Great Photos Deserve Canvas

Posted by on October 4, 2010 at 9:00 am.

Artwork by Suzanne Kay

When it comes to photography, there is something to be said for size. Seeing a great photo enlarged to fill your field of vision does something to your perception of the image portrayed. There are few mediums more fit for displaying photographic art than real art canvas. The texture created by tightly woven fibres melding with pigments gives stills an incomparable organic undertone.

Opus Art & Design Media – the newest location for Opus Framing and Art Supplies in Downtown Vancouver – takes canvas printing very seriously. The store caters to professional artists and galleries in addition to amateurs and enthusiasts and prides itself in offering only the best gallery quality Giclée prints. For the second year in a row, Opus is providing 24” x 36” stretched canvas prints for our top winners because great photos deserve canvas. Here is Suzanne Kay on why the best art supply store in Vancouver is such a strong supporter of 12×12.

We introduced you to Opus Framing & Art Supplies and their canvas printing services in advance of Raw Talent 2009 but Opus doesn’t just offer printing, canvas stretching and framing services. They also sell a variety of coatings to further enhance the appearance of Giclée prints. Canvas printers are in reality extremely high quality inkjet printers that can render digital images onto all sorts of media including archival canvas. The nature of inkjet printing ink is that it comes out as a matte coat. As such, dark colours and blacks are not as dark as they can be because matte surfaces tend to reflect a certain amount of light. Depending on the original medium the image was created in and the intended effect, this can be both a plus and a minus. In many cases the matte effect is what is desired. But in others, like that of photos, the artist may want a different finish, either glossy or even with some texture to it. The same goes for painters who are printing reproductions and mixed-media artists who use the Giclée prints as a base for further artistic expression.

Different Giclée Print Coatings

For these artists, the Giclée print is but the first step of the process. Upon receiving a stretched canvas print, they will go on to apply one of the many available post-print coatings that provide either a base for further work or a permanent final coat for the image that brings out the colours or adds texture where none was before. These coats, applied by hand with a brush, range from basic matte, semi-gloss or high-gloss varnishes, to gel coats that are either self-levelling or moldable. The coats are applied by the print owner and opens a world of new posibilities for its final appearance. For photos, a simple semi-gloss or high-gloss varnish or a self-levelling gel will bring out the depth of dark tones and give the print a shine not unlike that of an acrylic painting. For painters and photographers with an artistic flare, the acrylic gel coats and adhesive coats open the door for adding brush stroke effects and even new coats of paint or other artistic media.

Varnish and Top-Coat Options for Digital Prints

Golden Archival Spray Varnish: This comes in gloss, satin and matter finishes and has the addition of a UV block. Apply 6 to 8 thin coats, allowing each layer to dry for at least ½ hour in between. This creates a very smooth, even surface which will protect your piece from scratching and environmental dirt and acidity. This varnish is a final coat and should not be painted on top of. Easy to use, but takes several hours to complete.

Liquitex Gloss Varnish and Medium: This is a brush-on varnish that goes on easily to provide a gloss finish to your piece. Brush on the first layer with a soft synthetic brush and let it completely dry. Brush on the second layer in the opposite direction (i.e. if you first coat went on across the width of the piece, the second coat should be brushed on the length of the piece). More layers can be applied if desired, but isn’t necessary. You can paint on top of this medium with excellent adhesion. Easy to use and doesn’t take too long.

Golden Digital Topcoat: This is a brush-on topcoat that comes in Gloss and Semi- gloss and has the addition of a UV block. Brush on the first layer with a soft synthetic brush and let it completely dry. Brush on the second layer in the opposite direction. More layers can be applied if desired, but isn’t necessary. You can paint on top of this medium with excellent adhesion. Easy to use and doesn’t take too long.

Golden Self-levelling Gel: This is a medium that can be poured on, or brushed on your piece. It is flexible, has a high shine, is very smooth and glass-like with a similar appearance to a resin coat. You can paint on top of this medium with excellent adhesion. Easy to use and doesn’t take too long. Ideally, a final varnish coat should be used to increase longevity of the piece, but is not completely necessary.

Acrylic Gel (available in various thicknesses, and several brands): This is a great application to add surface texture to your piece. You can apply a gel in “creative” brush strokes to accent texture (i.e. brush strokes of a painting) or emphasize movement (i.e. adding texture to crashing waves). You can paint on top of this medium with excellent adhesion. Easy to use and doesn’t take too long. Ideally, a final varnish coat should be used to increase longevity of the piece, but is not completely necessary.

Key Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Topcoat for Your Digital Print:

  • Gloss will deepen and slightly darken your colours
  • Matte will slightly lighten and flatten your colours
  • Brush-on matte topcoats can look streaky and semi-opaque on dark areas
  • If you are planning to stretch your canvas print yourself, you should topcoat the piece first as it will reduce the possibility of scratching and abrading the print

All of these varnishes, topcoats and gels can be purchased from any Opus store. Please check www.OpusFraming.com for more product information and pricing.

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