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Do Canvas Prints Fade?

canvas print exposed to sunlight

Learn How To Protect Your Prints From Fading

Canvas prints would have to be the most accessible style of wall art.

With different printing options, you can find a print solution to suit your budget.

From the cheaper department store offerings, to a high quality photograph produced by a professional print lab, there’s an option for most people’s needs.

You may be considering purchasing a canvas print & are curious if it can be prone to fading.

Can canvas prints fade? Yes, like any other type of print, canvas prints can fade, but to what degree & how quickly depends on a number of variables. These range from where the print is hung & displayed, to the print process itself & whether or not a protective coating has been applied.

We’ve all heard the old adage “prevention is better than cure”.

So let’s explore what causes fading in the 1st place.

What Causes Canvas Prints to Fade

  • The factor that has the most influence on any print fading is direct sunlight.

This is because UV (ultraviolet radiation) breaks down the inks or dyes.

  • Indirect sunlight can also affect the print, though not to the same degree.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid some ambient light, but is easier to protect your print from.

  • Believe it or not, fluorescent & incandescent lighting does emit UV radiation, be it on an almost insignificant level.

Most home lighting isn’t going to create issues, but I have heard of photographic prints displayed under strong gallery lights being affected over time.


Technically a print won't fade, but it can degrade & discolour over time by being exposed to airbourne contaminants & humidity.

There are ways to protect canvas prints from humidity, as explained in these articles:


Also, knowing how to correctly clean your print will help keep it in tip top condition too:


So if you haven’t already purchased one, let’s take a quick look at the printing options & how they can impact the life of a canvas print.

Support the art community & purchase your prints from independent creatives.

How The Printing Process Affects Fade Resistance

The way the canvas print is produced will have a bearing on the print's resilience to fading.

The 3 factors in the production of the print to be aware of are :

1.The type of canvas used

2. The type of ink used

3. Using a protective coating

Different Types of Canvas Used

There’s 3 types of canvas that can be used in creating a print :

1. Cotton or Linen - For many professional photographers, this is often the go to for fine art prints due to it’s archival nature.

Different weaves will produce a finer or coarser texture.

The finer weaves retain the most image detail.

Being a natural fibre, the ink is absorbed into the cloth rather than sitting on top.

This does create more subtle colours, but this can be the look needed for certain images.

Being a natural fibre means there can be variations between batches.

If you need consistency on long print runs, it can be more difficult to achieve.

Also being more expensive, this type of canvas is suited to limited edition prints.

2. Polyester - This is the cheapest material to print on, but don’t think that it's of lesser quality.

It isn’t archival like cotton, but it has it’s own advantages.

Being a synthetic, it has a smoother finish which can retain higher levels of detail.

Although the ink is laid on the surface rather than soaking into the material, this does create higher contrast & more vibrant colours.

You will have a print with more pop as well as consistent reproduction print after print.

3. Polyester/Cotton Blend - most print labs use a 60% poly to 40% cotton blend.

This blend is most popular as it offers the best of both worlds.

An affordable price, consistency in print production, retains good colour vibrancy & has that textured finish canvas prints are known for.

How Inks Can Protect From Sun Damage

There’s 2 types of ink that can be used in laying an image onto any print medium.

1. Dye-based Inks

2. Pigment Inks

Dye-based inks are generally regarded to be less fade resistant.

They are made by using a colourant that is dissolved in liquid.

This makes them less water resistant too.

But dye-based inks do deliver a more vibrant colour.

Pigment inks are always used for creating archival prints.

They consist of microscopic specks of solid colours which are suspended in liquid.

Although not as vibrant, they are more sun resistant.

UV Inks - although pigment inks have the advantage of being fade resistant, dye-based inks are produced that incorporate UV safe properties.

Many printers now offer this option.

To learn more about canvas, you can check out my complete guide to canvas prints.

Protecting Your Print With A Final Coat

Many reputable printers will apply a UV & water resistant top coat as part of their service.

Usually applied with a spray gun, this type of protective coating can be applied to linen or polyester canvas.

It seals the ink & canvas, protecting not just from sun damage & moisture, but general airbourne contaminants.

If a top coat hasn’t been applied to your print, there are some nifty DIY solutions.

Although not all of these methods have UV protection, they go a long way to keeping your print in great condition.

  • Laminate - some print labs will laminate your print.

This is a clear plastic film that is applied using a heat press.

But liquid laminate can be bought which is applied either by brush or roller.

  • Fabric Spray - outdoor fabric spray is used to waterproof cushions & the like & can be found in most hardware stores.

  • Varnish - available as a spray or liquid application, just be certain to use a totally clear varnish, otherwise it can create a tint or discolouration.

  • Polyurethane - available as an oil or water based formula, again be sure to use water based as oil based will also leave a slight discolouration.

Polyurethane is applied in liquid form & dries hard to form a protective barrier.

  • Epoxy Resin - okay, this is the piece de la resistance of protective coating.

Not only does it provide protection, it creates depth & colour vibrancy almost like an acrylic or metal print.

The video below is worth watching as it gives a clear explanation & shows the final result.

Final Thoughts

Do canvas prints fade? Yes they can, but they don’t have to.

Any print, archival or not, will be affected by exposure to direct sun.

A print using cotton or linen with archival inks & a UV top coat is going to last you many, many years if looked after & displayed in optimal conditions.

But even a more affordable print can last decades when quality inks & a UV coat is applied.

You’ll still achieve value for money with a mass produced, department store type print.

Displayed away from direct sun & with a bit of care, they really offer a bang for your buck.

I hope this article was helpful .. sharing is caring .. so feel free to spread the love!


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