Canvas Extension – Tutorial

Canvas has become a very popular printing media with the explosion of digital photography and digital printing.  Canvas can impart a very appealing texture and painterly look to a photo.  In addition to printing on canvas, the gallery wrap has become a well used method of presenting the canvas print.  The gallery wrap can be hung as an unframed piece which helps cut down on costs and the look has a finished yet unfinished look that many find appealing.

A gallery wrap is done by stretching the canvas around a set of stretcher bars and stapling the canvas to the back of the stretchers.  These are the same kinds of wooden stretchers painters have used for centuries.  Some will say that only the thicker, 1 1/2″ stretchers can be called a gallery wrap and anything smaller (e.g., the 3/4″ size) is referred to as a museum wrap.  Personally, I distinguish the two this way – A gallery wrap is fully wrapped around the stretchers and stapled on the back.  The sides that wrap around the stretcher frame is either a colour (as opposed to the canvas white) or an the actual image itself.  In this case, whether the heavier 1 1/2″ or smaller 3/4″ stretchers are used, the stretched piece can be hung without a frame.  A museum wrap is stapled on the side of the stretcher doesn’t wrap fully around and the sides of the canvas may or may not be coloured or an extension of the image.  A museum wrap is intended to be framed.

What if we don’t want to lose any of the image by wrapping it around the stretcher?  Then we either need to find a way to fill the edges of the canvas with a solid colour or to extend the image fully to the edges.  This tutorial will walk you through the steps to extend the image to the edges of the canvas but not lose any when the piece is wrapped.  Huh?  Read on.

1.  Open the image you want to print.  Size it to the dimensions you want and the ppi resolution you want.

2.  Create a new blank document that is the size of the canvas you’ll be printing on.  Make sure it’s the same ppi resolution as your original file.

3.  Copy and paste the original into the new document.  Copying and pasting will ensure that the original image is centred in the new document.

4.  Using the Rectangular Marquee tool, select the image you pasted into the blank document then go to Edit>Transform>Scale.  Drag the edges of the pasted image to fill the new document.  Hit Enter to lock in the transformation.

5.  Drop the Opacity of this fill layer to around 65%

6.  Copy and paste your original document into this filled background layer again.  What you have now is a centred image on top of the background fill layer which is at a lower opacity.

7.  If there are any parts of the background extension that don’t match up with the main image the way you like you can clean those up by making a Reveal All layer mask out of the top image layer then using the Clone Brush on the extension layer, you can clean up that background as you like.

The image sequence below illustrates these steps.  The final layer stack is shown at the bottom of the page.  You now have a document ready to be soft-proofed and printed on your canvas of choice then stretched for hanging.  In the example below, I decided to stretch on 1 1/2″ frames so I created a 2″ border all the way around which is 1 1/2″ for the frame and 1/2″ to staple on the back of the stretcher frame.

Original pasted into new document (click for larger version)

Pasted image stretched to fill canvas and opacity lowered (click for larger version)

Original pasted into new background (click for larger version)

Background cleaned up (click for larger version)

Layer stack in PS (click for larger version)

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