Stretching and wrapping
Well before the canvas is physically stretched and wrapped, it is important to prepare the graphic files for printing, so they can be suitable rendered as a gallery or museum wrap. As mentioned earlier, in a gallery wrap, the image bleeds onto and over the edges of the frame; and in a museum wrap, a solid border is substituted along the edges.
A gallery wrap’s bleed usually mirrors the image along the border. This can be set up manually in graphic design software using a ‘clone’ tool. Some types of software offer solid border, reflected edges and/or fade effects. In other cases, a ‘resize’ tool allows users to create selective, mirror, museum wrap and other types of borders. And some inkjet printers even feature layout plug-in software that can automate the process.
There are typically three ways to stretch a canvas print: (a) by hand, with stretcher bars and strainers; (b) using a canvas stretching machine, with some degree of automation; and (c) using a do-it-yourself (DIY) stretcher bar system.
Stretching canvas by hand can be very involved and time-consuming, but the raw materials needed for the process are less expensive. Stretcher bars and canvas frames can be built in-house.
Canvas stretching machines, on other hand, cost thousands of dollars, but are much more efficient. If a sign shop’s volume of canvas prints supports the business case, then these machines should definitely be investigated.
“We use a canvas stretching machine for just about everything up to 1.5 m (60 in.),” says Armando Garcia, director of operations for Soicher Marin, a high-volume fine-art reproduction company. “When you compare it to doing it by hand, the machine always wins out. I can’t think of a situation where we wouldn’t use the machine, unless it was an original canvas.”
Garcia explains it usually takes about one-and-a-half days for an operator to learn how to use the machine to its full potential, cutting the time needed for a canvas wrap by anywhere from 30 to 50 per cent.
The third option is to use a pre-made DIY stretcher bar kit. This is a happy medium between stretching by hand and automating the process—faster than the former, less expensive than the latter. There are easy-to-assemble tongue-and-groove stretcher bars available, so signmakers do not have to buy raw materials and cut them down to size.
Jeff Goetze is a national account executive for LexJet, which manufactures and distributes materials and equipment for wide-format inkjet printing. For more information, visit www.lexjet.com.