Beware of Cheap Canvas Prints

You will want to share this with any photographers or artists you know. Beware of those Groupon, Amazon or other canvas print specials by e-mail. Not that all are bad but with canvas prints, many times you get what you pay for. If you don't believe me, check out this video of a canvas print we received from a competitor that we once used to highly respect. Now I am not so sure.
I normally don't worry too much about the competition unless I know they are doing something which we too can put into practice to benefit our own customers so when I heard that the quality of their newest stretched and mounted canvas was incredibly refined, my curiosity was peaked. Having partnered with their parent company and having had a good relation with them in the past I figured I would be pleasantly surprised. 
Rather than being pleasantly surprised I was shocked and disturbed that such a canvas print would be made and offered to unsuspecting artists and photographers. I already knew places like your corner pharmacy photo labs and big retailers with photo labs were farming out canvas prints to companies that produced extremely cheap and poorly made canvas prints but I did not expect it from a reputable online canvas printing company which many prominent online photo labs as well as professional photographers and artists rely on.
One way to become suspicious is if you see such things like Groupon or other deals in which they are offering 16×20 canvas prints for $20 or less. Also, if you see specials in which the canvas printing company is running almost the same sale every other day and the sale price is 40 to 60% off their listing price online then something may not be right. Not that we don't like to offer some really great sales ourselves but we don't do the same sale every other day and at those type of price drops on canvas. Just be suspicious when a normally $100 canvas print is being placed on sale for $50 or less every other day.
For now I won't name the company who sent us this canvas but instead encourage people to stay away from those super cheap canvas print deals since many of those companies also farm out to this one in question. Take a look at the video and see for yourself what happens when you order a canvas print that seems to affordable to be believable.
Since posting this yesterday a few people have asked me for more details on the canvas itself and inks. First I should mentioned my inital intent was to do a fun little video comparison with our own canvas prints but once I picked it up I knew it would not be a fair comparison. To be fair, my initial response when I saw it was "Wow! What a nice looking canvas!" But as soon as picked it up my opinion changed immediately. I could tell it was made of cheap materials that would not withstand the test of time.  It felt so light that I initially thought it had a stretcher frame made of balsa wood. I have seen some canavas prints made with such but this canvas print was not even at that level. Instead it was a chipboard with score marks so the sides folded like a box. The chip board it was adhered will also be very acidic according to one of our suppliers who deals with some similar materials for the signage industry.  The only thing holding it togther was some strong adhesive and the dust cover backing board.
Frankly, it would be like comparing a Audi or BMW to a nice looking but cheaply made enconomy car. For the person that just needs some reliable transporation, the cheap car might be fine. But for the performance oriented auto aficianodo they would not be satisfied. Likewise the professional artist or photographer would be disappointed and definately not want to provide it to their own customer.
One of our staff members asked me about the inks. From what I could tell I suspect they are fine. The print was very scratch resistant. Probably the Epson Ultrachrome GX which are solvent based since the print was very scratch resistant. Those are actually some excellent inks which we use for our artisan archival canvas. It could also be possible they are latex based but I can't say for sure. The color gamut was okay in comparison to what when we printed that same image but the difference was too subtle to show well on video.
The canvas itself is a very cheap non-archival polyester versus an archival poly-cotton blend which most color labs will use for art reroductions and high quality canvas photo prints. Polyester is a good choice if you were trying to offer very inexpensive canvas prints for seasonal retail signage. It seemed similar to what customers asked for when looking to order very inexpensive "canvas" prints in high volume that they expect to throw away a few months later. This canvas is widely used in the signage industry for such as well as for display banners. Next time you go to Walmart, browse the home decor area and look for some of the canvas prints they have there. That is what we are talking about.
Overall it a good product for something like the retail industry which frequently requires quick turnaround times and cheap "canvas" prints for their seasonal retail signage but you definately would not want to send this to a your own customer if you are an artist or photographer. 
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