Artwork on Canvas: What is it and How is it Framed?

A tour of any museum or art gallery makes it perfectly obvious that for centuries artists have been painting on canvas, primarily with oils and more recently acrylics. With today’s technology, reproductions are also available on canvas.  This is often confusing and may cause uncertainty about what is actually being purchased and its possible future value.

What is a Canvas Transfer?

Most reproductions can now be put on canvas.  The procedure involves applying a lamination film on the face of the reproduction, stripping the paper off the back and then mounting the image directly onto the canvas.  This technique has many advantages especially with larger reproductions.  Canvas transfers have:

  • A canvas texture
  • No glass
  • No mats
  • An Ultra-violet film which helps prevent fading and has a non-glare image
  • The ability to be wiped down with a damp cloth

The canvas transfer technique is a good option for traditional or contemporary pieces that originally were painted onto canvas because it creates a more “authentic” appearance.

What is a Giclée on Canvas?

Giclée printing is a process using an ink-jet printer. The image is computer scanned and then printed directly onto the canvas.  High quality inks have UV prohibitors that help prevent the canvas from fading.

There has been a huge improvement in this process since its inception about 10 years ago due to improved printers and higher quality inks.  The advantage to the artist is that as many or as a few images can be reproduced, in any size, whenever they like.  The images can also be colour corrected.  The advantage to the consumer is that if the artist is producing a limited edition reproduction of 500 and sales are slow, not all may be printed, making those printed more valuable.

Many poster reproductions are also available as a giclée on canvas.  Bruce McGaw Graphics and Eurographics from Montreal and Canadian Art Prints from Vancouver have hundreds of images that can be printed directly onto canvas in a variety of sizes. This offers a great deal of flexibility for the consumer who may require different sizes of art for a variety of spaces.

What is “Enhancing”?

“Enhancing” is the hand painting of oil or acrylic onto the canvas giclée or reproduction.  Sometimes, this is done to project more “value” to the reproduction.  Sometimes, it is used by unscrupulous dealers to convince unsuspecting consumers that the work is an original.  Some artists who are contracted to large poster publishers have forbidden canvas transferring and hence “enhancing” of their reproductions.

What is Stretching?

Once you have a work on canvas, it needs to be stretched on wooded stretcher bars so that it will be flat and permanently held in place.  Stretcher bars are usually made of unfinished softwood. The canvas is wrapped around the edge and secured into place.  Sometimes black tape is added to cover and finish the edges.  If the artwork is to be unframed, the image can be wrapped around the side of the stretcher bars and stapled on the back so that the staples are hidden from view.

What is a Liner?

A liner is an inner frame that is made of wood and typically comes in neutral white, off-white, or black, sometimes with a gold or silver edge.  Since mats require glass to hold them in place, a liner is used on a canvas to act as a mat; in other words to provide the artwork some space before it is framed.

What Frame Should I Choose: Wood or Metal?

Either wood or metal frames can be used on canvas works of art.  If you like the contemporary look of a metal frame, remember that the frame needs to be deep enough to cover the stretcher bars.  Because of the limited selection meeting this requirement, metal frames are seldom used for framing canvases.

There are many wooden frames of varying sizes, styles, colours and finishes.  Once again, consider the depth of the frame.  You many want it to cover the stretcher bars and sit flat on the wall.  Most frames cover the front edge of the canvas but “floater” frames are also available.  They are “L” shaped and screw onto the back of the stretcher bar.  With floater frames, none of the artwork is covered and the space between the image and the frame creates an attractive contemporary look.

Whether an original, reproduction or giclée, works on canvas can be very traditional or contemporary in appearance and provide a great focal point in any room.  Now that you know the differences between works on canvas how they should be framed, enjoy!


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