Photo print vs Canvas: which one should you choose?

How do you choose artwork for your home, business or as a gift for a loved one? Should you buy a canvas or print and what size is best? It can be daunting, and like the answer to most of the great questions in life, the answer is: it depends!

Here are some handy tips to help you choose the best print or canvas for you:

1) How big is the space where the print or canvas will hang?

Measure the space where you want to hang the image. Think about how much room there needs to be above and below and each side of the image based on the wall space and what furniture might be front of the image. There's no right or wrong here but you will need to leave some allowance. You should also consider whether there are doors opening onto the wall that will affect how the image is viewed whether the door is open or closed.

Canvas print lounge NZ

2) What environment will the print or canvas be displayed in?

If the environment is modern it may suit a canvas print better, whereas a traditional environment may better suit a framed print. Also think about the colour of the walls and if you are planning to frame a print, what colour will suit the space and the print itself. Some images will naturally better suit a black or darker frame while others will suit white or a natural wood finish. 

Dark wall light photo frame

3) Will the image be displayed in an area that gets any direct sunlight?

It's worth considering the location the image will be displayed in. Will the area get any direct sunlight? Even though images are generally printed on archival quality inks, you don't want the print to fade within just a few years.

Dining room photo sunlight


If you are planning to frame your print you'll need to also think about how the light enters the space, e.g. will the glass reflect so much light that it is hard to appreciate the image inside? When framing your image your printer should have options available for you to choose glass that has low reflective qualities and some UV filtration to reduce the chances of both fading and reflections.

4) Will your image be the only image on a wall or do you intend to add others to it?

If your image is going to be a stand-alone feature on a wall, this isn't a consideration but if you plan on having a collage of different images featured on a wall then you'll need to consider the colours of each image you have chosen and whether you want a wall entirely made of framed prints or canvases or a mix of both. 

Photo frame bedroom


5) To mat or not

Another consideration if you plan to frame your print is whether to include a matboard. Traditionally a white matboard is included on framed prints which further frames the image inside. However another option is to frame without a matboard - this results in more of a poster effect.


6) How about a triptych or multi-panel canvas?

A really unique and unusual way to display a canvas is to split the image across 3 separate panels known as a triptych, or in fact across multiple panels of different sizes. Not all images will suit this display style, look for an image that has a consistency of texture and tones across the horizontal plane that will still look good when split across multiple panels.

Triptych Canvas Display


7) Choosing a non-standard print size

Don't feel that you have to be bound by standard A4-A0 sizes. You may have an image in mind or a physical space that better suits a panoramic print ratio like 1:2 or 1:3. Chat with me about pricing for a panoramic style print or canvas.

Panoramic canvas lounge print

 Panoramic image at 1:2 ratio

Panorama print one third ratio

Panoramic canvas print at 1:3 ratio

8) What is your budget?

There tends to be a tipping point where the cost of print vs canvas starts to diverge. Framed prints generally become more expensive after A2 (60 x 45 cm) because of the costs of the glass and frame required to frame an image professionally. There are plenty of low-cost ready-made frame options also available online at places like The Warehouse, Factory Frames and Briscoes. However, you'll need to bear in mind that these won't have the protective glass properties mentioned above and may mean your image isn't likely to last as long for years to come.

To have a print professionally framed here are some approximate figures for you to work to in addition to the cost of the print dependent on the type of glass and wood framing used (in NZD):

A2 frame with 50mm matboard & glass $150-$300

A1/A0 frame with 70mm white matboard & glass $400-$700

Need more advice?

If you are still unsure about the best way to display your chosen image(s), get in touch. I'm always happy to provide advice on the best options based on your own unique circumstances and environment.