WHAT ARE THE BEST CANVAS TYPES FOR PRINTING ART?
THE EVOLUTION OF INKJET CANVAS, COATINGS & LACQUERS
This content was written by ChromaZone Ink, Melbourne FL.
We’ve Been Part of the History
We have worked with the best canvas types for printing fine art, and seen the worst! At ChromaZone Ink Canvas Printing Orlando & Melbourne, we have seen inkjet canvas and coatings change over the years. Technology has allowed vast improvements in the quality and durability in canvas. Couple that with better finishing lacquers as well as the receptive coatings on canvas designed to receive the inks, and it’s no wonder giclée printing can now last for generations. As a pioneer in giclée printing, the ChromaZone Ink Canvas Printing founder, Brian Abrahamson personally experienced this evolution. His involvement and demand for quality is known throughout the industry and in some instances, he has even been asked by canvas manufacturers to test new canvases before their release to the public. Brian chronicles the history of canvas below:
The Way It All Started
In the late 1980s and up to the late 1990s nearly all the canvas used by the wide format printing industry was susceptible to cracking and peeling. There were no best canvas types because the industry was young and they were still being developed. Among the worst cases were the early matt canvases used by nearly all the early wide format printing companies for quick and inexpensive output. A final top coating was mandatory in the finishing process to reduce the micro cracking of the image in the folds and corners. Many of the early printing companies did not apply any coating at all to keep costs low in order to compete. The results were unhappy artists and photographers and art buyers who spent large amounts of money on fine art prints only to be disappointed early on with easily damaged and cracking images. At ChromaZone Ink Canvas Printing Orlando we have coated all our canvas products from the beginning. You can learn more by contacting us at 321-312-4800 | 800-501-2901.
The early solvent coatings were toxic and not easily obtained as there were only one or two companies in the industry that offered anything for this purpose. Most companies refused to use these coatings due to their high costs, toxic odor and expensive application equipment used to apply it to the printed canvas. A spray room solely dedicated to spraying, an HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) Spray Paint System, Gas Mask and a compressor were the tools needed to properly apply the coating evenly and safely to the canvas in order to reduce cracking.
As time passed a few water based eco-friendly products entered the market that included UV inhibitors into the mix that greatly improved the image stability and also made it much less aggravating to apply. These new aqueous coatings could be applied using the same HVLP spray systems or even a modest paint roller and tray for the lower volume print companies whose output did not demand the more elaborate and expensive set ups. These coatings were a “dream come true” for the smaller print shops because it now enabled them to compete and put out a comparable product without being exposed to the toxic fumes of the solvent based coatings.
ChromaZone Ink Canvas Printing Orlando welcomed these new products and made an immediate change early on. Even with all these less toxic solutions for coating canvas printing products, many companies continue to skip this step in the finishing process in order to “Save a Buck”.
An Angry Gallery Owner
I remember years ago a lovely gallery owner (who is now my wife and motivator) approached me concerning some cracking issues she was experiencing on a few of the gallery’s very expensive Giclée canvas prints. These were very exclusive limited-edition reproductions from a very well know watercolor artist from California. The canvas prints had been sold to her and to the artist as the best canvas type. The printing company’s logo prominently printed on the back. This was one of the more well-known national fine art printing companies at the time. These “best” canvas types were probably less than 2 or three years old and exhibited micro cracking throughout the entire image. They were not subject to any harsh lighting or environmental conditions beyond being exhibited out of direct sunlight in gallery conditions. She contacted the printing company seeking restitution, but they declined any options of refunds or re-printing of the deteriorating art for her or the artist. When she approached ChromaZone Ink Canvas Printing Orlando we were astonished at the fact that these very expensive, highly sought after Giclée canvas prints had not been coated with anything to protect the water-soluble inks. When I say water soluble, I mean water soluble. Both dye base and pigment base inks at the time were highly susceptible to damage from even the least amount of moisture so any aqueous water-based coating solution was not an option. We opted for a solvent based lacquer coating that would not dissolve the ink set and turn these reproductions into a runny mess. Long story short, ChromaZone Ink Canvas Printing Orlando was able to stabilize the cracking and they became family gifts and personally owned art being that they were unacceptable to sell due to the extensive cracking.
It Gets Worse!
Just when you thought it was bad, it gets worse. Enter 100% polyester canvas and MDF stretcher bars. These two products alone when used together in the canvas printing industry are the sole reason for the vast difference in price point that consumers are faced with. The uneducated art buyer, photographer or home consumer doesn’t realize there is a reason for these “Too Good to Be True” price points you see out there today. The components used to produce these products are among the cheapest in the world and consumers are easily fooled by these 80-90% off deals most of these big national printer’s pitch. The so called “Canvas” has no top coating at all, the MDF “Particle Board” stretcher frames are guaranteed to warp in time due to fluctuations in humidity and temperature.
A Word of Warning:
Recently a handful of technological advances in the manufacturing of ink receptive coatings has produced the newly coined “Coater-less” or “Coating less” aqueous canvas as the new best canvas types. These are usually available in a satin, semi-gloss or gloss options. Although they instantly dry and are extremely durable compared to earlier products, the term “Coatingless” is a bit over sold. Remember these products are “Water Soluble” and without a few good coats of UV protective acrylic top coat they are still susceptible to damage. Also, just as in the past there continues to be noticeable gloss differential on the uncoated image. A few good coats of your favorite acrylic top coat are the easy fix for this. At ChromaZone Ink Canvas Printing Orlando we use some of these new coatingless canvases, but we continue to coat them to produce a product worthy of the price. So, remember to compare apples to apples and ask questions about the components used by your canvas printing company if you want a true “Fine Art Print” reproduction.
Finally, the Good News…
Advancements continue in manufacturing to produce better more stable products. With some research, companies can seek them out and produce true “Fine Art” reproductions with quality worthy of galleries and museums. Pigment Ink sets and PH neutral poly cotton canvas blends, although more expensive, are better than ever and the combinations of these products when tested are rated beyond 80-100 years. Currently, these blends are the best canvas types.
Sometimes I cannot help but wonder if my artist wife only married me for my high quality giclées. Sigh, I may never know. ChromaZone Ink would love to be your canvas printing company, call us at 321-312-4800 | 800-501-2901.