Why canvas prints still define custom wall art

Monday, November 8, 2021

Once seen as vulnerable to its showier luxury competitors, canvas has defended its share of the custom wall decor market with its forward-thinking approach to traditionalism.

Quality, rapid turnaround, convenience, and price performance are key in canvas production
Quality, rapid turnaround, convenience, and price performance are key in canvas production

We’re several decades into the “mass customisation” era of printed home decor, and the fiercely competitive sector thrives on innovation more than most.

But canvas prints have been one area of the photo wall art market where changes to the basic formula haven’t been so welcome. And predictions that canvas would lose its position as the cornerstone of the industry have proven false.

The new custom wall art buyer
The rise of mass customisation opened up a new customer profile for the personalised wall art market. Once individual digital images could be uploaded online and fed into an (almost) entirely automated mass printing process, overheads fell precipitously while production speeds improved no end.

So rather than catering to the luxury market, providers such as CanvasDiscount.com can now ensure healthy profits by attracting the kind of buyer who might earlier have shopped on the high street.

Dependable quality is certainly still a priority for this new consumer, but quick turnaround, convenience, and of course price performance are no less important.

And canvas was always well placed to satisfy these demands. Easy to work with and relatively inexpensive to produce, canvas can be priced and marketed as a middle-market option while retaining the cachet of a premium line.

Canvas gets the balance right
Gvido Grube, specialist at CanvasDiscount.com, explained that part of the appeal of canvas lies in rather intangible qualities.

“Even in this very modern industry, canvas is still seen as something of a traditional choice. The canvas surface is left bare and has a uniquely tactile quality. The inner frame is made from real wood. And our craftsmen wrap the canvas on its frame by hand – so some of the underlying techniques really haven’t changed much for hundreds of years.”

With its long history as a wall art foundation – dating back to a time not only before mass customisation, but before commercial printing itself – canvas provides a sense of continuity with the past.

Cautious innovation
That’s not to say that innovation has no place in this sector of the custom printing industry.

Man-made fabrics have long since supplanted hemp and other natural fibers in the production of the canvas itself. New solutions made from polyester and other materials retain the excellent ink absorption of traditional canvas but offer more consistency in appearance and rigidity.

Meanwhile solvent-based inks are losing favor as non-toxic alternatives are developed in response to changing consumer priorities. Latex inks, for example, offer the chemical stability of their solvent-based counterparts, but contain no VOCs and are non-combustible and eco-friendly.

And while canvas was always quick to work with, this is increasingly becoming a selling point in itself as production processes become ever more streamlined. The 24-hour turnaround that CanvasDiscount.com offers on canvas orders would have been unthinkable not too long ago.

New challengers held off – for now
Of course, the custom wall art industry caters to the luxury sector too. And more recent products introduced by the leading providers have posed at least a moderate challenge to the primacy of canvas.

Premium custom wall art solutions – photos laminated behind acrylic glass, for example, or displayed on aluminum composite panels – provide a different aesthetic. They’re sleeker, slimmer, and boast the pin-sharp definition that pro-grade photo paper allows.

Meanwhile canvas prints are also seeing competition from below: the customised poster print has been a plucky upstart in the budget category.

But for now at least, its “premium economy” appeal means canvas has seen off all threats to its market dominance. Regarded as combining the best of modern and traditional, and available at what are still strikingly low prices for an individualised product, canvas will be the defining custom wall art print for a while yet.

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