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Innova Photo ultra glossy and matte canvas review

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Review: Innova Photo ultra glossy canvas
and photo matte canvas

Two very different canvases from Innova (IFA35, IFA36)

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After looking a several types of paper on our Epson 4880, it was time to try some different media.

In this short review, Keith looks at two very different styles of canvas from Innova.

glossy finish canvas

Update 2012 – Keith has used the IFA36 glossy canvas for his new 14 metre long photograph of Leicester city centre at dusk [Exhibition info]

About the canvas

Let me start off by saying that I’ve rarely printed my work on canvas in the past. The need for stretching and varnishing added to my general distaste for seeing my images presented in this way. If you want one of my exhibition prints, then you get it on the media I choose for the image!

However, I do have to remember that I provide prints for residential and commercial clients too…

Here, their requirements (as paying customers) do actually matter, particularly since I’m in the midst of a major re-design of the gallery part of the site and will be offering a much wider range of prints.

chillis - canvas print

The two canvases I’m looking at from Innova represent the traditional form of canvas for ink-jet printing and a new type, making use of the many recent advances in coatings and print technology.

Photo Canvas Matte 350gsmFeatures:

  • High White
  • Matte woven smooth photo surface
  • Polycotton
  • Water resistant
  • Archival quality
  • Pigment & dye ink compatible
  • Ideal for stretching
Photo Canvas Ultra Gloss 380gsm Features:

  • High White
  • Glossy woven smooth photo surface
  • Instant dry
  • Polycotton
  • Water resistant
  • Archival quality
  • Pigment & dye ink compatible
  • Ideal for stretching
  • Eliminates need to seal the media post printing

The Ultra gloss immediately looks different, it has a shiny white surface, with a slightly tacky feel to it (see later on care of the material when printing)

Both versions seem to be using the same weave base, as this shot of the back surfaces shows. If you look at some of that later shots you should get a good idea of the surface texture.

canvas backing

Innova have this to say about the coating for the glossy paper:

“The smooth woven surface of this polycotton canvas has been coated with a microporous gloss coating which is similar to the gloss coating we use on our FibaPrint range of papers. Therefore we achieve an extremely high level of gloss which enhances colour gamut, and D-max in the dark areas of a print, whilst the smooth weave keeps detail needed in photographic images. The Microporous coating results in a very flexible canvas which is excellent for stretching and framing. It is easy to stretch and there is no cracking on the corners. The high gloss finish will also eliminate the need to varnish post printing for protection as it is already a very robust and water resistant media.”

Both media are available in roll form only

Innova Ultra Gloss Polycotton Photo Canvas 17in (432mm) x 15m 380gsm (SKU: IFA-36-432×15)
Innova Ultra Gloss Polycotton Photo Canvas 24in (610mm) x 15m 380gsm (SKU: IFA-36-610×15)

Innova Polycotton Photo Matte Canvas 24in(610mm) x 15m 350gsm (SKU: IFA-35-610×15)
Innova Polycotton Photo Matte Canvas 17in(610mm) x 15m 350gsm (SKU: IFA-35-432×15)

Wider rolls are available, but I didn’t have detailed availability info at the time of writing.

In order to do some test prints I needed some ICC profiles for the two materials. Although Innova have a good collection of profiles on their site, there wasn’t any for the 4880 at the time, so I decided to make some myself.

Using icc profiles

When creating profiles, it’s vital to get the correct media settings for printing out your test targets.

The 4880 section of the Innova site doesn’t yet have profiles for the Photo Matte, although profiles for the 7880 suggest the ‘Canvas’ setting and for the 11880, ‘Premium Luster’

Printing at ‘Premium Luster (260)’ produces a slightly wet looking print, which takes several minutes to dry

wet ink on canvas

When it does dry, the surface takes on a much flatter matte look (this is with Photo Black ink)

dried matte finish canvas

Careful inspection though, suggests that the ink loading might be a little too high, since there is some slight running of colours where the ink loading was highest (below).

This doesn’t necessarily mean there is too much ink – setting the drying time per head pass for longer might alleviate this but at the cost of appreciably slower print times.

texture and ink run on canvas

I did try a sample of the Innova Fine Art Matte canvas (IFA33), but the ink drifts about here even more – a nice feel to the canvas, but more of use for ‘art’ than my own style of photography ;-)

Correct media settings are important for profiling and if I was going to make profiles for my own use I’d experiment with different ones.

At just over 0.4mm thick the canvas is at about the limit for running through my iSis spectrophotometer.

If I wanted to make a really accurate profile for the matte canvas I’d varnish the sheet below with as many coats as I’d use for a finished print, and then measure it with the i1 iO. Making good profiles for uneven shiny surfaces like this is not easy and takes some care. That said, I was able to make a reasonable profile of the glossy media using the X-riteColorMunki.

As it is, the glossy paper piqued my interest much more…

The print below looks (and feels) like a piece of varnished canvas. It’s slightly stretchy and took some real effort to crack the surface (repeated sharp bending)

I created a profile using the Premium Luster media setting from the test sheet below.

The picture below gives, I hope, a bit more of a ‘feel’ for the print

glossy finish canvas

There was no ink running, and the print was dry to the touch almost immediately. After a few minutes, the ‘wet finger test’ was unable to easily smudge the print.

I’m not in the habit of testing papers like this, but canvas prints are usually a lot more likely to be handled.

Print Quality

The two profiling targets next to each other clearly show the (unvarnished) differences between the two media.

Varnishing the Photo Matte canvas does indeed make the colours darker and more intense, but it doesn’t get near to the Photo Ultra Glossy.

comparison of matte and glossy canvas

Whilst I think the picture above gives a good idea of the differences, I’m going to include the picture below, which shows the comparative gamuts and depth of blacks for the Matte canvas (solid inner shape), Epson Enhanced matte paper (smaller inner wireframe shape) and the photo glossy canvas (outer bigger wireframe shape)

If you’ve read any of my other paper reviews you’ll know my general disdain for such diagrams, however in this instance it’s a pretty picture that shows that the glossy canvas covers a wider range of colours and gets to a deeper black than the Photo Matte (don’t read much more than that into it!)

The matte doesn’t get nearly as black as the Epson EEM paper, which suggests that using matte black ink might be worth trying? All the Innova information I’ve been able to find says use Photo Black (Pk) ink.

Only one way to try… I popped the roll onto the spindle for my Epson 9600 and tried it on that printer (which has matt black and is used for many of my B/W prints)

The black was -slightly- darker, but no real difference at the EEM media setting. By the time you’ve varnished the print, I doubt there would be any difference to speak of.

relative gamut and depth of blacks

One thing to watch out for, is small dark flecks which the glossy canvas surface can pick up (from the underside?) if you are not careful in loading the roll onto the printer spindle.

You can see one in the middle of the image below.

I wasn’t able say for certain whether these were imperfections in the material, or just picked up through poor handling. The rolls of this canvas are not cheap, so take care when unpacking and loading the media.

small dark fleck on canvas surface

Although the glossy canvas can be used without application of any varnish, you might want to consider it for some applications where the canvas will be exposed to harsher environments, or evenness of finish is more important.

The Image below shows the gloss differential you can get under some lighting conditions. It’s a set of test patches I made when making a profile with the ColorMunki. It is the same sheet in each picture.

Different printers and ink sets would give different effects here.

Do note that I had to take some care just to get it to show up this well.

Gloss differential on canvas


Two fine canvas media from Innova, with a bright white finish. Available in rolls. Both have a slight stretch apparent even under light loading, due to the polycotton content of the weave.

The Photo Canvas Matte 350gsm is a traditional canvas that needs varnishing to get the best depth of colour and blacks. It takes a while to dry properly and can show signs of ink running if over inked at all.

The Photo Canvas Ultra Gloss 380gsm is altogether different to any other canvas I’ve come across. The glossy ‘photo’ finish is lust like a normal semi-gloss or lustre paper, and the gamut and depth of blacks are more like one of Innova’s FibaPrint papers.

As I mentioned at the start, I’m not a fan of canvas for my work, but the ultra gloss is that nice -right out of the printer- that I’m tempted to get some stretchers and see how some of my images look.

The glossy canvas has a more delicate surface and you should handle it with the same care you’d take with a good photo paper. Once printed though, the print is quite robust.

If you’re into canvas prints then the new glossy finish might just appeal, and the matte is a good media to consider for your existing work.

Update 2012 – Giant print

Here’s a 47 foot long print I made, printed on the glossy canvas (44″ roll).

Article: Making a giant print

large print of city centre on wall

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