DIY Canvas Wrap Tutorial

After designing this Valentines Day gift for my wife, I thought it would be awesome to start introducing the same concept for my clients. I also thought it would be a great idea to share how the project was made for all those DIY Pinterest lovers. Initially, when I made the canvas wrap for my wife – I took all of our text messages from my iPhone (which happened to be saved from the start of our relationship until about a year into our marriage) transferred them to the computer and used all the messages in the background of the image. It took quite a bit organizing but it worked out really well. When family comes over we don’t let them read it for too long cause that’s just weird. I also took this phrase, “I Always Knew It Would Be You” and highlighted it across the photo. It was a fun project and everyones jaw seems to drop when they see it, so I figured why not try to make more for other people. Or at least equip others with how it was done so they can make their own variation of it for their loved ones.

First check out the latest custom designed canvas wrap we made for a client of ours. Don’t worry the tutorial is provided below….

diy gallery wrap

Mercy and Victor came up with the main phrase “Our Effortless Love” and for their background text they decided to use their Vows that they shared with each other on their wedding day. How awesome is that! What I love about this project is that it has the potential for couples to come up their own personalized copy which is special to them. So don’t feel limited with what you can do with this project. Get creative and try to come up with your own ideas and be original. The fusion of design and photography is a wonderful thing. So have fun with it.

I must say this project is probably a little bit on the advanced side for DIY projects. It probably isn’t as easy as picking up ingredients from the store and making a recipe. But hopefully the concept of it and the collaboration of multiple people can produce something really sweet. So don’t be intimidated just dive in and try to come up with something for yourself. Or just hire us to do it all for you! :)

Here is a list of all the items you may need to do it yourself:

42×62″ print on canvas / 40×60″ wooden frame (1.5″ depth) / Cable line and hinges for mounting on a wall / Staple gun with staples of course / Razor knife and scissors / Canvas stretching pliers / Local or online printer to print on a Canvas / Design programs such as Photoshop or InDesign / Graphic Design skillz / Nice photo in high resolution / One amazing photo / Your message to be integrated into the photo

If you are planning on doing it all yourself then here is some tips that we have found to be helpful…

The Photo – When it comes to taking the photo we have found that not just any photo will work. It must be carefully made. Plus your message should probably have something to do with the picture itself. If your plan is to design something similar to ours, make sure to have a clean and non-distracting background for the type to lay on. Shooting at an aperture of f/2.8 or lower will really help soften the back drop of your image. Make sure to shoot with lots of negative space. The more empty spots you have the easier it will be to incorporate your message. Most photographers who shoot for ads, editorial, agencies or for stock images always try to keep this in mind. Plus Graphic Designers will love you for it. Make sure your image is a little further out so you have room to crop in. About two inches around all the edges won’t be seen straight on because of the fold around the frame. Shooting outdoors around trees or water seemed to work well as separation backdrops for us. Make sure to expose for you subjects well and try to capture the picture close to sunset where the light is nice and soft. Hope you’re not overwhelmed already with the crash course photo lessens. Off to the next skill set…

The Typography and Design – Here is where it starts getting even more fun. If your able to, try and come up with everything from the beginning. Sometimes having a plan helps and then having the pieces comes together on their own is even better. Begin by making the canvas to the appropriate size in Photoshop or InDesign. For mine I set it to 42×62 inches at 300dpi and my color profile was RGB 1998. Make sure to work with solid timeless fonts. Don’t use any of that cheesy homemade stuff. Watch your kerning between the letters. You don’t want it to be too close or too far apart. Also, keep a good line height – You want this to read well close up as well as from a bit of a distance. For our background text we extend all our copy across the entire image in Photoshop so it looks like there is no beginning or ending. We also highlight the words to make sure the ends of the sentences run off the canvas entirely. Oh and both these fonts seem to look great in All Caps but keep in mind every typeface is different. Once we had the background copy in place where we wanted it – We created a layer mask on the font layer and brushed out all the areas on our subject so it appeared like the words were just on the water and sky. Next we dropped the opacity of the font to about 15-20%. I believe the color of the font originally was pure white or a shade from the sky. With each image it’s going to vary depending on what you have to work with. After that, we hid the layer so we could concentrate on the main blurb. Since the phrase was relatively short we played with the type in Illustrator so we could bring it into Photoshop as a Vector (smart object). Once it was brought in we made it to the right size and outlined the shape with marching ants so we could copy/paste the water texture from below. Avoid using drop shadows and solid colored fonts if you can. You want your texts to blend in nicely with the photo. Flatten layers as much as possible as this process can really start to eat up your RAM. Oh and remember to turn your background text layer back on and save it several times along the way. If you want to avoid the whole eating up memory I would recommend doing your layout within InDesign. We did another canvas design recently without all the masking and it turned out wonderful!

Printing and Stretching – You would be surprised how many places locally can do this type of big printing for you. Consult with them first to see if they have the experience and proper equipment for printing on a Canvas. If it’s not done right it could cause the ink to peel off when the canvas gets wrapped tightly. Or if your color profiles on the computer or printer don’t match it could affect the image when it’s printed. When it comes to this portion of the job we use a professional photo lab that does it all for us. Sometimes its just better to let the pro’s do what they do best. But for those who are determined please continue… Once you have the photo printed out on the appropriate substrate be very careful not to wrinkle the material when transporting. Try to have the printer supply you with a shipping tube. Your local art store should have all the essential supplies for building your frame and wrapping the canvas. You can even take it as far as just using and old wooden frame as long as it fits the appropriate size of your print. Lay the print upside down on a nice smooth surface such as a blanket so you don’t scratch it. You’ll want the surface to be rather firm as well and preferably a large counter at waste level so you can walk around and not kill your back bending over. Next, lay your frame over the print and check all the edges to make sure its aligned appropriately. Begin stapling in the middle and work your way around going back and forth while stretching the canvas each time. They make special pliers for this but some of them can really kill your wrists. So if you are considering doing a lot of these check out the Stretch Relief pliers by Breathing Color below. They also make a ton of other helpful tools to do this easier. I would also consider doing some YouTube research to understand what kind of fold you want to have at the corners. Lots of secret sauce out there for it. Once your all done with you canvas it should have a nice drum sound to it when you tap the front.

If this process is too overbearing for you I would recommend just bringing it to your local art and frame store. They should be able to wrap it at a flat rate for you. Or if the whole process is just too much to handle check out WHCC they’ll do the whole thing from start to finish and their customer service rocks. Hope this brief tutorial has helped. If you have any questions please feel free to ask below in the comment section.

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