So last week I had a brilliant idea. I am at some point going to start offering prints of some of my paintings for sale online (I’m still determining if it will be directly through this site or a site like Etsy). I’ve done some test prints of some of my paintings onto linen card (8×10″ and 11×14″), and they came out really nice. I was considering getting some local printers to do up samples of a few paintings onto canvas to see what they came out like on that media, but there were two main problems with that. One was the fact that in a few months I’ll likely be moving across Canada, so getting started with a local Ottawa company would be kind of pointless. Also, the costs of getting local printers to do samples for me were quite prohibitive. One printer had good prices, but wouldn’t guarantee the quality of their inks or their light-fastness. The other printer said they did use archival inks and canvas, but even a small sample (like around 8″ square unframed, just the canvas) would cost at least $50. I really wanted to trial out a slightly larger print so that I could see the quality, as it’s too hard to tell on a tiny little scrap of canvas. So I got the idea to contact some online Canadian printers and see if they could offer me a sample of their work so I could compare manufacturers and quality. I contacted four companies, and only one (Canvas n’ Decor) immediately offered to send me a canvas of my choice for free (in exchange for writing a blog review and posting some info about the company). They promote that they use archival matte canvas to print on, and use vivid archival photo quality Lucia inks. I was totally ok with writing a review in exchange for a sample print, as I did tell the company I would be posting an honest review – I wanted to trial the products so that I know my future customers would be getting a quality product that I was happy with as the artist. I’m not going to sell people the cheapest product I can find that will deteriorate within a few years, that’s not ok with me. If people are paying their money for my art, I want to know they can enjoy it for years to come. Another reason for writing this review is that I know many other artists struggle with knowing what companies produce good products, so I thought this review would help them too. So as a full disclosure, I did get a free canvas print sample of one of my paintings in exchange for writing this review, but that is not going to bias my writing nor my opinion of the finished product.
Online ordering process
The first thing I have to say is that I did not go through the “normal” online ordering process. Because I was getting a print as a free sample, I emailed the company directly with my image (2.8MB) and my specifications. I chose my digital painting “David” as I wanted to see how it came out onto canvas, and how the intense colours translated to the print. What I did do (to understand my options more when specifying what I wanted as the sample) is I went to their ordering page (for “regular” gallery wrapped pieces that’s here) and uploaded my image. They have a fair amount of options as far as painting orientation, finished size, wrap options (mirror wrap, black border, etc), frame thickness options, and whether you want the canvas to be matte or low gloss. I selected portrait style, 12×16″, black border, 1¾ inch frame, and low gloss. The company rep I was talking to said low gloss is best for vibrant colours, which obviously applied to the painting I had chosen. On their ordering page I also trialed out the various wrap styles. Mirror wrap means the outer edge of your painting will be “reflected” onto the sides of the painting – this would work really well for landscapes or images that didn’t have a lot of distinct important detail around the edges of the painting, but for a portrait like “David” it didn’t work at all. I also liked the idea of the photo wrap option (basically the outer edges of the painting become the sides of the frame), but with my painting again that didn’t work as important details (like his lips, my signature, parts of his nose) would get wrapped around the frame itself. I did some experimentation with some of the options, and finally settled on the black border wrap.
Mirror wrap, grey border, black border
Test photo wrap, black border preview
There were also lots of options to edit your image once it had uploaded. My internet isn’t the fastest, so it took a few minutes for the 2.8MB file to fully upload. Here are some of the options to edit your image.
Image editing features
One great function is that when you’ve uploaded your image and selected your output size, the website will tell you if the image can’t be printed at a good resolution (you’d need to select a smaller print size or get a bigger image file to upload). This function can be seen in the “test photo wrap” image above, the message is highlighted in yellow. I found for my image, at 2.8MB the largest print I could get was the 12×16″ I had selected, any bigger and I would have gotten that error message. Also, if you select an output size that is a different aspect ratio than your original image, you’ll be shown a crop box so you can select which part of the painting or image to crop out so it fits that output size. This cropping function is shown below.
So, once you’ve selected all your options and you’re happy with the previews, then you’d proceed to the payment section (I’m assuming). As I said, I didn’t do this myself as I ordered directly through the company rep, but the process up to that point was very easy to operate and you knew exactly what you were going to get.
The finished product
I ordered my piece with Canvas n’ Decor late on a Friday afternoon, so I knew likely nothing would even be started on it until Monday morning. I was very happy with their customer service at that stage, they’d responded to my original email (via their online customer contact form) within about a half hour saying yes they’d be happy to help me out. Their website says they have a 1-2 day turnaround time, and it also has a shipping map showing the ground delivery shipping timings for Canada. They currently have some great deals going for shipping and pricing at the time of this review, details can be found at the end of this article. On Thursday afternoon (yesterday), I got an email from UPS saying that my parcel would be delivered today, which meant it took exactly a week (including the fact that I ordered right at the end of the work week) from ordering to delivery. That’s pretty good in my book considering a few companies I was looking at would take up to three weeks for production and delivery.
Here are some photos of the process of unwrapping and inspecting the print. As you can see in some of the pics, my lovely little service dog Coco was keen to get in on the inspection process, I think he approves of the quality of the packaging and printing as well. 🙂 More details can be seen in the photo captions by clicking on each photo.
I have to say, the way the painting was packaged made it very apparent that short of someone drop-kicking the box, the painting was going to be very safe and secure during shipping. The multiple layers of card, paper, and bubble wrap protected the surface of the painting, as well as the corners which would usually be the first things to get dinged in transit. I carefully inspected the surface of the print, as well as the corners and back, and everything looked really good. There was no ink chipping off, the edges of the canvas were all beautifully folded and sealed (as well as evenly and securely stapled), and the rear hanger is secure and centred. I also like the weight of the print – it’s not ridiculously heavy, but it feels very stable and of a good quality, there’s nothing flimsy about it. I also like that I can stand it up as the frame is wide enough, that would be great if you were running out of wall space (like I am) but had some counter or shelf space you could use. I was at first worried that the low gloss would make the canvas stupidly shiny and “fake” looking, but it’s really nice. The colours have a nice glow, and it has that low sheen that an oil painting would have. I think the matte finish would look great with a black and white photograph, but for vibrant colours the rep was correct in recommending the low gloss option.
The only tiny problem I found with the print was that some of the blues VERY slightly tinted towards purple. The place this was most evident to me was the light blue under the eyes and around the edge of the face (between the cheeks and the beginning of the vibrant purple). This was almost not noticeable though, and I only picked up the slight colour shift because I was actively comparing the colours between the print and the original digital painting in the app I painted it with (ArtRage). I also thought the deep blacks in the hair and the corner of the eye weren’t quite as dark in the print as in the original painting, but that also could be just the way the colours are reading on my iPad screen. In the print I can actually see detail in colourations that I’d never really noticed in my original painting, which was kind of neat to see. So even though there seemed to be a tiny bit of the blue that slightly verged towards purple tones, it was so minimal that it literally wouldn’t have been noticed by anyone who wasn’t sitting there comparing the two for about ten minutes looking for differences.
So all in all, I would definitely recommend Canvas n’ Decor’s canvas prints, and when I start selling canvas prints of my work they’ll be the ones I order from. I won’t bother saying which companies didn’t want to send me a sample or give a discount for a sample print, each company has their own policies and procedures and I’m not going to publicly “slam” anyone for following their own policies. I will say I spent quite a bit of time doing research on the companies I approached and I checked out online reviews, etc before contacting them, so I knew that I was contacting the best of the best. I didn’t want to go with a company that outsourced its production to various printing houses in India or elsewhere – that just is so wrong to me on so many levels, mainly because they can’t control quality as well and you just really don’t know what you’re getting. I also like supporting local businesses if I can – I’m not militant about it, but if I have two options that are equal and one is local and one isn’t, I’ll go with the local option. Canvas n’ Decor is based in London, Ontario, and they also have a showroom there if anyone is in the area and wants to see samples up close. Also, please find below details about how to contact the company, and their current promotions and sales they have on right now. I will say again that I had a great experience with their customer service, and these days that seems to be an area that a lot of companies forget about (which is completely baffling to me). If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them!
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Toll free: 1-855-867-1894
www.canvasndecor.ca (Canadian customers)
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