unless its absolutely straight. To remedy this before clipping the canvas roll on the printer feed it first into the printer and press the roll button on your printer. It’s hit and miss but eventually it will take it, you just need to feed the paper in straight.
Now clip the roll on to the back of the printer and you’re ready to go. When printing you just need to set a few basic things, the media type (Watercolour paper – radiant white), to use the roll instead of sheet and to set the paper size to user defined (size of your document).
I always tick photo enhance and best photo options, also using the gloss optimiser. I leave the printer drivers to render the best colour conversion it can, generally few colours in my prints are out of the gamut. To get better results spend time playing with these setting but be prepared to waste some ink.
Click print and thats it. Once you’re done, press the roll feed button on the printer to feed the canvas out so you can cut it – the R1900 can attempt to cut the canvas but it’s too thick. Once you’ve cut it (It only needs to be roughly straight) then press the roll feed button again to retract the leftover canvas ready for the next time – for doing panels I printed all of them and then cut the roll after the last print to save canvas.
Framing your canvas
OK, you’ll need a staple gun with 6-10mm staples to do this. Its pretty easy to do and takes about 5-10 minutes per frame.
Remember the corner lines I added in my template first cut these off.
Now mark and measure in the depth of your frame on each side of your canvas, so on mine, I mark the edge at 2cm and at 22cm for example – you need these marks to make sure you get your frame in the right place.
With the canvas face down fold back along the edge of the picture.
You should be able to line up the edges of your canvas with the frame, put in a staple to secure.
Pull the canvas tight, and staple the opposite side.
Tuck the corners in at the top and staple down, repeat at the bottom making sure to pull the canvas tight.
Finish off by stapling all sides down – can be as messy as you like, no one will see.
You should be left with a nice end result! Please feel free to ask if you need a hand or something explained – or if you want me to print your photos!