Wide-format Graphics: Canvas printing for sign shops

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.

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