Paper vs Canvas vs Aluminium

This page provides information on which medium to choose once you’ve decided on the image (or images) you’d like to order. It’s here only as a guide to help you make a more informed choice. Scroll down for info on deliveries, and framing and hanging your print.

PAPER

The paper I use is Sihl Masterclass lustre Photo Paper 300, imported from Europe. My printer is a 44” Epson 9900 with eleven separate ink colours and I only ever use genuine Epson inks. The prints are mailed in thick tubes and wrapped in acid free tissue paper.

Why choose paper?

A traditional custom framed paper print can look amazing on the wall. Custom framing, as opposed to using a standard sized ready-made frame, means you choose how it will look - what colour and style of frame, what colour and style of mat (or mats) - so you have the freedom to create a unique piece of artwork that resonates with your individual tastes. You have more creative options as to how the final piece will look with a paper print than either canvas or aluminium.

A3, A2, A1 and AO are all standard European frame sizes which means you can buy a ready-made frame to fit your print if you don’t want to spend extra on custom framing (or if you don’t want to deal with all the custom framing decisions). This is a less expensive option that will still give you a great looking result (click on the product thumbnail to see how this looks).

Why not?

A framed print usually means glass and glass is heavy which can make hanging some large frames tricky. Glass also breaks so it may not be suitable around kids and it’s harder to transport than canvas or aluminium. Glass also shows reflections and while non-reflective glass can help, the good stuff, like museum grade, can add a lot to the cost.

A good way to get around the weight and breakage problems is to use acrylic instead of glass. It costs a little more and it scratches easier but it’s less than half the weight and certainly won’t break as easy.

CANVAS

Canvas is also printed on the same printer with the same inks (except for the black, which is a matte black used specifically for canvas and matte paper) and packaged the same as paper. All my canvases are printed as 'Mirror Wrap' which means 100% of the image is shown on the face of the print but it looks as though the image wraps around the frame. This is done by copying the outside 40mm of the image, flipping it and using that copy to go seamlessly around the edge of the frame (I bet that sounded confusing). 

Why choose canvas?

It costs less than custom framing. A canvas print gets stretched over and around a simple timber frame so all you see is the image itself which means you’re not paying for a fancy frame, glass or mat.

Canvas is lightweight and easier to transport than a framed print as there is no glass (same goes for aluminium).

No reflections. If a framed print or a high gloss aluminium print is hung next to a window or direct lighting it can be marred by reflections, and while this problem can be lessened by using non-reflective glass or a semi-gloss or matte finish on an aluminium print, with canvas it’s not going to be a problem.

Why not?

Less clarity. Canvas isn’t as smooth so it won’t have the same sharpness as paper so a canvas print tends to have a duller overall look than paper and even more so compared to aluminium. Having said that, some images that have a kind of soft feel to them, like this one, suit canvas perfectly. 

Less protection. Canvas isn’t protected by glass, like a paper print, or has anywhere near the durability of aluminium. It can be easily scratched or torn in an accident.

ALUMNIUM

Aluminium prints have been around for years but are less known than traditional paper or canvas prints. Basically, the image is heat infused onto a specially prepared sheet of aluminium in a process called dye sublimation. A kind of box frame is attached to the back which keeps it rigid and easy to hang.

Why choose aluminium?

Vibrancy, clarity and luminosity.

The best thing about an aluminium print is how it looks, but it’s hard get that across with a photo on a website.  When I stand a framed paper print next to a canvas print next to an aluminium print to compare the three options, the difference is striking. All of a sudden the canvas print, which looked pretty good before, looks faded and dull and the framed print looks a bit old fashioned. With aluminium you get a vibrant depth of colour, a sort of brilliant luminescence that’s not seen in paper and it’s also a very clean, modern, contemporary look.

It will last at least 150 years without any fading (provided it’s not in direct sunlight all day every day) and it’s heatproof, waterproof and scratch resistant so you could use it as a splash-back in the kitchen.

There are no framing costs as it comes ready to hang. It’s lightweight (the 60” x 40” weighs around 6 kg) and you can hang it outside or anywhere excess moisture would ruin a normal print, like tropical climates, and it's easy to clean. 

You can choose a semi gloss or matte finish to minimise reflections, there’s no glass to crack or timber frame to come apart, it can’t tear and it’s easy to transport (especially if you keep the box it comes in).

Why not?

Because it’s a top of the range product it costs a bit more. But if you’re considering custom framing a paper print then the difference might not be that much, depending on your choice of frame, what type of glass, what mats, etc.

Summary

Obviously you should always buy what you like best, budget permitting.

My gallery features aluminium prints because I like the way they look. I have framed prints and canvas too, but my personal preference is aluminium first with paper a close second. To me, aluminium is a better choice not only because it looks better but also because it’s an extremely durable medium.

About Deliveries

For all three mediums, postage worldwide includes signature on delivery and a tracking number which I’ll send to you on the day of posting so you can see where your print is along the delivery chain and approximately when it will arrive (bear in mind that for overseas deliveries, time spent in customs can be unpredictable).

If, in the event your mailing tube or the flat box your aluminium print comes in was to arrive damaged, check the condition of the print inside before you sign for it, if that’s possible. If the print is damaged in any way then ask them to send it back to me so I can lodge a claim for damages and post you a new one.

If you open an otherwise unscathed mailing tube to find your print is defective in any way, take photos and email them to me so I can fix this for you.

Large paper or canvas prints - if you’ve just opened the tube and you’re keen to unroll your print for a quick look, please be careful. If it’s a large print and you’re not used to handling them, it can be easy to hold it the wrong way and end up with a crease that won’t come out. Much as I’d like you to see the print right away, I recommend you leave it rolled up until you’re at the framers and let them do the handling, just in case.

Framing paper prints

Most of my prints are standard European frame sizes - A3, A2, A1, AO - so they'll fit into ready-made, standard sized frames. And because the print already has a white border around the image and because the paper has a lustre finish, it can go straight into the frame without the need for a mat. This makes it a simple, quick and inexpensive way to get a great looking result. It’s possible to do your own framing but if you leave it up to the pros it shouldn’t add much to the cost of the frame and you’ll get the best result.

A note for the framer. Some of my prints will be trimmed to the exact size and some will be slightly larger and need to be trimmed back before fitting. In that case a grey line shows the correct size (the excess paper outside the grey line makes for easier handling and serves to protect the edge of the print until it's ready to go in the frame).

If you’d like something a little fancier than a plain ready-made frame, you can always custom frame your print, in which case you would use a mat (or two) and choose a frame that's more suited to the image. If so, for an AO print, I’d recommend leaving around 20mm of the white border on the top and sides, 30mm on the bottom to include the text under the image, and a mat width of around 70mm.

Then choose a frame with a style and colour that works well with the combination of image and mat and you’ve got a unique piece of artwork. Your framer should be able to help with all those choices.

Hanging options

If you’re in a rental house or apartment and there are restrictions on what you can do to the walls - for example, you might not be allowed to screw in a hook - then consider a product like 3M picture hanging strips which will allow you to ‘hang’ your frame without damaging the wall. These adhesive strips are made specifically for fixing frames to the wall and can be removed without trace, provided you follow the instructions.

Another option is to have your print mounted on 10mm black adhesive foam board and avoid framing altogether. This will give you an extremely lightweight mounted print with a 10mm black edge that can be easily fixed to the wall with adhesive strips or even BluTac. The absence of glass might be a bonus if it’s in a child’s room (or a boat or caravan). This option works best when the wall has some colour to it so you can get a nice contrast between the white border around the image and the wall.

Bonus tip

If your framed print is going to be close to a window with a lot of direct light coming through and you’re worried about excessive reflections, non-reflective glass is a good way to cut down on glare. It costs a bit more but it does make a difference.

Let me know if you have any questions at all - I'd be happy to help.