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Last year, I did a secret shopper canvas print shootout to see which of the three companies I tested offered the best product. The results of that $100 comparison review revealed that CanvasHQ stood head and shoulders above the rest.
For the competition to see who's the best canvas print company of 2020, though, I not only expanded the field of contestants from three to seven, but I also added in a variety of new tests. You can see my thorough comparison of each canvas print in the PhotographyTalk video below:
As I discuss in the video, I had my sister-in-law order each print, that way the companies I was using for the shootout would have no idea that it was me ordering these prints.
I also added a big, ugly logo to the print (on purpose!) to see which of these companies would either reach out to my sister-in-law to see if she wanted to fix the logo or if the company took the initiative themselves to correct the problem. As you can see in the video above, not everyone met the task.
This year's shootout involved the following retailers:
I've already published individual reviews of each print, linked above. But for the sake of providing you with an easier comparison, I've summarized each of the seven prints below.
My CanvasPop experience for the best canvas printing company of 2020 was not all that great...
I ordered a 12x24 print that wasn't up to snuff in the quality department.
As you can see above, there is a floating frame around the canvas. I didn't ask for the frame, so it confused me as to why it was there.
After thinking about it for a while, I realized that the frame is there to give the illusion that the canvas is nice and tight. And while this "solves" the issue on the surface, ultimately, it's still a cheap, flimsy canvas.
As for the colors, they aren't bottom of the barrel but they also aren't impressive. The print looks overprocessed for sure.
The frame looks like it was reused - there are obvious holes in it that weren't filled very well. The fake logo I had on the print is clearly not fixed, either. There are other issues, too, but you can read about those in the complete CanvasPop review.
Here’s the cost breakdown of this print:
Unfortunately, my testing didn't get much more enjoyable when I got my CanvasChamp print in the mail. It's certainly in the running for one of the worst of the bunch...
At first, I thought this might be a pretty good print. But when I really paid attention to the details, it became obvious that the initial impression of quality was just an illusion.
The canvas is really coarse. The colors are flat. The green tones have also lost some vibrancy.
What's more, CanvasChamp did nothing to correct the huge logo, nor did they contact me (well, my sister-in-law) to correct the issue.
On top of all that, the corners of the canvas are really sloppy and aren't stretched properly. There's way too much canvas overlap.
But perhaps the worst part of this print is the backing. The canvas has been mounted on what looks like pressed wood that gives the illusion of a tight canvas. The frame lacks supports in the center and the corners, too, so it's not a good feature either. All of this "craftsmanship" set me back as follows:
Canvas on Demand
I won't sugarcoat it - this is one of the worst canvases I've ever purchased.
Part of the reason for my disappointment is because Canvas on Demand is one of the better known companies on this list. I assumed that that would equate to getting a good print. I was wrong.
Not only is the canvas flimsy and thin, but it doesn't have a frame. Instead of a traditional wood structure, the frame for this print is a type of hard cardboard that was folded together like a pizza box. This simply will not cut it for long-term durability and resisting things like sagging over time!
The print itself isn't much better...
The colors seem muted and flat. It also appears as though it's lost some sharpness. And to my eye, it seems like the image has been pixelated a little bit. Not good!
Add in the fact that the corners are sloppy, the mounting hardware isn't even centered, and the lack of custom sizing (I wanted a 12x24, but had to settle for a pre-made 14x20), and you have a recipe for one of the bottom-dwellers of this year's canvas print shootout.
Here's the price breakdown for this print:
Max Art Pro
Not only had I never ordered a canvas print from Max Art Pro before, but I also had never even heard of this company. As such, I had no idea what to expect.
I was pleasantly surprised with the image quality. It's not the best of the bunch, but it's certainly in the upper tier.
The green tones are a bit flat, but overall there's excellent detail and sharpness in this print - far better than many of the others.
And while Max Art Pro didn't resize the logo (or contact me to discuss its huge size), they at least recentered the photo so the logo is completely missing. I think this is a better alternative than having part of the giant logo showing or having it wrap around the edge of the print.
The back of the print is initially very impressive.
I really like for canvases to have a back cover, and this one looks great.
But when you peel the cover back, you see that although there are a lot of staples to keep the canvas tight, there's no center or corner bracing. There's not much point in having so many staples if the structure they're stapled to isn't equipped to maintain its shape over time.
I also appreciated the quality of the mounting hardware, and unlike some companies in this comparison, Max Art Pro actually centered the hardware! Get more details about Max Art Pro and the print I ordered.
The price of this print is as follows:
I was pretty excited about my Elephant Stock canvas print because they have excellent reviews online.
But that excitement quickly went away once I got the print in my hands...
I could immediately tell that the colors were flat. Even worse, there's an ugly blur on the outer edge of the canvas, as shown above. To top it off, the print looks pixelated to me.
As if all that isn't bad enough, this canvas is among the thinnest and flimsiest of the bunch.
Supporting the print is a cheap frame with a single center brace. The corners of the frame aren't supported, which is bad enough as it is, but as you can see above, there are huge gaps in the corners of the frame too. This doesn't bode well for a long-lasting canvas!
Another problem with Elephant Stock is that you can't order a custom size. So, instead of the standard 12x24 print I wanted from each company, I had to opt for a different size.
And like so many others in this competition, Elephant Stock let the ridiculous logo sail through their quality control. You can read more about my underwhelming experience with this print here.
My Elephant Stock order cost broke down like this:
As I noted in the introduction of this article, last year's secret shopper canvas shootout winner was CanvasHQ. That being the case, I had really high expectations for CanvasHQ in this year's competition.
I thought for sure that by expanding the field of companies to seven that someone would be able to at least come close to the quality of CanvasHQ. I was wrong. Just as in 2019, in 2020, CanvasHQ stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Of all the prints in this year's head-to-head battle, the one from CanvasHQ had the best colors.
The colors are contrasty and vibrant. They're accurate too! Go figure!
The print is beautifully detailed and sharp as well.
You'll also notice that CanvasHQ was the only company to actually fix the hideous signature logo problem. They resized it beautifully so it actually looks like it belongs on the print.
But as impressive as the image quality and colors are, the construction of this canvas is even better.
The corners are super tight, and they're neat and tidy as well. The canvas is pulled tight as a drum, and looks and feels like something that will retain that tightness for a good, long while.
To be sure, the abundance of staples through the canvas and into the frame will prevent the canvas from curling up. And speaking of the frame, there is plenty of bracing to help it keep its shape.
The frame itself is made of the highest-quality materials of the bunch - kiln-dried pine...not that pressed board crap other companies use.
So I think you can sense a theme developing here...
This canvas looks great, is beautifully constructed, and uses high-quality materials. That's a recipe for being a repeat canvas print shootout winner!
At the end of the day, this print was among the least expensive I ordered, which was just an added bonus:
The first thing I noticed when my CanvasWorld print came in was the colors - they're flat.
In particular, I don't like how they rendered the green tones because they look a little too yellow to me.
As a result of this, the print doesn't have the same level of vibrancy and contrast as other prints in this competition.
But an even larger problem is with the canvas itself...
Of all the canvas prints in this year's shootout, this one felt the cheapest. In fact, if you press your finger into it, it leaves an indent!
Not helping matters is the cheap frame on back.
There's no center or corner bracing to provide the support and stability that any canvas - let alone cheap, thin canvas - needs to prevent bubbling and sagging.
I will say that I appreciate the clean cuts of the canvas on the back of the print. And another nice bonus is that CanvasWorld put rubber bumpers on the back to prevent the print from rubbing up against the wall.
But in terms of accolades, that's about it for this print! Below is the cost analysis for this print:
So, there you have it! Of the seven companies I tested, CanvasHQ was the clear winner - and it wasn't close. Props to them for putting out such a fantastic product!
But as impressive as the CanvasHQ print was, by and large, the others were equally unimpressive. That's disappointing because I know there's a lot of people out there that are getting cut-rate canvas prints, and they may or may not know any better.
Hopefully this canvas print comparison will open your eyes to the difference in quality among some of the major players in the canvas printing industry and you can use this information to order better quality canvas prints in the future.