Metal Prints vs Canvas: COMPLETE Comparison

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When you want to make large, impressive prints for your wall, then lustre or glossy photo paper just doesn’t cut it, but this is really where canvas and metal prints shine.

Comparing canvas vs metal prints, canvas offers a professional, artistic style for your photos, while pictures printed on metal show an eye-catching gloss.

This article covers the major differences between canvas and metal to help you decide which is right for your style of photography.

You should keep in mind that different photo labs use different printers and different papers, even within the same canvas or metallic range, meaning that these results might differ for your specific chosen lab, but the descriptions below are true to prints produced by Nations Photo Lab.

Canvas vs Metal Prints

Metal Prints vs Canvas Comparison

Comparing a metal print vs canvas side-be-side, it’s clear that metallic prints are much more vibrant, with a really eye catching brightness to them. This is because a metal print is essentially a photo on aluminum if printed by a lab, rather than a print onto a cotton / polyester paper as with canvas prints.

Only certain types of print work well with metal, unlike canvas which is more versatile, with portraits not looking good on metal as it doesn’t print skin tones very well. This is better reserved for landscapes and cityscapes, such as those with neon lights and photos taken at night with high contrast, which look truly fantastic.

Directly comparing canvas vs metal, canvas is an all-rounder with a more muted color palette, but lovely texture in the surface of the canvas, while metal prints show rich colors and plenty of contrast, and are therefore more suited to very large scale, vibrant landscapes.

Metal vs Canvas Prints Canvas Metal
  • 1/5
  • 4/5
  • 1/5
  • 2/5
Color Vibrancy
  • 1/5
  • 5/5
Texture & Details
  • 5/5
  • 4/5
Can be used under glass?
  • No
  • No
Best for … Portraits; weddings; landscapes; pro prints Large prints; colorful landscapes; pro prints
Best paper for home printing …
Best online printing service…
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What is a Metal Print?

Metal print

Metal prints can give a 3D-like effect, and have a shiny surface that can be susceptible to fingerprints. Because they are both vibrant and more matte, they can be placed near windows without danger from too much glare to see the picture.

Black and white metal prints can look good in certain situations, but as the real advantage of photo printing on metal is the powerful colors, you will get a much better result by printing colorful landscapes, saving black and white prints for matte paper.

Photo Lab vs Home Printing

Metal prints are really stunning, with vibrancy, contrast and a color ‘pop’ that is like no other photo finish.

But a metal print from your home printer is going to be different from a metal print produced by a professional photo lab. This is because pro labs infuse an image directly onto raw aluminum, which is not something that home printers can do. Therefore, you are left with regular glossy photo paper that has a metallic surface layer to create a metal print.

Therefore, bear in mind that to get the truly spectacular colors of a metal print, you will have to go to a photo lab.

I would recommend getting metal prints from Nations Photo Lab as either standalone prints, or with in-built standoffs for a really professional mounting solution.

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What is a Canvas Print?

Canvas print

Many people want to know, “Do canvas prints look good?” and the answer is definitely, “Yes”.

Although canvas prints are less shiny and less colorful than metal prints overall, this doesn’t mean that they are dull – it simply shows how colorful metal prints are!

Canvas prints show skin tones really well, and therefore are very well suited to photographs of people. They also look very professional, and really add something to your photos when printed at scale.

The main advantage of canvas is the texture of the surface, which gives an artistic quality to your images, and the fact that canvas is often wrapped around a wooden frame, giving the picture as a whole a 3D quality.

Photo Lab vs Home Printing

It is possible to print canvas at home, provided you have a canvas printer, but this will only produce unstretched canvas.

You will need to go to a photo lab to get canvas that is stretched around a frame, and that is also generally a higher quality approach to unstretched canvas too.

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Are Metal Prints Better Than Canvas?

Metal prints are better than canvas where you are printing vibrant, colorful images, but canvas is better than metal when you are printing skin tones and people.

Overall, whether you prefer metal or canvas is down to personal preference, but from my experience, I have made far more prints from metal than I have from canvas, purely because the ‘wow’ factor of metal is so much higher.

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Follow Tim Daniels:

Hi, I'm Tim Daniels, photographer and photo trainer, founder of Lapse of the Shutter and creator of the totally free Lightroom Develop System. I've travelled to (probably) 30 countries over the last few years, taking photos and licensing them around the world, and creating lots of free photography learning resources. Read More ...

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