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Stretched vs Rolled Canvas - What’s The Difference?

stretched & rolled canvas photo prints

Choosing The Right Canvas For Your Needs

Canvas prints are an easy & affordable way to get your photographs printed & displayed on your wall.

Through a professional & reputable print lab, you can have high quality prints that will last decades.

Often there is a choice to order your print either stretched or rolled.

So what’s the difference between a stretched canvas & a rolled canvas? As the name implies, a stretched canvas is held taut over a wood frame, otherwise known as stretcher bars. A rolled canvas is simply rolled & usually stored or shipped in a protective tube. Whereas a rolled canvas needs to be mounted first in order to hang, a stretched canvas is ready for display.

Hanging Your Canvas Print - Stretched vs Rolled

There’s no point in having a lovely canvas print unless you’re going to display it somehow.

So how do you hang these 2 types of different canvas prints?

Displaying A Stretched Canvas

There’s actually 2 ways a canvas print can be stretched.

1. Gallery Wrap - This is where the canvas is pulled all around the stretcher bars & secured with staples to the back.

The most popular finish is having the image printed so it bleeds onto the edges, creating that depth that wraps are famous for.

But the edges can also be black or white, so the entire image fits on the face of the print.

2. Sometimes called a studio wrap, thinner stretcher bars are used & the canvas is stapled & secured around the edges.

Gallery wraps are ready to hang straight out of the box.

They usually have a hanging wire strung across the back, so it’s as simple as knocking in a nail or hook into the wall.

Larger prints do better with 2 nails or hooks as it keeps them from falling out of horizontal alignment.

Studio wraps require framing before they are able to be displayed.

You could hang a studio wrap as is, but because the staples are visible it’s not a very good look.

The main reason for purchasing a studio wrap would be to use a custom frame.

Again, a hanging wire will be attached to the back of the actual frame.

The frame can add a bit of extra weight, but it’s no different from displaying any type of framed photograph.

If you wish to just explore stretched canvas in more detail, you can check out this guide.


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Mounting & Displaying A Rolled Canvas

Often limited edition prints or paintings are bought as a rolled canvas.

Being light, it’s a cheaper option for shipping & the tube protects from damage.

The print will need to be mounted & framed before being able to hang.

Gatorboard is mostly used, but other mounting boards are also available.

Once mounted, the print can then be framed ready for hanging.

A rolled canvas can also be stretched.

You can do it yourself, but if you’re not feeling confident, a professional framer can do the job for you.

I’ve never tried it, but apparently if you have the right tools, it’s not that difficult.

An Internet search will bring up some good instructional videos.

Framing Your Canvas Print - Stretched vs Rolled

A frame can really add that finishing touch, so there’s a couple of different approaches for framing canvas prints.

Framing A Stretched Canvas

The appeal of gallery wraps is the fact they don’t require framing.

But they also look great when framed.

The most popular style is a floating frame, sometimes known as shadow box frames.

stretched canvas art in floating frame

This is where the print sits inside the frame with a gap all the way around so as the print appears to “float”.

Floater frames don’t work with studio wraps as the staples will be visible.

So a custom frame will need to be used.


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Box frames are another option for both studio or gallery wraps.

Not to be confused with shadow box frames, the canvas wrap fits into the box frame from behind.

The print then sits flush against a lip on the front preventing the wrap from falling outward.


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Framing A Rolled Canvas

Once the canvas is mounted, then framing is quite simple.

Being thinner than a gallery or studio wrap, most standard picture frames can be used.

Although I feel it detracts from the look of the canvas, you can sit the print behind glass as you would with a framed photographic print.

This helps to protect the canvas print from UVs & prevent fading or colour bleaching.

If it’s an expensive limited edition fine art print, maybe this is a valid option to preserve the image.

Although these types of prints are usually archival anyway.


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Stretched Canvas vs Rolled Canvas - Which Is Best?

Whether stretched or rolled, one isn’t better than the other.

It all depends on your needs & how you wish to present the print.

Gallery wraps are definitely fabulous for being able to be hung frameless & look fantastic.

If you’re definitely framing your print, then a studio wrap or rolled canvas will offer more choice as to the style of frames available.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has given you a better understanding of the difference between stretched & rolled canvases.

Whichever you decide on, print technology, inks & quality materials makes canvas a very accessible, affordable & stylish print medium.

To explore canvas prints in more depth, feel free to check out my complete guide.

Please feel free to share this article too .. remember .. sharing is caring.


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