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Paper or Canvas: Choosing the Right Print Surface For You
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Paper or Canvas: Choosing the Right Print Surface For You

All of the images in our catalog can be printed on paper or canvas. Since all our materials are fully archival, museum quality, and rated to last over 100 years without fading or discoloration, the choice between the two really comes down to personal preference. Each option has its own set of advantages, which we’ll break down here to help you make the decision when ordering your own fine art prints. 

Museum Quality Prints on Archival Paper and Canvas

While there are endless options of brands and paper types out there, our rigorous testing and quality standards have led us to use Hahnemuhle’s Museum Etching paper for our paper prints, and Breathing Color’s Lyve canvas, paired with their Timeless Varnish, for our canvas prints. These products are impeccably produced, and of the highest quality, allowing us to create stunning print reproductions of the vintage photos and posters in our collection. 

Two fine art paper print reproductions of vintage photographs

Fine Art Paper 

Our Museum Etching paper is a fine art, heavyweight (350 gsm) paper. It is acid-free, and 100% cotton, making it more archival and eco-friendly than paper made with wood pulp. This impressive paper is perfect for printing our collection of vintage photographs, as it produces rich blacks, perfect for our traditional black and white images, as well as bold colors for our images made with color film. 

Advantages of Paper Prints 

If you are on a budget and want to be able to customize the display of your print, paper might be the way to go for you.

Lower Upfront Cost 

While browsing our print options, you will notice that paper prints are priced lower than canvas prints of the same size. Canvas prints require varnishing and stretching, which adds additional materials, labor, and time costs. Paper prints, on the other hand, require only a final inspection for potential flakes or flaws after coming off the printer before it is ready to go. 

Since the cost of paper prints is lower, you may be able to get a larger size, or multiple small prints, and still stay within your budget. This also makes paper prints a great option for a gift swap that has a set price limit.

Ability to Customize Display With Frames 

Paper prints do require framing to be displayed, and with so many options, you can customize your display to suit your preferences. The easiest option is to buy a premade frame, but this offers fewer options than custom framing. Custom framing is a bit more expensive, but will allow you to choose from a very large range of options and fully customize the display of your print. No matter what your decor style is, you’ll be able to find matting and framing options that will fit in perfectly.  

If you’re new to framing, and not sure where to start, you can check out our article discussing the many options available for framing paper prints

A print of vintage photography featuring women working on an airplane, framed and hung with other decor

Timeless Appeal

Paper prints are classic and timeless. Photographs and posters have been printed on various types of papers throughout the history of photography, and printing our vintage photographs on paper keeps with this tradition. A framed paper print will simply never go out of style. If you like to keep it classic, you can’t go wrong with a paper print. And if you like to mix the classic with the modern, you can always opt to frame your print in a frame that is more modern or eccentric. 

Disadvantages of Paper Prints

As discussed, paper prints are classic, and can be purchased at a lower cost than canvas prints. Despite this, paper prints do still have potential disadvantages. Depending on your preferences, these may not really be disadvantages at all, and the advantages may completely outweigh them. 

Additional Costs of Framing 

The Capitol Building in Washington DC during winter

While paper prints themselves are a lower-cost option than canvas prints, they will require framing, which adds to your total cost. This doesn’t have to be a roadblock, however, as the options for framing your prints are truly endless. For sizes 20x30 and below, you can easily find a premade frame in-store for a very reasonable price. While you’ll have fewer options than with custom framing, premade frames won’t break the bank. 

If you prefer custom framing, there are still options that will work for you! The framer you work with will be able to go through all your options with you and help you find a mat and moulding option that fits your needs and budget. 

Delicate Print Surface

The matte surface of a fine art paper print is stunning, but it is also delicate. Paper prints will need to be handled carefully, and should not be touched directly to help avoid damaging the print surface. If you are framing your print yourself, make sure you have clean hands before working with the print, and be mindful of avoiding direct contact with the surface of the print. 

Stretched Canvas

The Lyve canvas that we use for our canvas prints is acid-free, heavyweight, and OBA-free, as well as certified archival. After being varnished with archival varnish in a satin finish, our canvas prints are stretched onto 1.5” hardwood stretcher bars. Framing wire is attached to the back of the canvas for easy hanging in your home or office.

Advantages of Stretched Canvas Prints 

Canvas prints are a unique option and a great way to display our collection of vintage photographs and posters. 

Two square canvas print reproductions of black and white vintage photographs

Ready to Hang- No Additional Framing Costs 

Unlike paper prints, canvas prints do not require framing. Our canvas prints will arrive to you with hanging wire and hardware attached, ready to be hung on your walls immediately. You can still opt to frame canvas prints if that is the look that you prefer, but it is not required. Our canvas prints have a solid black, gallery wrap on the sides, and look beautiful and professional displayed just as they are. 

Stretched canvas prints can have a similar feel to paintings on canvas, allowing them to blend in with any existing artwork you may already have on your walls. They’ll certainly be a conversation starter in any home or office. 

Easy to Clean 

The varnish on canvas prints gives them a durable surface, which is easy to clean. Unlike paper prints, touching the surface of your varnished canvas print will not damage it (though you still want to be mindless not to press into the surface and create a dent!). If you find your canvas print has gotten a bit dusty while hanging on your wall, all you need to do is gently wipe it down with a damp cloth. 

You can read more about how to clean your canvas prints here

Unique Display 

While framed paper prints are a very traditional look, canvas prints are a more modern and unique option. The textured canvas is reminiscent of paintings and will draw viewers in to look closer. This can be a great conversation starter, allowing you to talk about the print itself, as well as the image you chose. 

Disadvantages of Stretched Canvas Prints

While we love the modern, unique look of photographs printed on canvas, we try to remain unbiased and discuss the potential downsides as well, to help you make informed decisions. 

A vintage poster advertising Ranger services at Lassen Volcanic National park

Higher Upfront Cost 

Canvas prints are more expensive than paper prints in terms of upfront costs. They require varnishing and stretching, adding extra time and labor costs to the process. However, this higher upfront cost is often offset by the fact that you do not need to frame your print. The price of the print is your total cost, with no additional fees coming up later. 

More Expensive Shipping

Depending on the size of the print you order, shipping costs for stretched canvas can get much higher than paper prints. Paper prints are significantly lighter, and larger prints can be loosely rolled to avoid oversize packaging. Canvas prints, however, are heavier, and larger sizes will mean oversize materials and shipping costs. Often oversized prices come into play once one dimension reaches 48”. If you are within comfortable driving distance of our studio in Alexandria, Virginia, you can choose local pickup at checkout to avoid shipping costs entirely!

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