The Best Way to Prepare Your Photos for Canvas Printing

Choosing the right file format for you

There are generally two photographic formats that are used when printing on canvas - JPEG and TIFF. You can also supply EPS and PDF which allow additional vector graphics and text to be added but on the whole most people only want photographic pictures printed on canvas.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

All cameras can take JPEG’s which makes it very easy to take photos and have them printed. The biggest advantage to JPEG is compatibility - it’s been an industry standard for decades and apart from JPEG 2000 (which never really caught on) it hasn’t changed in all that time. This is the single biggest advantage for JPEG as you can guarantee that no matter where you decide to print your photos there will be no compatibility issues, allowing photographers to concentrate on what matters most - taking great pictures without having to deal with any technical issues than can arise from other file formats.

The downside to JPEG is the compression - it’s a lossy compression format. Without getting too technical the high compression ability of JPEG is in part due to the loss of some of the colours within the image. This can lead to “blocky” images and noise occurring around edges within the image, especially with excessive editing within photo editing software. If you are editing an image extensively then it would be best to edit the image in TIFF and then when you are finished editing convert it to JPEG as a last step for printing.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)

This is a perfect image format for working with photos in a photo editing environment due to its lossless compression - no matter how many times you open and close the TIFF it won’t suffer from any compression quality issues. There are various flavours of TIFF (one of which is JPEG which I would not recommend - just use JPEG instead). Providing you stick with either uncompressed or LZW compression you are guaranteed not to mess up a picture by repeatedly opening and saving it due to its lossless compression. As TIFF is widely supported within the printing community this makes it an ideal format for editing and printing.

The downside to TIFF is large files, however, with modern computing and storage ability this is practically negligible by today’s standards. Also there are practically no cameras on the market that take TIFF natively - the larger file formats mean you eat up your camera card space really quickly and each photo taken will take longer to write to the card making your camera slow and unresponsive.

What about Camera Raw?

Perhaps the biggest advantage of camera raw is the ability to edit the image with the largest colour gamut possible to obtain the best results by selectively choosing the exposure after the photo has been taken. This chameleonic ability allows photographers to retrospectively edit images without introducing artefacts and noise into the image prior to printing which is a huge advantage - particularly if your camera wasn’t on the most optimised settings (it’s similar to bracketing with film).

In theory this file format sounds perfect for printing with just one disadvantage - very few companies can print camera raw directly and will convert them to either JPEG or TIFF prior to printing. Why is that? Well unfortunately every camera manufacturer has a different view on what camera raw should be and because there is no “standard” they all made their own versions:

.3fr .ari .arw .bay .cap .cr2 .crw .dcr .dcs .dng .dng .drf .eip .erf .fff .iiq .k25 .kdc .mef .mos .mrw .nef .nrw .orf .pef .ptx .pxn .raf .raw .raw .rw2 .rwl .rwz .sr2 .srf .srw .t3d .x3f

There is just no way that all of these file types can be supported by photographic printers, particularly as more and more are added to the list all the time and the current versions are still being updated and changed all the time. This would result in constant software updates to prevent incompatibilities making this near on impossible to support.

To obtain the best quality possible the upshot is to take your photo’s using your cameras version of camera raw and then when you are finished editing it convert it to TIFF or JPEG for printing.

What About Colour Spaces and Profiles?

A profile is automatically embedded into the photo by your camera along with a lot of other meta data. You can convert profiles if you want but in all honesty it is best to leave the profile alone and let the printer take care of the rest.


Do not use CMYK for canvas prints ever! Back in the old days when printers were unable to achieve colours that were particularly vivid this made sense to change the colour space to CMYK (which reduces the number of colours in order to achieve colours that only the printer could print ). These days modern printers are able to produce vivid colours that closely match their original RGB photos. If you convert your photos to CMYK then you are reducing the quality of the final print because you are removing vivid colours from the photo.


High Resolution
Low Resolution
Big is beautiful! As big as you can and then some - huge megapixel numbers are better. Setting your camera to the biggest resolution possible will result in a much sharper picture and finer detail once it has been enlarged.

Anything from the internet is too low resolution & possibly copyright! If you have uploaded a photo to Facebook it will be reduced in size to allow for faster viewing on phones, tablets and laptops, but they won’t print at larger sizes. Instead use the original camera image to get the best results.

If you are uncertain how big your photo can be enlarged then zoom in on it until it is actual size on the screen that you are using. So if your laptop or tablet has a 12” screen and you zoom in to fill the screen at 12” then you are seeing what it will look like on the final print if you printed it to 12” wide. If you want to enlarge it to 36” then zoom in so that you take three screens to view the whole image (3 x 12” = 36”). This will give you a good approximation of how it will look on the final canvas print. If all looks okay and there is no fuzziness or blockiness then the chances are it is fine for printing.

JPEG Compression

Low Compression, High Quality
High Compression, Low Quality

If your camera has an image quality setting then setting it to the best possible will reduce the amount of compression that is applied to the image. This will result in larger file sizes and more importantly will allow more detail and less noise and artefacts being introduced to it. In turn this means you can enlarge your photo’s much more making them ideal for canvas prints. 

Remember Ratios

A rectangle doesn’t fit in a square! Unless you want to crop the rectangle there is no way for this to be done. If you are after a square shaped canvas then you need to allow for extra left and right that can be cropped off without removing something important from the picture. If you think Great Uncle Bulgaria wouldn’t like being removed from the rectangular group shot to achieve a square canvas then you need to change the way the people are standing in the photo in order to prevent this.

Canvas Wrap

Remember that canvas prints wrap around the sides of the stretcher bars. If you require the image to wrap around the side then zoom out prior to taking the photo to allow for this. If you forget to do this then adding a colour border or mirror wrapping the image is the only solution left, which is okay, but it would be better to have the actual image wrapping around the sides.


From simple colour corrections and cropping to oh, oh there is a flower growing out of the brides head, or the grooms eyes are closed, or the seagull just photo bombed the picture…. yes it happens. Well, depending on the complexity of the problem there is usually a way to help resolve this with photo editing software. If you require any help then we offer a photo retouching service.

How do I send files?

It’s very easy - either by email to or you could use the upload section which will easily handle enormous file sizes.