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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Canvas Printing And Gallery Wraps I

A few weeks ago, I went to the Three Rivers Arts Festival and walked around a bit looking at the various artists' booths.  I was really quite taken with the artists that were displaying photos that were printed on canvas and made into gallery wraps.  I had been thinking for some time that I really would like to learn how to print on canvas and display my work in this way, but had not done so because I had heard that it was fairly difficult to run the canvas through the printer and even more difficult to apply the needed varnish.  Then, of course, there is the issue of mounting the canvas on stretcher bars.  But seeing these wraps on display made me decide that the time to try was now. I thought I would take two or three posts to write about my experience of learning how to do it and the materials that I chose to use.  But first let me skip ahead to the ending for a moment......it was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.  If you have an interest in making gallery wraps you should definitely give it a whirl.

My first goal was to do some research.  The issues:

i)  What canvas to use

ii)  What varnish to use

iii)  How to apply the varnish

iv)  How to assemble the gallery wrap

To take each issue one at a time:

i) There are several well thought of inkjet canvases, and I suspect that different ones will appeal to different people based on their individual taste in image output.  I tend to like images that are bright and contrasty and, based on my research, I thought that Breathing Color Lyve Canvas would be a good choice.  Canvas tends to be a bit pricey and some have specific varnish recommendations, so I wasn't planning to try multiple different canvas products if I liked Lyve.

I purchased one of the trial rolls (17 inch x 20 feet) which Breathing Color makes available at the very reasonable price of $29.  The canvas is a relatively bright white.  I can see how some people might find the appearance of the canvas a bit too bright (though no optical brighteners are used) as, in some ways, this tends to detract a bit from the canvas texture.  The appearance is really not too dissimilar from a print on paper.  In fact, it had more depth and contrast than a print on matte paper.  By that I mean that if I were to take an image optimized for printing on a satin or semi-gloss paper and print it on matte paper without using Photoshop to increase contrast and saturation it would tend to look 'flat'.  But my first canvas print, made using the Breathing Color profile for my printer, looked quite good with almost no adjustments.  The only adjustment I made when softproofing with the canvas icc profile was to brighten the highlights just a bit.

I should mention that I had no difficulty whatsoever printing on the canvas or using the canvas in the printer.  I did open the platen gap to its widest setting, as recommended by the manufacturer, as well as using the recommended media settings.  Though you can use both photo and matte black inks with the canvas, a support ticket to Breathing Color yielded the information that the Dmax would be better with matte black ink, which would result in deeper blacks as compared to photo black ink. (As an aside, I can not imagine better customer service than what I received from Breathing Color......rapid and clear responses to all my inquiries)

In short,the initial canvas print with minimal change made to the file I had used for printing on Ilford Gallerie Gold Fiber Silk paper looked really good!  I was psyched to move on!

ii) The choice of varnish was easy.  Breathing Color recommends Timeless varnish for use with Lyve canvas.  Timeless comes in three finishes: matte, satin, and glossy. It can be purchased in pints and gallons.  I decided to try both the matte and satin finishes and bought a pint of each.  A good many people recommend their Glamour II varnish but, given limited time, I wanted to keep life as simple as possible and Glamour II needs to be diluted prior to use while Timeless can be used straight from the can.

Although my experience with the varnishes to this point has been limited, from what I can see thus far the matte finish yields a beautiful, smooth non-reflective finish while the satin, to my eye, gives minimally deeper blacks and a tad more depth with a surface that is mildly reflective when one looks at it from an angle.  Viewed straight on, there is not much reflection.  There is no 'better', just slightly different.

Next post.....applying varnish and making the wrap!