View Full Version : My (rambling) thoughts on the subject ...

Don Libby
18th August 2010, 08:56
We (Iron Creek Photography) offer fine art landscape images that are printed on both (archival quality) canvas and/or paper.

Printing: All prints are done using an Epson 9800 printer. (We still have a 4000 that doesn't get used as much as it used to.)

Canvas: For canvas images that are sold locally we not only print and protect (using Glamour II) we also do all of our own stretching. We offer the choice of non stretched to those who order on-line however I prefer to stretch it myself. Not all images are printed on canvas as not all images turn out looking as good.

Paper: This is a little more involved as once the image is printed it's sent to a professional framer where it will be matted and framed using museum quality material and toped off with non-glair UV protective glass.

We show our display our images both on-line as well as locally in a small local cafe & art gallery where we pay for the use of an entire room dedicated to showing our work.

We started offering a line of DVD's that run approximately 25 minutes that have gone over well. The DVD is a less expensive way to see the full run of images (we don't have to print & frame them) we have to offer while making it affordable to the customer. We started the DVD late summer of 2009 and we're currently selling volume II with Volume III in the works. The DVD is being shown in at least 2 hospitals and we've heard that the Susan B Coleman Foundation is interested.

We use ProShow Producer to put the DVD together and Royalty Free for the music. We burn each disk as well as print the label. While it can be labor intensive, I've found that we can save money doing it this way and be able to offer them at what appears to be an attractive price.

We also operate a Blog. We've found the blog helps to tie together everything we do by offering a glimpse into what we offer and where we go to produce the images. We also play around with some videos and a sample of the DVD is offered; this is where YouTube comes in very handy as we use it to host any videos.

I've used the term "we" throughout this as my wife Sandy is my partner; while I enjoy huge in you face landscape images she on the other hand see the smaller details of an image which in the end make for a perfect partnership.

I just opened the new forum and see different threads going on and don't really know where to stick this or even if this belongs here but what the heck.

a side note on canvas: Stretching your own canvas isn't as hard as you might think; also offering canvas prints can offer a larger return on a smaller price point which can be addressed in a totally different thread.


5th December 2010, 02:09
Don, your post of thoughts on marketing and stretching your own canvas is much appreciated. I see several devices or tools advertised designed to assist in stretching your own canvas...do you use or recommend any? Perhaps others can discuss any such devices as well. Charles Stephens

Don Libby
5th December 2010, 08:18
I've been going to Dick Blick for most of my canvas stretching materials now for several years and have been pleased. The following links take you to the two pliers I use every time I stretch as well as an idea on corner brackets. I've been using the Best Medium Duty and Heavy Duty stretcher bars with great success as well.




Doing a Google on stretcher bars will take you to pages of information that show all sorts of bars both the traditional wood as well as newer metal. While I prefer the more traditional precut wood Ken Doo has been trying a slightly different approach which I hope he'll chime in and talk about.

I've found printing on canvas has been easy and allows me to offer finished images at a much reduced cost rather than paper which will then have to be matted (often using over sized mats) and frames and glass all adding hundreds of dollars to the completed image. Sizing images for a canvas wrap is now easy (after much trial and error) and protecting the finished images is equally easy using a product like Glamour II which can be applied either by brush, roller or my all time favorite spraying.

I just this morning printed an image that will be stretched to 24x36; the printed images is slightly larger than 28x40. Allowing for it to thoroughly dry, I'll protect the image using an airless sprayer I picked up at The Home Depot then stretch it and it will be in the clients hands and hung on the wall no later than Tuesday afternoon. The total cost of this image was $19.60 for the wood stretcher bars and an additional $19.51 for the actual printing cost including canvas and ink. There's an additional cost factor of staples and wire as well as my time stretching the image.

I've once again gone slightly overboard in answering your question however offering canvas prints on the "right" canvas is easier than you might think and less costly. I've been selling much more canvas prints and traditional matted and framed images since I first started offering canvas landscapes. While not every images will look right on canvas the majority of them do and most times people first look at the image and get the mistaken idea that they are looking at a painting, then I have fun explaining what it really is.

Sorry of the overly long answer...


5th December 2010, 08:47
Don, no reason to apologize for the length of your response. I consider that printing on canvas is a very important topic, and I am surprised there have not been two dozen posts on this already; perhaps there have been and I have not seen them. I have not yet printed on canvas, but want to give it a try. I have seen many canvas prints in my geographic area, but have not seen a single one which I thought was even near equal to what the I envisioned the orignal printed on paper might have been. Maybe it is just my eye, but in the photo shows I have attended the canvas prints all seemed to lack that special something that was present in the traditionally framed and matted photographs. I agree with you that canvas offers a large savings in cost, and that is the reason I remain interested in that approach. I think I am going to pursue canvas printing in the near future, but if I cannot get better results than what I am seeing in regional shows, I will not be satisfied.

Thanks for the links to further information. When I asked about tools for stretching I was hoping to find someone with eperience with such devices and those found at the following link:


Don Libby
5th December 2010, 09:49
I did a ton of research on stretching before I did my first piece both on line and speaking to a couple gallery/frame shops here in Tucson. One of the things I came away with was no one I spoke with was stretching with a mechanical device, rather they were all doing it by hand. The other thing I came away with and what I do is when I stretch the canvas I start by placing one staple in the center of each end which generally holds the canvas in place. I then start at the center of one of the longest sides and stretch from center to left corner flipping the image to the opposite corner before starting at the smaller corner, stretching center in. By the time I'm finished I'll have four opposing corners stretched and will begin to hear the drum effect when I lift up the image. I fold the corners and finish the image by stretching the remaining four corners. All by hand. I use a combination of the canvas pliers in the links above as well as a regular pair if needed in the corners. The image should be tight as a drum when you're finished. I also tend to go over board on the staples and shoot one in about every inch. I've been doing this for several years now and have had zero complaints from anyone who has brought our work, this includes those who had they work shipped long distances.

Regarding what you've seen image wise. My experience with printing on canvas shows that certain canvas will tend to soften the image itself and lose the crispness of a regular paper image. This is not always the case and you'll need to experiment with what canvas works best for you and your printer. Also remember proper profiles are just as important for canvas (maybe more so) as they are for paper.

We visited a wildlife museum last month while we were in Jackson Hole and the staff there were very keen on letting us know that one exhibit was all photography and not paintings as they were printed on canvas. Sandy and I just kept our mouths closed and enjoyed the beautiful art.

Good luck on your quest


Shelby Lewis
20th January 2011, 14:11
Thanks Guys for the discussion!

I was given (yes, given) an epson 7800 last year and have got it up and running now... and have several trial roles of breathing color's canvases coming in (lyve and chromata white) along with several of their other products.

I've often wondered about canvas as a medium for landscape work. Most of my friends and clients have fairly modern sensibilities and the clean presentation of a gallery wrap often is desired by them.

Can you all comment as to printing resolution? As a portrait/wedding photographer I've often used Simply Canvas as my canvas lab. Their output is generally fantastic. Strangely enough, for their canvas prints they only specify 100dpi actual print size... and the products I've been delivered have always looked fantastic.

Knowing that canvas tends to obscure fine detail... do you all print at lower resolution on your canvases or do you attempt to stay around the 300-ish DPI mark as if you were printing on paper?

Oh... and Don... do you mind commenting on your airless sprayer. I've been told some of the inexpensive Wagner hvlp rigs are actually quite good for spraying canvases.

Thanks! :)

Don Libby
21st January 2011, 09:52

Congratulations on the 7800 great score there!

I've enjoyed printing most of my landscape images on canvas for several years. Shortly after I got the 9800 I was commissioned to do a piece on the Grand Canyon and ended printing that on canvas at 30x60; so far we've sold 2 at that size both on canvas.

The reaction that most people have when seeing our work on canvas is that it isn't a photograph. I've found that there's a lot of people out there that don't know we can print on canvas. Actually we can print on silk too and that's been in the back of my mind for several years.

I totally agree and subscribe to the notion of gallery wrap. The bigger images are stretched on heavy-duty wood that offers a 2" wrap; the smaller images are stretched on medium-duty that offers around a 1" wrap. Either way the act of wrapping the image around the sides sets off the image and helps to give more depth. I hate hate hate (okay you get the idea) images that have that unfinished white border on the sides - okay if you're going to frame it however our work needs no framing. Actually we've never had a client frame a piece of our work.

Image Resolution - I work every image in 16bit 300 dpi and print that way as well. Might be over kill but it works for me so that's what I'll keep doing. I also add a touch more ink and drying time to each pass and that helps with color richness, tone and depth.

An image printed on paper will always print smoother than on canvas due to the teeth of the canvas. This shows up when you're pixel peeping the distance at nose distance. Step back to normal viewing distance and the difference diminishes. Canvas will never be as "sharp" or "crisp" as say an image printed on Epson Harmon Photo Professional Baryta but then you need to listen to your image as it tells you which media is right for it. (And yes - I do talk to my images as I process them). I've found most landscape images we've done are very suitable for canvas whether they were captured on a 1DsIII, M9 or P45+. Likewise I've found most nature images are better suited for paper. I enjoy offering landscape on canvas as it turns out to be less expensive to offer as it's finished versus paper where you need matting and framing; in some cases my prints require oversized mats which cost even more money. Case in point is the image "Twisted" from the California Redwoods. Twisted is 28x32 and required oversize matting and glass; the framing alone on this piece was $450.00.
Don't worry about loosing the fine detail as you really don't. I just finished printing a new image before writing this. The image is 24x50 of a stand of fall trees in the distance. The image was printed on canvas and the detail of the trees are great.

I can thank my good friend Ken Doo in helping me spend my money and in this case he helped me with the spray unit. It's a Wagner hvlp airless sprayer that I've used for several years now and am totally pleased with it.

This has turned into a very long somewhat rambling response and I hope I answered at least some if not all your questions.

Back to work on a 30x40 now...


Shelby Lewis
21st January 2011, 18:41
Don... keep on rambling. This is fantastic info for a newbie to landscape printing.

I just bought my first MF digital camera today (Mamiya DL28 - afdii with a leaf aptus ii-6 back) and am really looking forward to printing on the 7800. My initial samples of chromata and lyve just came in, along with the timeless matte coating. Also got some of the ez-wrappe trial kits to see if I want to go that route or with the traditional wooden stretchers.

I especially appreciate your remarks on sharpness, detail, and resolution. VERY helpful.