What is the Real Cost of a Canvas Print?

cheapest canvas prints

Have you ever taken the time to sit down and analyze the material cost of producing a single canvas print?

For those who haven’t, allow me walk you through canvas print cost in what is sure to be an eye-opening and insightful process to recognize and appreciate a fundamental component of your business.

While you could go into this looking to produce the cheapest canvas prints on discount canvas, you may find that the cost of top quality canvas isn’t as much as you thought. Either way, let’s get our numbers straight and pin down the real cost of a single canvas print.

Cost Per Print

Let me begin by posing a question: would you pay $1 per print to ensure that each would last 100 years without fading or yellowing? What if that same dollar also gave you the opportunity to print the widest possible spectrum of colors, with the greatest amount of density, and the sharpest resolution that an inkjet canvas is capable of producing? How about if that same dollar also gave you the confidence to truthfully tell each of your customers that all of your prints are made using finest and most technologically advanced inkjet canvas available today?

The obvious answers to these questions are yes, yes, and yes. Now, let me explain how to make this $1 insurance policy, quality advantage, and marketing tool a reality for your business.


The inspiration for this article comes from several discussions we have had with fine art printmakers who are surprised to learn the true cost difference per print of using a high-quality, archival certified canvas versus an economy grade canvas that contains optical brightener additives and is susceptible to yellowing and fading over time.

After doing the math on a 24”x24” print, the cost difference is only a single dollar. Each of these printmakers has admitted that they had only been considering the cost difference on an entire roll of canvas, but after the cost is broken down per print, choosing the higher quality canvas is an easy decision.

Such is the case when you compare our 800M canvas – an economy grade canvas that is very competitive in price, but not designed to excel in print permanence and our Chromata White canvas – a premium, archival certified canvas.

The same can also be said (albeit to an even lesser degree) when comparing our Chromata White canvas with our state-of-the-art Lyve Canvas – which delivers 15-20% color gamut, dmax, fine detail/resolution over the Chromata White (a claim widely supported by some of the most well respected photographers and printmakers in this business, as seen on our reviews page) – the difference here is only 36 cents!

The Numbers

Let’s analyze how we arrived at these numbers.

Take a look at the data below and notice specifically how your cost per print changes as you move from our cheapest canvas 800M to the mid-priced Chromata White and finally to our state-of-the-art Lyve canvas. I have included a copy of our excel spreadsheet with all the formulas (see the yellow box below), so you can plug in your own cost for ink, coating, and stretcher bars to customize and run these numbers for your own unique business.

Lowering Costs

If costs are your greatest concern, this analysis shows that there are better ways to lower costs that won’t require you to compromise print quality or longevity.

For example, stretcher bars make up as much as 60% of your overall cost per print. Amazing, isn’t it? Therefore, start by economizing your stretcher bars & the stretching process overall. If you are outsourcing your stretching, bring it in house. If you already do your own stretching and use bars made from pine wood, switch to fir wood. Fir can a little tougher to get used to, but you can save 50% or more in most cases. And when you’re volume grows large enough, don’t buy pre-made bars, use 12’ stretcher sticks and cut/join them in house.

You’ll cut at least another 50%. As you grow, each of these actions will significantly drop your stretching costs, and therefore the majority of your cost per print.

After running your own numbers and considering the information presented in this article, you have to ask yourself the following questions: Does it make sense to compromise my print quality and forego 100 year archival certification to save $1? Is $1 per print worth risking my reputation as a printmaker? Would I pay $1 per print for the ability to produce more stunning and accurate canvas prints than my competition?

Let’s take a moment to look at this issue from your customer’s vantage point.

Suppose you offered your own customer the option to pay $1 more for these benefits….would they take it? How about an extra 36 cents for an upgrade from a good canvas to a state-of-the-art canvas….would they take that deal? Would you take that deal? Well, that’s precisely what Breathing Color offers our customers. We offer the $1 upgrade and the $.36 upgrade from there. The choice is yours on which canvas you use to represent your business. All we hope to accomplish with this article is that you have the tools to make an informed decision and that you choose wisely.


The one thing you can never forget as a printmaker is that you have one product that makes or breaks you – the print.

Each print forever bears your signature (in a figurative sense), and how your prints perform for your customers – against your competition and throughout time – will define you and your reputation. Before you compromise or cut corners on quality, it’s best to understand what the real costs are of doing so, and to weigh these costs with the benefits and risks associated with these decisions.

I sincerely hope that this article is thought-provoking and causes introspection within your own business and the decisions you are making every day, which could have a greater impact than previously realized.

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  • Adam Hill

    To figure out your ink cost per print, first you must find out how many milliliters per square foot your printer uses when printing (this will vary depending upon the substrate you are printing on). Then you need to do a little math. Divide your price per cartridge of ink by the amount of milliliters in that cartridge; this will give you your cost per milliliter of ink. Then multiply your cost per milliliter by the milliliter per square foot ratio of your printer to arrive at your total ink cost per square foot.

    Canon iPF8300 prints at .8ml/sq.ft. (approximately)
    300ml Cartridge of Ink = $173.00

    $173.00 / 300ml = $.58 (Ink cost per ml)
    $.58 x .8ml = $.46 (total ink cost per square foot)

    Note: Some new printers such as the Canon iPF series have software capabilities that will make these calculations for you and export to an excel document for further analysis.

  • http://www.canvasdeluxe.com/ Print on canvas

    Hi guys,

    It’s really very useful article for knowing the Real Cost of a Canvas Print.


  • http://www.facebook.com/finecanvasprints Matthew H. Owens

    Also if you are using a RIP, check and see if you have cost analysis as part of the feature set. I use Ergosoft Texprint, it has a very nice way of tracking job costs for both ink and media use.

  • http://twitter.com/bulzak Sebastian Bulzak

    Your calculation is flawed. You must count canvas scraps. The best you could do is 32 prints of 24″x24″ on a 60″x40′ roll. If you need to mix print sizes because of clients’ needs, you might end up scrapping more canvas than that. So you should consider you sell only 50 to 60% of your printable canvas area as printed canvas area.

    If you wish to make 24″x24″ canvas prints, you might need 30″x30″ of canvas so you can stretch that image. This suddenly increases your canvas cost by 56%, since 30″x30″ is 6.25 sqf vs 4 sqf. Furthermore, your price for Lyra assumes your client buys at least 3 rolls of 60″x40′. And it doesn’t include the shipping of the rolls.

    Same goes for ink, if you want to have gallery wraps. You might print 28″x28″, which increases your ink cost by 36%.

    In any case, I could not find any info about the newest microporous canvas anywhere on your site.

    • Nick

      Thanks for your comments Sebastian. If the goal is to be exact, one should take your advice and also consider other expenses such as the amortization of labor costs for printing, stretching, and shipping. Naturally these will vary as labor costs will vary business to business. While any printmaking business owner should find these important to quantify, it’s really not the point of our article.

      In order to simplify our article, we intentionally excluded costs that are relatively “fixed” in the sense of what canvas you are using. For example, the exact same labor is required to print on Lyve Canvas as it does Chromata White Canvas. It’s also the exact same shipping cost.

      By looking at the main drivers of cost, this article keeps the focus on the most important decisions facing printmakers. i.e. which canvas should I use and why, and how am I approaching the stretching process to minimize costs, etc.

      • http://twitter.com/bulzak Sebastian Bulzak

        My goal was not to perform a complete cost evaluation of a canvas printing business. I just wanted to point out you cannot consider that a 60″X40′ roll makes 200 sqf of printed product, but rather 120.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vince-Weathermon/500081064 Vince Weathermon

    Nick this is awesome; I had been beating my head trying to come up with a cost calculator and you have done it for me…glad I came upon this.  Very helpful…thanks!

    • Nick Friend

      No problem Vince. Glad this is going to help you!

  • John Fuller

    Great article, but I think there’s an error in your spreadsheet.  When I downloaded the spreadsheet and looked at the formulas it looks like you assumed 4 linear feet of stretcher bar for the 24 x 24 print.  That number should be 8 linear feet (4 sides at 24″ each).  It doesn’t change the point you’re making about how upgrading your media changes the cost of the print very little, but if someone was basing their pricing on the total cost calculated by the spreadsheet, they’d be off by half on the stretcher bar cost.  Thanks for posting these articles.

    • Orlando Castillo

      you are rigth !!

  • Sameer Alve

    Amazing analysis…its a very practical calculation…..something which should be considered while we do our costing …..

  • photodoc

    I was never able to get better performance from Lyve vs. Chromata. I use an Onyx rip and make my own profiles and ink limits so I’m sure I’m getting the most from each of them. Also, when I looked at the profiles you provide using Colorthink, it doesn’t appear that Lyve has the greater gamut or Dmax which agreed with my own experience. That may all be old news now and things have changed since I did my testing, but that’s the way it was here when I tried it. I did like the smoother tighter weave, but it’s not worth losing gamut.

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com/ Justin Bodin

      Comparing RGB profiles in ColorThink for both of these canvases using the same media type, you can see some improvement (2D rendering shown here).

      I know the detail/resolution difference has always been the biggest visual improvement for me.

      Thanks for reading!

      • photodoc

        Not a great deal of difference, and as I recall, most of that greater gamut happens in pastels rather than saturated colors which we can’t see here from a 2d plot. My results were also different because I’m using Canon Lucia inks. The increased detail probably has a lot to do with the smoother surface with it being more like paper than rough woven cloth, to which I say an even smoother Chromata would be a big step toward perfection. As it is, I have fine artists who won’t let me print on Chromata because it’s ‘too rough’ and when I showed them Lyve, they said, “better, but smoother than that would be best.”

        • http://www.breathingcolor.com/ Justin Bodin

          Chromata and Lyve actually use the same base material, so not sure where the extra smoothness you’re seeing is coming from.

          Funny enough, I hear equal parts “the canvas is too smooth” and “do you have any canvas with more texture” on a daily basis.

          It comes to a point when you ask yourself, “why am I still printing on canvas?” and “should I switch to fine art paper to get greater detail instead?”

          We make canvases with a finer weave, though only for solvent and latex ink formulations, to reduce costs. Personally, I think part of the detail limitations are just inherent and part of the “canvas print experience,” but that’s just my take.

  • Doug Dolde

    This spread sheet seems to be not very accurate. At $3.04/sf for Lyve, a 40″ x 54″ wrap would pencil out to 15 sq ft or $45.60 total cost.

    However adding (2) 1.75 Easy Wrappe 40″ bars, (2) 1.75 Easy Wrappe 54: bars, and two 40″ center braces totals $75.44. And this is not including canvas, coating, or ink.

    What’s your explanation of this misleading discrepancy?

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com/ Justin Bodin

      Where do you get the $3.04 /sft rate for Lyve? Lyve is $1.64 /sft for the 1-roll price. At the top of the spreadsheet, we note that we’re using our 3-item price for the sft rate ($1.36) because this is the most common way our customers purchase from us. Any other rate can easily be put into the “Cost per square foot” column on the sheet to make it fit your situation. The top also notes that the example is outlining a 24″x24″ print. Main goal of this sheet is to show how little difference upping your quality will cost on a per-print basis.

  • Doug Dolde

    $3.04 is the total cost per sq ft of an EasyWrappe as listed on your spreadsheet

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com/ Justin Bodin

      Sorry, I’m still not sure where you’re getting $3.04. The spreadsheet doesn’t reference EasyWrappe at all. For anywhere that says “stretcher bar”, we are using our 1.5″ pre-notched stretcher bar rates. So we’d be speaking in a linear foot cost, not square foot until you make it into a square.

      Again, you can swap out the stretcher bar’s cost per linear foot with whatever suits your situation. Easywrappe is about $2.76 (1.25″ depth) or $4.07 (1.75″ depth) per linear foot. Again this is not including potential quantity discounts that EasyWrappe is qualified for.

      So a 40″x54″ wrap would be about $97.28 including ink ($7.50), coating ($1.50), Lyve ($24.60), and EasyWrappe 1.75″ bars ($63.68).

      • http://www.breathingcolor.com/ Justin Bodin

        A side note about our blog comment system: if you click the “Reply” button below a given comment, it will nest your reply message beneath the comment that you’re replying to. As opposed to posting a new comment when responding.

  • Doug Dolde

    Judging by the other comments below you have to agree that this is a very confusing spreadsheet. I consider it worthless for my purposes

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com/ Justin Bodin

      Thanks for the feedback.

      Again, and I’ll quote from the first line of the document, “The purpose of this document is to highlight the minimal savings received in exchange for compromising the quality of the final print.”

      It’s not designed as a cost-to-print calculator, which requires a much more in-depth approach considering the multitude of different canvas, stretcher bar, coatings, and ink options out there. Something like this is in the works, however.

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