Canvas vs. Paper | What’s the Difference?

The conversation usually goes something like this:

Me: Thank you for calling Encore Editions, this is Sara. How can I help you today?

Customer: Hi. I’m interested in purchasing a print from you, but I’m not sure which media to choose. I want a framed print. Can you help me? 

Me: Absolutely. Let me start by explaining the difference between our giclee canvas prints and our fine art paper prints…

It’s a very good question with an answer that really boils down to your personal aesthetic and the art that you are choosing.

Do you prefer wall art that is set off with a mat and frame? Or do you like a more original look without a mat and glass? These are questions to ask yourself when deciding whether you need to order paper or canvas.

Fine art paper prints need to be protected by glass. Our prints are created with color fast, aqueous inks, but just to make sure you can enjoy your purchase for a lifetime, we use only UV glass to ensure that the colors remain as vibrant as the day you unpack your new art. Paper prints are typically framed with a mat as well. However, we have received requests to frame paper prints sans mat, so you will notice that a few of our frame options can be purchased without a mat. Your print will arrive mounted to archival board, fit behind glass and with a paper backing to keep your art dust free for years to come.

Canvas prints have no need for glass. We print directly to pre-coated cotton canvas with color fast solvent inks. Giclée canvas prints are very resilient and can last for many years without the bulkiness of glass and mats (what is a giclée? Find out here). Usually original paintings are simply mounted in the back of a frame and then hung on the wall, and since we aim to be as authentic as possible, we also frame our canvas prints the same way. Canvas needs to breathe and will expand and contract slightly with temperature and humidity changes, therefore an open back is best to encourage this process. If you ever want to clean your canvas print, you only need a soft, damp cloth to gently wipe the surface of the print.

The art you are purchasing can also determine whether you should choose paper or canvas as your print media. Typically watercolor paintings and drawings on paper are framed behind glass, with or without a mat, in order to protect the paper from damage. To maintain the persuasiveness of your art reproduction, we would typically recommend choosing paper for images that were made with the following art media: watercolor, pastel, pen and ink, pencil, lithography, etching and dry-point. Any images that were created with oil paint, which is most of the art on our site, would have been originally done on canvas or board, and in this case, our canvas media is the best option for your reproduction. The only art media that we suggest can be ordered on either paper or canvas is photography – these images look great on both.

That being said, you have the final say of how your art should look. If you only have matted art hanging in your home, then go ahead and choose paper to maintain consistency. Have a varied collection of repro prints on canvas and original paintings? Then choose canvas. Like eccentricity? Then mix it up! When it comes to art, the only limitation is your imagination.


  1. Excellent comparison! Both the canvas and paper prints are equally as beautiful. You seriously can’t go wrong with either choice! So I would say that the final decision ultimately comes down to your budget and aesthetics.

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