Magazine Article


Printing on canvas isn't the only option

Portrait consumers love the look of photography on canvas. Portraits printed on canvas offer a sophisticated alternative to framed prints. They're meaningful and personalized art. Like so many of today's pro labs, Burrell Colour Imaging (BCI) has ventured into the world of canvas printing to extend their photographer-customers' creative options. BCI yields unparalleled results through attention to detail, quality control, and a great team of tenured, expert technicians whose knack for innovating in the realm of canvas is unsurpassed.

BCI's Metallic PrintWraps are a great example of this. "A few years ago, labs began offering gallery wraps--essentially inkjet canvas wrapped around the stretcher bars and stapled on the back," says Cliff Reed, BCI Finishing Coach. "The word was that to wrap a print, it had to be inkjet canvas. In reality, it didn't. We perfected the wrapping process for Kodak paper wraps. We didn't need to get complicated by saying it had to have a special laminate on it or small cracking on the print was O.K., loose tension was how they had to be to avoid cracking, etc. We built one the way we thought it should be, hand-sprayed just like any other canvas, and called it a PrintWrap (not to be confused with a gallery wrap). The Metallic PrintWraps were a serious challenge, because if you've ever stripped a metallic piece of paper, you know the difficulty in doing so.

"I can't express the satisfaction I felt when they were introduced at the first trade show after hearing other labs say Metallic PrintWraps couldn't be done," continues Reed. "Yet there were several absolutely stunning 25x40 Metallic Wraps in our booth. So, while we can't claim to have invented the gallery wrap, I'm pretty sure we can claim to have invented the Metallic PrintWraps and probably the first Kodak paper PrintWraps, too."

Reed, like many of BCI's techs, has been with the company for more than 20 years. "I came to Burrell Colour in 1984 after serving three years in the Army," he says. "What we can do now, compared to what we were able to do back then, makes those days seem like the Stone Age. We now cold-roller dry-mount instead of glue-spraying boards, and we do a great deal of lacquer spraying. Most of this spray growth has occurred during the last seven or eight years. Pro-texture spraying began to explode a few years ago. The other growth, I believe, is from customers who want real spray on their real canvas, especially high-gloss. The popularity of the PrintWrap line, both Metallic and E-Surface, accounts for the rest."

System for Printing Canvas Products

"We mount canvas from 6x8 thru 40x60," he explains. "Once we have the actual print, the print stripper does a quality-control check before beginning. If anything looks amiss, we'll call the photographer before going forward.

"There really is no 'state-of-the-art' type equipment," he adds. He believes the secret is "in our hands and eyes--our quality control. There's nothing more valuable than seeing a print come through the lab and knowing who shot it without seeing the work order because you're so familiar with customers' shooting styles."

Quality matters more than speed and quantity, says Reed: "I personally prefer canvas prints the 'old-fashioned' way. There's simply no comparison between a hands-on, craftsman-produced canvas print that needed to be stripped on the back, paper-clipped, glued, pressed, trimmed, and then mounted, and a mass-produced, no-skill-involved inkjet print. I'd much rather spend the extra time involved and produce an heirloom-quality print. I'll put our Kodak paper canvas prints against inkjet prints any day. Our canvases feel better on the fingers, weigh more, are less susceptible to handling damage, and can be repaired if a client damages it."

Reed continues, "This isn't to say that inkjet canvas doesn't have its niche. It's a good addition to the canvas family but it can't replace the true image you get with photographic paper. One of the reasons I think inkjet got its start is because with digital, the paper got much more difficult to strip. Now, more than ever, you need to know what you're doing to get the RC paper off evenly."

Tim Bandura is the director of marketing for Burrell Colour Imaging. Owner Don Burrell has said from the start, "If our customers succeed as a business, then we succeed as a company." For more information on BCI, go to