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What difference does canvas weight make?

High quality canvas printing
430gsm canvas on a slimline 18mm frame

Canvas prints can be done on different weights of canvas. The weight rating is referred to as Grams Per Square meter or gsm. If you are looking at getting a canvas made, there should be a canvas weight shown such as 120gsm, 380gsm or 430gsm etc. There is also Faux Canvas.

Let’s discuss Faux Canvas first. The online Etymology Dictionary 2010 says Faux is a French word that means false. Faux Canvas is (as it’s name suggests) not canvas at all. It is a product made from a paper-like material that is prepared in a way that makes it look like canvas. It does not have the same properties as canvas and, as it is a paper product, it does not last long term.
For art or prints that you want to keep for a long time, this product is not suitable.

Canvas suitable for prints or art is made from cotton,linen or poly-cotton (which is a blend of polyester and cotton). Canvas printing is usually done on either cotton or poly-cotton. All canvas has a weight rating which says how heavy the fabric is. Basically the heavier the canvas weight, the more strength and durability it has, therefore the better it will last.

If you want a print that will look good long term, then you should use a heavy weight canvas. Premium canvas prints are usually done on canvas that weighs over 400gsm. Photographers and artists usually prefer to print on this weight canvas as it not only lasts longer, but also adds a look and feels of quality to their finished artwork. Another advantage of heavier weight canvas is that it holds it’s shape when it is stretched over a large frame to create a big canvas print. A light weight canvas that is stretched over a large frame can sag and stretch over time.

For a rough measure of standard, a print done on canvas that weighs 400gsm or higher is high quality; a print done on 300gsm to 400gsm is about mid-range; and a print done on 180gsm to 300gsm is in the lower quality range. Anything printed on canvas 120gsm and less is poor quality.

The reason canvas that weighs 120gsm or less is rated as poor quality is that it is relatively easy to rip, puncture or otherwise damage. I would not recommend it for any sized canvas print except perhaps a very small one. Unfortunately some print companies do use this weight as it is cheaper to buy. If you are getting a canvas print made and there is nothing on their website, or in their shop, to tell you the weight of the canvas, then it is a case of “buyer beware”.

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