How To Make The Best Quality Canvas Print

Decorating walls with photographs gives your home a personal and unique touch. Pictures that remind us of vacations, weddings, or graduations are a loving and bright way to decorate your home. When it’s time for a wall decor update, canvas photo prints are a simple way to transform your walls. They add texture and a stylish visual aesthetic. Canvas printing is a versatile style that can be hung individually, as photo spreads, or as art gallery walls. You can select between single pictures on prints or collages of up to 24 photos per canvas and the sizes vary between 8×10 and 36×36. There are endless possibilities of how you can decorate your home with the highest quality canvas prints. In this guide, we explain what canvas is made of and how to get the best quality out of your prints. Whether you select one or two large prints, a dozen small ones, or a panorama, canvas art prints will enrich the colors and furniture in any room.

What Is A Canvas Print?

A canvas print is an image printed from an inkjet printer on canvas. Once the image is printed on the canvas, it is hand-stretched onto a frame. Historically, canvas was made from hemp. Today, most canvas is made from cotton, linen or polyester. Shutterfly uses poly-cotton canvas (a mix of polyester and cotton) for prints. During the photo printing process, the color seeps into the cloth made with cotton fibers while it remains on the surface of synthetic polyester strands. The combination of the highest-quality materials and techniques results in vibrant colors that won’t fade over time on a strong and durable fabric.

Canvas print of docs on shelf.

Canvas comes with many benefits over framed pictures. Frames have to be chosen with other home decor in mind to maintain cohesion. For example, you can coordinate other art prints, like metal prints and glass prints, on a large gallery wall with canvas prints, as they don’t have frames. Canvas prints provide a more versatile approach when decorating a wall and require less of a thought process because the frameless borders adapt to any style.

While pictures in frames are interchangeable, the type of frame can change the feel of a picture drastically. A simple black frame will keep the focus on the photo or artwork but a more stylized frame can bring out a different character in the image. However, printed pictures or the protective glass of a frame can cause a glare or reflection, which won’t happen on museum-quality canvas prints.

Larger frames usually have a higher price point and are more difficult to transport due to their heavy weight and delicate glass insert. Their weight also makes it difficult to hang them without damaging your wall. Unlike canvas prints, large frames are tricky to coordinate with smaller pictures as you need to match the color, shape and design of the frames.

Here are the most important factors when comparing framed prints to canvas prints:

Canvas PrintsFramed Prints
Canvas provides texture to add color depthFrames must complement room decor
Image printed is permanentCan swap out photos
Glossy and matte finishes do not have a glare or reflectionPhotos can have a glare or reflection
LightweightLarge frames are heavy and difficult to transport
More affordable option for large printsThe bigger the image, the more expensive the frame
Vibrant colors are long-lastingColors can fade over time

Types of Canvas Prints

There are various options when choosing custom canvas prints. We’ve listed the most common canvas prints below with a suggestion for best use and the benefits of each type as wall art.

Gallery Wrapped Edges

One of the most popular options is the canvas print with gallery wrapped edges. The printed canvas is hand-stretched tightly around the sides of a wooden frame so the image isn’t distorted by wrinkles in the fabric. Once stretched, the canvas is secured to the frame with expertly placed staples.

This type of canvas print works especially well for architecture and landscape shots as the picture flows around the edges and displays the image continuously. When selecting your favorite pictures for this type of canvas, ensure that the focal point isn’t too close to the edges to avoid it being wrapped around and getting lost.


Framed canvas prints are a beautiful alternative to framed pictures as they have the traditional framed look but the texture and quality of a canvas print. The frames add depth to canvases and are available in a variety of different colors and textures such as black, wooden, or white frames. It’s the perfect addition to a home with a contemporary style.

Framed canvas print.

This type of canvas is suited best for portraits, family pictures, or shots that showcase a single item. When selecting the frame online, try different colors to find out which one complements the image best.


Collage canvas prints are a great feature to add to gallery walls but also make amazing individual decor pieces, especially if you’re styling a small space. You can choose up to 24 pictures for some of our collage designs that include different colors and even texture backgrounds.

You can design collages with pictures from events, professional photoshoots, or your last vacation. Pick your favorite pictures and create your personal collage with Shutterfly’s design tool.


Panoramic canvas prints are perfect for large empty spaces and can beautifully decorate walls above beds, desks, or couches. A smaller panorama can be a nice addition to a gallery wall that adds an interesting touch.

Large landscape canvas print.

By nature, panoramas are ideal for city skylines or landscapes. A more creative approach would be to print pictures of tall buildings like lighthouses or skyscrapers on a panoramic canvas print and hang it vertically. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination!


While single canvas prints can have quite an impressive impact on a space, creating a collage out of multiple panels adds even more depth. You can choose different size panels with a variety of pictures or spread a single picture over multiple frames.

Multi panel canvas prints.

Similar to the collage canvas prints, it is ideal to choose pictures that were taken around the same time or place to get a cohesive look. Consider the theme, brightness, and contrast of the pictures you want to print on the panels. For a canvas spread, consider the layout of the picture and ensure the focal point will be on a single panel rather than spread between multiple ones.

Alternative Canvas Materials

Panels are great decorative pieces, but if you are interested in a more unique canvas print to display your favorite pictures, we offer more options. Consider hanging canvas prints attached to magnetic bars on top and bottom and twine for easy hanging or easel back canvas prints that stand free. These prints make for great photo gifts as well.

High-Quality Canvas Print Tips

Each canvas design can be customized specifically to match your taste, preferences, or room design layout. For inspiration, check out the most popular designs for canvas prints below:

  • Modern: Modern canvas prints often focus on bold colors, unique shapes, and other modern designs.
  • Family Photos: Whether it’s a holiday family portrait, a wedding photo, or a picture from a family reunion, these are common subjects for photo canvas prints.
  • Abstract: Abstract designs are perfect for living spaces in a home with modern or minimalistic interiors.
  • Inspirational Quotes: Many families love adding a meaningful quote to a decorative canvas, which helps brighten any room in the house.
  • Pets: Families with especially photogenic pets may prefer hanging a canvas or two featuring their furry best friend. Getting their pet to sit still for a photoshoot is another matter.
  • Landscapes: Whether your favorite photos are from a family trip or even just a nearby location, landscape photos look great on canvas. Just make sure your photo is high enough quality before printing.
  • Maps: Map designs and prints are another popular option for canvas prints, especially if you love traveling. Opt for the gallery wrap style to showcase as much of your pictures as possible.

After choosing a design, there are a few things to consider before placing an order on a canvas print. Unlike paper prints that you can swap out of a frame, canvas prints are permanent. That is why careful photo selection is important.

Pick The Right Photo

Especially on larger prints you want to ensure that the picture you choose will look as great as you envisioned. We have listed a few key elements of picking the right picture that you can reference when going through your collection.

Woman looking at camera.

  • Rule of Thirds: When taking (or cropping) pictures, mentally divide the image in vertical and horizontal thirds. Try to place the focal point anywhere two of the lines intersect. It helps to balance out the image and is pleasing to the eye.
  • Cropped Parts: Hard to crop everyone into your favorite family photo? Use this little trick: Reference a photography cropping guide and crop the picture intentionally to make the best out of not showing everyone’s whole body in the image.
  • Emotion: The picture you choose should evoke an emotion that coincides with the room you plan to display the canvas in. If the image you’re looking at doesn’t spark anything, maybe choose another one.
  • Sharpness: Unless it’s an artistic element of the image, you want to avoid blurriness. See if you can find an image that wasn’t shaky or taken in bad weather conditions.
  • Black and White or Color: Whether you choose a black and white or a colored print largely depends on the kind of picture you selected and how you plan to display it. A gallery wall of black and white wedding photos on canvas can be a showstopper. A flower field on a panoramic canvas print will likely look better in color.

Use A High-Quality Image

The quality of the picture you select can also have a big impact on the result of the canvas print you’ll receive. Make sure the file you selected has the appropriate amount of megapixels by referencing Shutterfly’s Photo Resolution Tips. For example, any canvas print with dimensions between 11×14 and 20×30 should have at least three megapixels. Prints sized 24×36 or larger need around eight megapixels to meet the print quality requirements. You can easily calculate the megapixels by multiplying the resolution of your picture, dividing by 1,000,000 and rounding the result up or down.

Here are two examples of how to calculate the megapixels (MP) of your pictures:

Canvas print size guide.

If you don’t feel like calculating your picture’s quality, don’t worry. Shutterfly will warn you if your image does not meet the quality standards for the size canvas you selected.

Pick The Right Size

It is not always easy to assess how big a canvas will be until it arrives on your doorstep. To help you pick the right size and avoid ordering sizes that over- or underwhelm you upon their arrival, we created the Design a Wall feature that can help you pick the size that fits your wall best.

Woman hanging a painted canvas.

We listed all the custom sizes our canvas prints are available in so you can get some inspiration as to what kinds of pictures make the most sense for each size and your space. You can also refer to our guide on canvas sizes to see images of the different styles.

Small Canvas Sizes:

  • 8×10: This is the size of a standard printed photo and perfect for smaller wall spaces or as part of a gallery wall. Choose fond memories for this display.
  • 10×14: This size is a nice addition to a guest bedroom or kitchen. It can also fit up to four 5×7 photos as a collage.
  • 12×12: If you want to display a larger photo but lack wall space, this square canvas is perfect. It can make a great size for a quote that you can hang in a small space.

Medium Canvas Sizes:

  • 10×20: This medium-sized print is perfect for highlighting a special landscape photo or to decorate a unique wall space.
  • 10×24: This is the smallest size available for panoramic canvas prints. It can look great above a shelf or fireplace to frame the space. You can also stretch a picture over three of these canvases and hang them next to each other vertically.
  • 16×16: Slightly bigger than the 12×12 square, this canvas size is more of a show stopper. This size is great for a stack of two pictures but you can also print three individual images and hang them side by side in the dining or living room.
  • 16×20: Longer pictures like vacation photos of you in front of an impressive skyline or landscape fit perfectly on this size canvas. Hang this print in your bedroom or office to remember the special moment.

Large Canvas Sizes:

  • 12×36: This is the largest panoramic canvas print available and makes for an amazing entryway decor piece. Print a tall building on it and hang it vertically for a creative touch.
  • 20×30: Pick a high-resolution image that you love looking at for this size because it will leave a lasting impression in any room. A professionally taken portrait of your family or pet will look great on this canvas.
  • 24×36: This canvas size is definitely on the larger side and will look great above a couch or bed as a stand-alone photo.

Oversized Canvas Sizes:

  • 30×40: In case you have a guest room with empty walls to decorate, this will be a perfect way to impress them.
  • 36×36: If you’re lucky enough to have an open floor concept in your house, this piece will make a great addition to an empty wall that impresses throughout the entire space.

How To Hang Canvas Print

A canvas print can look great leaning against the wall on a mantel or shelf, or hanging on your wall. Before hanging the canvas, make sure to clean the wall with a damp cloth.

Know the center point of your canvas and where you want to hang it. When measuring the distance to the floor, we recommend hanging the canvas with its midpoint between 56 and 60 inches from the floor. When you’re hanging a canvas above a couch or bed, leave about 8 to 10 inches of space between the piece of furniture and the canvas. Use a pencil to mark the center spot. You can use nails with sawtooth brackets, wire and eye hooks, or j-hooks to hang your canvas prints. If you’d rather not put holes in your wall, consider adhesive strips with velcro.

To protect your wall from scratches, you can stick wall protector pads on the canvas frame before hanging it. If you’d like to read more about hanging your canvas prints, check out our post about how to hang your canvas.

Couple measuring to hang a canvas print.

Creating a gallery wall can be a little daunting which is why we recommend putting thought into it before reaching for a hammer and nails. You can use our design a wall feature or get creative with a hands-on approach. Laying the canvas prints out on the floor first can help you visualize what your gallery wall will look like when it’s done. Once you are happy with your arrangement on the floor, take a picture with your phone and recreate the gallery on your wall.

If your prints aren’t all the same size, there’s an additional trick you can try. Cut out pieces of paper (use baking sheets or an old newspaper) that are the same size as your canvas prints and tape them to the wall in the arrangement you laid out on the floor. This makes it easy to rearrange and shift the prints to find out which sizes you like where. Don’t forget to take a step back every once in a while and look at your wall from a different angle. Get a family member or friend’s opinion if you feel yourself getting stuck with your design. You can even sleep on it for a night and come back the next day to see if you still like it and are ready to hang your beautiful prints.

Woman hanging canvas print.

Additional Resources

Now it’s time to take your home decor to the next level. When you’re ready to order your high quality canvas prints, follow our easy steps to give your space an elegant look with some of your favorite memories. While you’re waiting for your canvases to be ready, check out some of our other favorite home decor resources: