Archival Printing and Canvas Art

canvas printing overview
canvas print material
creating a canvas print

Archival Giclée and Canvas Printing Overview

Canvas has become the most popular medium for oil painting, replacingby far the wooden panels. One of the earliest produced oils on canvas is a French Madonna with angels from around 1410 in Berlin. Panel painting remained more common until the 16th century in Italy and the 17th century in Northern Europe. Venetian artists were among those leading the change. Venetian sail canvas was readily available and widely regarded as the highest quality.
A canvas is typically stretched across a wooden frame - a stretcher - and can be coated with gesso before used. This prevents any oil paint from coming into direct contact with the canvas fibers, which will eventually will cause the canvas to decay. A traditional chalk gesso is composed of lead carbonate and linseed oil, applied over a rabbit skin glue ground. A variation using titanium white pigment and calcium carbonate is rather brittle and susceptible to cracking. As lead-based paint is poisonous, it is rarely used anymore. Various alternative canvas primers are commercially available, the most popular being a synthetic latex paintwhich is composed of titanium dioxide and calcium carbonate, bound with a thermo-plastic emulsion.

Early canvas was made of linen, a sturdy brownish fabric of considerable strength. Linen is particularly suitable for the use of oil paint. In the early 20th century, cotton canvas, often referred to as "cotton duck", came into use. Linen is composed of higher quality material, and remains popular with many professional artists, especially those who work with oil paint. Cotton duck, which stretches more fully and has an even, mechanical weave, offers a more economical alternative. The advent of acrylic paint has greatly increased the popularity and use of cotton duck canvas. Linen and cotton derive from two entirely different plants, the flax plant and the cotton plant.
Gesso-ed canvases on stretchers are also available. These pre-stretched, pre-primed canvases are suitable for all but the most exacting professional standards. They are available in a variety of weights: light-weight is about 4 oz. or 5 oz.; medium-weight is about 7 oz. or 8 oz.; heavy-weight is about 10 oz. or 12 oz. They are prepared with two or three coats of gesso and are ready for use straight away. Artists desiring greater control of their painting surface may add a coat or two of their preferred gesso. Professional artists and photographers who wish to work on canvas may prepare their own canvas in the traditional manner.

One of the most outstanding differences between modern painting techniques and those of the Flemish and Dutch Masters is in the preparation of the canvas. "Modern" techniques take advantage of both the canvas texture as well as those of the paint itself. Renaissance masters took extreme measures to ensure that none of the texture of the canvas came through. This required a painstaking, months-long process of layering the raw canvas with (usually) lead-white paint, then polishing the surface, and then repeating.[3] The final product had little resemblance to fabric, but instead had a glossy, enamel-like finish. This flat surface was crucial in attaining photographic realism.

With a properly prepared canvas, the painter will find that each subsequent layer of color glides on in a "buttery" manner, and that with the proper consistency of application (fat over lean technique), a painting entirely devoid of brushstrokes can be achieved. A warm iron is applied over over a piece of wet cotton to flatten the wrinkles.

Artists often use inkjet printing processes to make reproductions of their original artwork, photographs or animated computer generated art. Professionally produced inkjet prints are much more expensive than the traditional four color offset lithography process. However, since the artist does not need to pay for marketing and storing large print runs, and since the artist can print and sell each print individually, inkjet printing is nowadays commonly used as an economical alternative to producing large runs of four color offset prints. Inkjet printing has the added advantage of allowing the artist to control every aspect of the image, its color and the substrate printed on, and even allows the artist to own and operate the printer itself.

Canvas can also be printed onto using specialist digital printers to create canvas prints. This process of digital inkjet printing is popularly referred to as Giclée. After printing, the canvas can be wrapped around a stretcher and displayed.Archival canvas printing is
is the creation of fine art prints using ink-jet printing machines. The process started after 1990. The first machine to produce giclée prints was the "Iris Model Four" color drum piezo-head inkjet proofer manufactured by Scitex. The prints it created were commonly called Iris Prints. The Iris printer's intended use was to make CMYK proofs to preview what an image would look like from a commercial offset printer. But soon artists started to use the printer to output their art from digital files. The term giclée (giclee) is often used to describe any large-format, high-resolution ink-jet printer output with archival fade-resistant dye or pigment based inks. It is common for these printers to use between 6 and twelve color inks or pigments. A high quality giclée printer can output images of incredible quality. The color gamut of the printers can be exceedingly high and the sharpness is unrivaled. In the beginning large ink-jet printers used dye based inks which were not very suitable to stand the test of time. Artists needed archival output that would be stable and resistant to fading over time. Once the manufacturers started to build giclée printers that used archival pigment based inks many artists and photographers started to use ink-jet printers as an alternative to lithography for limited editions or reproductions. Limited edition runs on with a giclée printer is much more cost-effective that offset printing plus the quality is generally better. Some of the manufacturers of giclée printing machines are: ITNH, Mutoh ColorSpan, Roland, Epson, Canon, Kodak, HP, and Mimaki. Most giclée printing is done with wide format ink-jet printers that are usually 44" in width. One of the most desirable machines is the Epson 9800, an 8 eight color pigment based ink archival printer of incredible quality. Printing companies exist today that specialize in providing professional archival giclée printing on canvas for artists and anyone else. Companies like Print My Canvas provide a service whereby people send in a digital file or a print to be reproduced.


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