Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Canvas on Demand

After hearing lots of great stories from friends, I decided to print my first canvas at Canvas on Demand. It was a picture I took at Deception Falls (not to be confused with Deception Pass) along highway 2 in Western Washington State. Here's a picture of the shot, which I admit has some flaws:

I chose to get a 16x20" photorealistic thick gallery wrap with no additional processing. I created the image myself using a 100% crop of my image and then I added a border (because I didn't want to scale the actual image any larger so I could see a 100% print on canvas).

The shot itself may not be to everyone's taste, but I enjoyed it because it reminded me of my favorite trail in Washington State. I also chose to use it for my first shot because it wasn't a perfect capture, and I wanted to see just how good this service really was. I didn't have a tripod for this shot so I was shooting hand held (well actually partially hand held and the other part of the body was on a crooked rock), so the 1.6 second exposure shot ended up suffering from camera shake (no IS on my 16-35mm lens). As a result the image was a bit blurry and needed some help.

The original unmodified image isn't bad, but it isn't the type of picture you usually use for a $100+ canvas. However, I had a good deal on this one so I decided to experiment to see what the worst a canvas might look like. After all, we pixel peep a lot on the screen, but the reality is that most prints are going to look way better than what we see on our screen. In addition, everyone was bragging how wonderful there canvas' were, so I thought I might be able to save this shot with a nice canvas.

I was concerned about color space issues so I was sure to stay in Photoshop CS3 using the Adobe RGB color space (per Canvas on Demand's web site instructions), and create the required JPEG file to upload using the same application (i.e., instead of using Lightroom which I normally use in my workflow).

I also wanted to make sure there was no upsizing/downsizing issues so I created a 17 1/2" x 21 1/2" image to account for the 3/4" wrap edge, and placed my image in it with no cropping or scaling so it would be EXACTLY as it came out of the camera.

Of course, I did apply the Scott Kelby's 7 Point System to it so that the overall exposure was better, and I used his frame idea from The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers. The result wasn't probably the best choice for a wrap, but it was going to tell me what an average picture would look like on canvas as well as what text might look like as well.

I placed my order on Friday, July 11th 2008 at 2:13 AM, and it shipped on 7/16. It arrived on my doorstep via FedEx on 7/23, so it wasn't the fastest turn around time, but it got here safely.

The Result

When my canvas arrived I was immediately impressed, but I also felt something wasn't quite right. The first thing I noticed was that the image was darker than I expected. I had used the color space they suggested - Adobe RGB - and I have a calibrated display, so I was bit perplexed by the difference.

I also noticed that my image, which already had plenty of sharpening to compensate for some slight camera shake on a long exposure, had obviously been sharpened again - and too much this time. The result was an over-sharpened image, but honestly if you stand a few feet away it looks fine (great in fact).

The last issue was one that I didn't notice, until a co-worker pointed it out - my border was crooked because the canvas had shifted a bit during stapling.

The net result was that I had a canvas that I liked, and it looked okay, but it was over processed and too dark. I solved the dark problem by putting it in a window of my office so it is backlit (like my display :) and that helped. Viewing distances of  greater than 2 feet helped the over-sharpening problem, but the crooked problem just couldn't be ignored.

I wrote customer service and they immediately responded to try to make things right!

The Do Over

Since my canvas didn't turn out perfect, the folks at Canvas on Demand (CoD)wanted to make things right, so they asked that I submit another image - but this time in the sRGB color space. They explained that they have a different printer now and that sRGB works better, but they hadn't updated the web site yet. This means that if you are reading this and decide to do a canvas, don't forget to submit in the sRGB color space!!!!

I resubmitted, but when I did they asked if I liked the image despite the minor issues previously mentioned. At that point, I explained to them that I was using an experimental image and what its flaws were. CoD asked me if I could submit a good image instead, so I see what a good picture would look like.

With this in mind, I scanned through my collection and decided to provide one of my Formula 1 photos as shown below. This time I just sent them the image (which was actually a cropped JPEG from this original image) without any modifications and asked them to do the hard work. My image didn't meet their minimum size requirements by a few pixels in one dimension, but they took it anyway and simply added black borders for the wrap portion as shown below in the actual image they built (and sent back to me per my request):


My order was submitted on August 1st, shipped on the 6th (via FedEx ground) and arrived on  the 12th. Again, not as quick as I would have liked, but when you know you have a canvas coming I suspect that time moves a little slower! :)

The Do Over Result

As I write this blog, I sit in awe of the canvas that sits next to my TV. The image and its quality are fantastic and I'm simply blown away.

I'm not sure what they used to do the upscaling, but I've asked and will report back as I'm impressed with the results. I knew this image was too small for a 16x24 (yeah, I went larger this time) but I thought I'd try just to see what they could do and the results are breathtaking!

I've observed that the image is slightly darker than my on-screen version, but I think that can be attributed to just having a backlit display is going to add something you can't capture on print. However, the highlights and shadows on the print are identical to the on-screen version and the Ferrari red is spot on.  It honestly looks like it did in real life!

I also observed that the printed version is sharper on the nose of the car than my submission which suggests that they might have applied some sharpening (perhaps selective since the car isn't over-sharpened anywhere). I also observed that the wing, which seemed like it might have been over-sharpened on-screen looked perfect in print, so the theory still holds - you can get away with a lot more sharpening in print!

My only disappointment with the result is that I wish the road surface was part of the wrap instead of the black border, but that's a minor nit. In reality, I'm giggling like a schoolgirl every time I see it!

The canvas is straight this time, so all seems to be well.

Lessons Learned

  1. Submit in the sRGB color space!!!!
  2. When doing a canvas, just make sure your aspect ratio is correct and send it to the folks at Canvas on Demand (CoD). They know what they are doing, so save yourself the hassle and let them do what they do best.
  3. When adjusting your image, lighter is better than darker (within reason) so if your image looks too dark on calibrated screen then you won't be happy with the print.
  4. I learned my lesson from my first canvas to only hold on the sides of the wood because if you cup your hand inside the wooden frame you can leave fingertip indentations on the canvas - argh!
  5. Pay for faster shipping, because when you get that notice that your order has been shipped it can't arrive fast enough!
  6. The folks at CoD really know what they are doing and care about the results you get. From the care taken to prep the shot, to the excellent packaging to make sure it arrives safely, and through the follow up to make sure you are happy. These are the pros and you are getting what you pay for with these guys - premium results!

Order yours at a Discount!

I'm happy to announce that Canvas on Demand is offering my blog readers a $25 gift voucher towards the purchase of your own canvas simply by clicking this link and giving them your email address.

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Anonymous said...

I would give Canvas-On-Demand a 10+ in my book! I have used Canvas-On-Demand a few times now and I am very impressed with the quality and the amazing customer service!! The last two I submitted, I had an artist from their team contact me with some suggestions on what would make the print even more impressive. The first time (border selection, etc), I was hesitant but I figured I would give it a shot. They were absolutely correct. Print looks amazing. The second time, I had submitted a request with a certain size in mind. The artist contacted me after I submitted the order (within hours) and negotiated a custom size free of charge that helped create a better impact. Yet again, they were spot on with their suggestion. Keep in mind, these are all suggestions and they were more than willing to go with my original submission, but fortunately, my lack of skill benefits greatly from their terrific customer service :) I strongly recommend Canvas-On-Demand based on my experiences as well.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ron, the customer service is great and they go the extra mile to ensure you are happy. Be sure to learn about their Photo Studio program for further discounts. You can read about it here:

IG said...

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