Overview & Early Conclusion
Large canvas prints are great way to showcase your photographs for yourself or for your clients. There are handful of professional canvas-makers out there, as well as consumer-based companies such as Costco, so we thought it would be a great idea to compare the quality of their canvases in our canvas review editorial. There were far too many companies to choose from, so we selected Costco, Simply Canvas, Pixel2Canvas, WHCC, Bay Photo and CG Pro Prints for our review.
It was clear that the professional labs significantly beat out consumer based canvases in terms of build and print quality. However, among the professional labs, print quality was actually very similar across the board. While there would be minor differences that are barely noticeable at 2-3 inches (most of which were preferential), the canvases could not be differentiated at a standard viewing distance of 2-3 feet. This meant that our decision came down to Overall Framing Quality, Pricing and Service/Speed.
One particular company stood out far above the rest. As a result, CGProPrints.com has officially become our canvas-maker for SLR Lounge. Not only was their print quality on par with the other professional canvas makers, their pricing was half the price of Costco and 1/4 to 1/6 the price of professional canvas makers which was a huge selling point. In addition, their overall framing was incredible having no warping or bumps on corner folds. This along with their standard 3 day turn around made them the clear choice among companies in our testing group.
So, rather than talk about why we didn’t select the other companies, we are going to focus on discussing each key point in our selection of CG Pro Prints. Unfortunately, there are always going to be some of you that are “jaded” to the point where you will think this review selection was based on “payment.” I can assure you that it wasn’t. We made this selection based on who we will be using for SLR Lounge and our studio, Lin and Jirsa Photography.
UPDATE: CG Pro Prints was kind enough to give us a coupon code for an additional $10 off 16×20 prints or larger until 12/10/12 “SLRCANVAS”
Watch the Video Review
Testing Methodology: Four Key Points
In order to systemize the entire review, we chose to compare each canvas and canvas-maker across four key points. We also used the same image for all the canvas prints for our comparison.
1. Canvas Texture and Print Quality
a. What kind of inks are used? Are they archival-quality inks? Do they provide good, accurate colors?
b. How do the details resolve in the print? Canvas prints typically do not attain the same level of detail as opposed to regular prints so this is a major factor in overall print quality.
2. Overall Framing Quality
a. Is the canvas is appropriately stretched and framed tautly with clean corners? Are there any warping, bends, and loose canvases?
b. What kind of materials are used for the backing?
c. Does the canvas arrive ready to be hang or does it need additional hardware installation to hang?
a. What is the price in relation to the build quality? If build quality is similar, then price becomes the key factor.
4. Service and Speed
a. How easy is it to submit an order online?
b. How long does it take for the finished canvas to arrive?
To cut to the chase, CG Pro Prints was on par or lead in all four categories. Not only did their canvas print quality match or rival other professional canvas makers, their canvases are half the price as the consumer-based canvases from Costco and fraction of the price of professional canvas makers.
Here are the detailed results for each of the key points:
1. Canvas Texture and Print Quality
Consumer canvas prints from Costco suffer from some oversaturation of certain colors like greens and blues. There was also some color shifting compared to our color-calibrated monitors. Additionally, detail was not resolved well in high-detail areas such as hair.
The great news with the professional canvas-makers such as WHCC, Pixel to Canvas, and CG Pro Prints is that the overall print quality, canvas texture quality, color accuracy, and detail retention are all spot on across the board. When we are looking at these canvases from a distance at 3-4 inches, it is difficult to see who has the better quality.
In addition, most of the difference that you might see at 3-4 inches would be something we would call “preferential” rather than being a clear quality difference. For example, some makers used a thicker grain of canvas which had slightly less detail than those that would use thinner grains of canvas.
None of these differences were significant at 3-4 inches and at the standard viewing distance of 3-4 feet, it is practically impossible to tell these differences.
So rest assured, you really cannot go wrong in terms of canvas and print quality with any of the professional canvas-makers. One thing notable about CG Pro Prints, however, is that they use automobile-grade inks, which are very durable, archival-quality inks that can stand outdoor weather which none of the other companies mentioned using.
2. Overall Framing Quality
Most of the other professional canvas prints exhibit little to some play with the print themselves and their edges are framed tightly around to prevent warping.
Flipping around backside, the other professional canvases were either left open or had paper-like backing that is either stapled or glued to the canvas. This type of backing is more elegant than an open-back solution, but it is still relatively unprofessional in our opinion as it looks “cheap.”
The Costco canvas print framing had the most canvas play, which means that it may arrive with warped lines as well as loosen over time.
On to the backside, the Costco print has open backing. Some of the professional canvas prints also have open backing as the standard option. You have to pay extra to upgrade to a paper backing or matte backing. Additionally, not all of the prints have the mounting hardware already built-in.
The corner edges of many of these prints also exhibit little bumps as they are not completely taut.
The framing quality of the CG Pro Prints canvas is really where that canvas starts to run away from with the competition. There is an internal foam-core frame behind the canvas itself, which means that the canvas is very rigid and has no play whatsoever (see our tapping test in the video). The edges are also flawlessly taut with no rises whatsoever.
Moreover, all the CG Pro Prints canvas prints come standard with a stiff, matte backing that already have two mounting options installed.
What is even more amazing than the high quality of the CG Pro Print canvas is its price. It is actually 50% cheaper than Costco. For a 20×30” canvas print, Costco charges about $70, whereas a professional canvas-maker charges between $120-200. CG Pro Print charges only $35 for their 20×30” prints. That is half the price of Costco for an incredibly high quality product that comes standard with internal framing, automotive-grade archival ink, and the stiff matte backing.
Furthermore, they don’t sell “retail” meaning that your clients won’t be able to simply go to their site and purchase directly. They sell wholesale to those running photography business only. This is major selling point for us as it creates a sort of “exclusivity” for our clients. I.E. The only way to get this sort of print is to print through the studio.
4. Service and Speed
Finally, CG Pro Prints also has a very easy ordering process on their website, and the prints only take about 3 days to ship, as opposed to the standard 1-2 weeks turnaround time that we typically get from the other professional canvas-makers.
As you can see, it should be quite easy to see why we selected CG Pro Prints as our official canvas-maker for SLR Lounge. They provide prints with great image and canvas quality, excellent framing that has matte backing standard, and a price that is half as much as the low-end Costco brand. In addition, we can get the prints done in half the time it would take from other professional canvas-makers. There is simply no comparison, and we recommend CG Pro Prints.
UPDATE: They were kind enough to provide us with a coupon for $10 off your first order of a 16×20 or larger which can be seen below: