By Lisa Guerriero
Part 1 of 2
Under the close eye of an artist or art connoisseur, details matter. The art world represents a growing demand for textiles that are compatible with wide format digital printing. Manufacturers offer canvas product lines to meet their needs, enabling color saturation, resiliency, and longevity.
A variety of artists turn to canvas as a vehicle for their work, from photographers to muralists and painters. Photographers, in particular, find the two-dimensional presentation is popular with their customers. In fact, many art lovers think canvas prints make photography—especially nature shots—seem like paintings.
Panoramic images and wedding photos are especially well suited to the canvas approach, says Jeff Smith, product manager, Epson. “Many wedding photographers, photo labs, event photographers, and fine artists are finding new applications for canvas,” he adds. “Brides and other customers demand canvas over traditional glossy photo papers, while metallic canvas and ultra-smooth photo canvas are also starting to gain traction.”
Those who exhibit art—galleries and museums—find printable canvas necessary for displays as well as products. These venues want banners and other display items to mimic the texture and “feel” of the original work, and even high-quality paper doesn’t do that. Printable canvas, on the other hand, is “intended to reproduce the look of original oil or acrylic paintings on stretched canvas,” explains Carol Boss, marketing services manager, Hahnemühle USA.
In addition to in-house displays, galleries, museums, and boutiques find that many customers are seeking not just reprints, but reproductions. An art lover in a gift shop could, for example, take home a Rembrandt reproduction that’s either a framed canvas or a gallery wrap.
Many canvas providers say the product is especially popular for interior design, chosen by professional decorators as well as those who favor DIY. “The industry will find that canvas prints are commonly used in home décor, either chosen by professional interior designers, or by the homeowner,” says Boss. “Many canvas prints are mass produced and available through street retailers and home improvement stores.
Creating a Blank Palette
Whether the piece ends up in a museum or a hotel bathroom, buyers focus on two things—color and texture. That begins with an impeccable base.
“It is essential that any digital fabric is meticulously scoured and bleached so that ink is accepted uniformly from edge to edge,” says Jeff Sanders, digital sales manager, Pacific Coast Fabrics. “With traditional rotary screenprinting, ink is driven deep into the fabric by mechanical means, whereas the ink always remains on the surface with digital printing. Due to surface printing, the fabric face must remain free of any imperfections that will be magnified once ink is applied.”
Cotton/polyester blends are most common for fine art applications, although some companies offer all-cotton or all-polyester options.
“Cotton gives a natural fiber look, desired by the artist, but also promotes ease of use with the stretch provided by polyester,” explains Kristina Tassistro, marcom and product support specialist, Coveris Advanced Coatings.
The composition of the polyester, and the ratio of cotton to polyester, is altered in each product line to vary weight, stretchiness, and smoothness versus the visibility of the weave. “There needs to be just enough ‘give’ for the fabric to stretch onto the frame, but once in place the fabric needs to remain taut without sagging over time,” adds Sanders.
A Vessel for Color and Shade
Coatings, both before and after the print process, may be necessary depending on the project.
Some canvases are treated with a top coat prior to printing; this makes it receptive to the ink set at hand. If not coated, the ink—especially in the case of water-based—many not adhere to the fabric properly.
After printing, a coating can be used as a design choice or for protection. Customized finishes, such as matte, satin, and gloss, make the coating not just functional but also addresses aesthetic taste.
Coating is also important for durability, for beloved pieces hanging in a living room as well as displays that need to stand up to traveling to different museums or galleries. Some manufacturers offer flame repellant or water resistant lines to further aid in preserving each canvas.
When it comes to color, it’s all about the white point. The goal is for colors to appear dense and vibrant, and in B&W photography, for there to be contrast and nuanced tones. However, vendors offer up more variety, tailoring more natural or muted shades of white to appeal to the creator’s preferences.
Frequently, optical brightening agents (OBAs) are employed to provide the vivid white shades that are popular for canvas-based art. Most OBA-free manufacturers cite evidence of longevity among products that do use optical whiteners.
Some companies with longevity ratings of over 100 years acknowledge that permanence can be affected by exposure to sunlight, humidity, and other environmental factors. Most advise keeping canvas art creations in controlled indoor conditions, not unlike original fine art works on traditional canvas.
Evolving for the Market
The décor industry is on the upswing for canvas, as interior designers and homeowners seek to decorate with printable art, whether from online bulk providers or home improvement stores and shops.
“Canvas has always been a fine art staple, but we’re seeing the largest growth in décor art printing for home, office, hotels and resorts, restaurants, and other businesses,” says Jaimie Mask, product manager, LexJet Corporation. “This will be a continued area for growth in the foreseeable future.”
In addition to mass production, many producers see a bright future in use by individual artists, as they grow more comfortable with inkjet technology. “It allows artists the flexibility to print on demand versus committing to a sizeable offset order quantity with the hopes of selling it all,” explains Tassistro.
Most printers offer samples to new artists and manufacturers, for those who want to feel the difference of printable canvas for themselves, before transitioning into the digital method.
There is also a growing appetite for applying fine art onto ordinary items. “Original art, photography, point of purchase advertising, are all examples of the types of uses well suited for polyester canvas. Polyester canvas is also ideal for handbags, totes, and other fashion accessories,” adds Sanders.
Similarly, print on demand and social media work together to allow non-artists to transform ordinary photographs into works of art. “Many online providers have a simple interface to upload pictures from smartphones or cameras. Those providers who keep in contact with their customers have an on-going potential to ‘refresh’ your family pictures as they grow,” says Greg Lahart, president, I.T. Supplies.
“Canvas prints and gallery wraps seem to be going strong in the photo printing market for several years, especially now among the Instagram crowd,” agrees Boss. “Photographers ranging from moms to professionals are using online print service providers. One can simply send in their digital files and receive the final printed and wrapped canvas image shipped back to them. There are an increasing amount of boutique labs, print shops, and brick-and-mortar photo labs available for walk-in services that also offer the online capacity.”
Works of Art
Canvas optimized for digital print is used in numerous environments, especially as vendors create products that meet the expectations of the final end user. The next part in the series profiles a number of products offered for wide format canvas printing.
Sep2014, Digital Output DOCV1409