Printing Low Resolution Images

Every once in a while photographic printers have to print low resolution images - the trouble is, low resolution images don't enlarge very well and the more you enlarge them the worse they look. So what can you do to help enlarge low resolution images without them breaking up? Well, there are a lot of things you can try.
Low Resolution Image
Firstly, ask the customer for a higher resolution image. You'll be surprised at the number of people that have lifted a Facebook image and sent that for printing, not realising that the original image has been downsized for Facebook. In a lot of cases they will be able to supply the higher resolution image taken by the camera which will print far better. Hint: Crop into the image, increase the resolution and send this to them so that they can see what will happen on their device. This will usually “inspire” them to retrieve the original!  If you choose nearest neighbour when enlarging this will give a poorer result which helps to encourage them to find the higher resolution image. Yes, this takes extra time but it's worth it and they will appreciate that you have taken the time to get the best printing result possible.
Cropped Enlarged Nearest Neighbour
Of course, if they've just lifted it from someone else's website then there are legal implications to consider with copyright breach. You can check for this by using Google's image search Simply upload their image and hit search to see what comes back. If it's from another website then the simple answer is it can't be printed without the owner of that website's permission. For more information on preventing copyright breaches click the link below:

Okay, if you have tried to obtain a larger resolution image and there isn't one available, what else can you do? If you have tried every enlarging algorithm (such as bicubic smoother) and it still isn't good enough quality then one option is to try and disguise it. Try opening the image and applying a canvas texture to the image before printing it. This has the effect of artificially adding texture detail to the image which will look like the actual texture of the canvas that it will be printed onto. When the canvas texture filter is applied to the image it will break up harsh JPEG artefacts, blurriness will have (artificial) definition added to it, blockiness becomes less obvious, and although it is far from perfect it will print much better on canvas. There is a certain amount of judgment call with this - don't enlarge too much and if the texture is too harsh then it can look very artificial. You want it to look less like a low resolution image blown up beyond what it should have been printed to without the canvas texture becoming too distracting. So there is a certain amount of trial and error before finding the best compromise. Compromise being the word as it's never perfect.
Canvas Texture Effect

Perception of photos is another consideration that you should be aware of. Most people when presented with a choice between gloss and matt photographs tend to see the shinier gloss photo as being sharper than than its matt equivalent. In reality there is no difference other than the shinier gloss photograph appears brighter and more vivid which in turn they interpret as being sharper. Do bear in mind that gloss can be difficult to see when room lighting is shining on it and you need to take that into account when displaying gloss photographs. (No I'm not going to get involved in the difference between matt, satin, silk, pearl etc. Effectively it all boils down to how shiny a print is, and don't even think of mentioning super gloss! And yes, Cibachrome's were great).
Gloss Print Light Reflection

Of course unsharp mask can help with images that are just a little soft and could do with that little extra punchiness. It works best with contrasting colours providing you don't overdo it. Usually a low threshold and a pixel radius of around one to three is sufficient, however, if you are having to ramp it up to a pixel radius of ten then you are never going to get a good result and the final print is going to look bad. In which case you are going to have to get creative…
Before Unsharp Mask

After Unsharp Mask

Depending on your customer and how much flexibility you have with the design you may have more control over the printing process. Photographic filters are a great way to deliberately alter the image to the point that anyone looking at the finished print will know that it has been intentionally altered. In which case they will assume that this was your intention all along rather than a quick bodge trying to prevent a low resolution image from looking bad when being enlarged.

Gaussian blur does what it pretty much says. Begone low resolution blockiness, JPEG artefacts and other noise in the original image. Also say goodbye to any definition whatsoever! However as a background effect to an image much like the depth of field when taking a photograph it can be deliberately introduced in order to make the foreground the centre of attention. So you could use this technique with some text before printing it and it will look really good as people will assume that this was your intent all along. The background image will look blurry but the text appears sharp.
Blurred Background Text Foreground

It is also sometimes possible to apply Gaussian blur to remove the majority of undesirable low resolution artefacts, then apply Unsharp mask to enhance edge detail. It's best to do this after interpolating it using bicubic smoother. Again it's a bit trial and error and you should always compare your finished result with the original to see whether it is better or not.
Guassian Blur Before Unsharp Mask

After Unsharp Mask

Anyone who is used to using high ISO settings will be aware of graininess with a photograph and how this can be used to achieve an artistic effect, particularly with black and white photos. Well this same effect can be added to a picture by applying monochromatic noise to it and then blurring it slightly with Gaussian blur. It can help to take away the obvious JPEG compression artefacts from a low resolution image much like adding a canvas texture does too. As to how much noise to add vs how much to blur, it really depends on the original photo and you will have to do some testing for best results.
Noise Added Gaussian Blur

Poster Edges is another useful filter, which again will obliterate low res JPEG issues and give an aesthetically pleasing appeal. It's not to everyone's taste and will work better on some images than others but it will disguise low resolution images really well. It's more of an artistic interpretation of the original and as long as your customer is happy with that then you are onto a winner. Likewise increasing an images contrast or tracing the edges and applying duotones or gradients over the image are great ways to make subtle background graphics that can be combined with other designs to give very appealing results.
Poster Edges

Adding vector graphics over the top of photographs is also effective as your eye is focused on the foreground rather than the background and thus the poor resolution image becomes less noticeable. Likewise creating an image mask so that the image only shows through text works well, although, now we really are straying into graphic design rather than photographic printing. It can still be useful to do particularly if the print is a gift for someone with a personalised message.
Vector Graphics

Text Image Mask

Another option is to make the image even lower resolution. Yes, I know this sounds crazy, but if it is printed large enough and you stand far enough back then you will be able to see what it looks like, and as you approach the print closer it will just resemble an abstract jumble of blocks which will take on an artistic appeal. If you are trying this method then make sure there is no anti-aliasing and use nearest neighbour to downsize the image so that the individual blocks are sharp at the edges and are very distinct.
Really Low Resolution Image

So, there are many ways to work around the problem and if you would like to see any of your photographic masterpieces enlarged on canvas please get in touch - we're more than happy to help. Just click the link below for more information:

The 50 Year Old Wedding Video

Imagine waiting fifty years to see your wedding video, yes FIFTY YEARS!

Well, that’s just what happened to an elderly lady who called to ask if it was possible to transfer a 16mm film to DVD (that nearly got flung out) as she was downsizing.

After some tidying up and half a century later, remarkably the cine film is in great condition and transferred to DVD easily. In all that time she had never seen it and didn't even know that it existed. It just goes to show you can never be too careful when tidying up. Fortunately her sharp eyed grandson recognized what it was and asked her to get it transferred. Needless to say she was delighted to finally see her wedding film after so many years, especially since her husband had now passed on.

Most 16mm cine film stored in cool, dry and dark conditions lasts an amazing amount of time, and not just 16mm film - 8mm Kodachrome is also extremely durable. For more information on storing cine film click the link below:

Future Generations

Today’s world is moving at such an incredible speed with advancements of technology that it's hard to keep pace with it all. It was, after all, only ten years ago that the first smart phones started to appear on the market. Now everyone has a smart phone, but if you compare the early smart phones to the latest models they are a world apart. With this in mind it's easy to forget the world before smart phones, digital cameras and even personal computers. Back then cine film ruled the day.

Our new found digital world offers convenience and ease of access to photos and videos at a swipe of a screen with ever increasing speed. In many respects we have now entered the digital age just like a young child finally taking their first steps. With so many new things to explore it's easy to forget about the past and only look forward to the future - welcome to digital!

Except, there's a problem - an analogue fly in our digital ointment: How do you watch all that pre-digital cine film that was made before digital cameras and phones took over? Hmmm, a problem indeed. I mean I remember Granddad, but digital wasn't around then, so I guess I'll just let Granddad fade away in an analogue heap of “old stuff”. After all digital is shiny and new and, hey, look, a new digital feature to distract me from that thought. The question is though, would you like to be forgotten when you go? I guess not.

If you don't transfer your cine films then you will lose the ability to watch them in time, and time is moving very quickly in our new digital world.

You could be forgiven for not being aware that you can transfer your cine to DVD but ultimately if you want future generations to see their ancestors and understand their family history then the only way is to transfer your cine films to DVD. Do you really want Granddad to fade away from apathy and modern life distractions?

It's not just pictures - cine film captures mannerisms and adds a real dimension to people who have long since passed on. Cine film makes you feel happy as you re-live those long lost moments in history (even if it just to laugh at the old hair styles, fashions and cars we used to drive). The point is, it invokes emotions that are personal to you which is something that you cannot put a price on….

For more information on transferring 8mm, Super 8mm and 16mm cine film to DVD click the link below:

Converting NTSC Video to PAL

Before High Definition (HD) video there was Standard Definition (SD) video and before that there was cine film. Standard definition video came in three main types - PAL, NTSC and SECAM depending on where you were geographically located when the video was taken. They have different refresh rates, different numbers of lines in each frame and different ways of storing the colours.

Swimming with Dolphins

The video format doesn't matter to most people who live in a country that the video was taken in as all their video equipment was designed to run their particular format, but it does cause problems for people who have been on holiday to a country that uses a different video format from the country that they live in. Just how do you playback a video encoded in NTSC in a PAL video player? So, if you have been swimming with dolphins on holiday in Orlando and you had the experience video taped, then the chances are it's in NTSC format and not PAL UK format.

Quasi Playback

Some video players may let you play back a quasi form of this and the results are mixed depending on your television, but one thing is certain - transferring this to DVD often fails without the use of dedicated video transfer equipment. The chances are the colours will be washed out and the lower third of the screen will be just noise. This is because NTSC has fewer lines than PAL. You might also experience jerky movement due to the different refresh rates.

NTSC playback on PAL with no conversion

Professional Transfer

To transfer NTSC correctly to PAL it must first be played as true NTSC (not some quasi format), then converted to PAL and finally transferred to DVD.

We have specialist equipment dedicated for this purpose, so regardless of whether your video is NTSC, SECAM or even PAL we can supply you with DVD's that will playback just like the original.
NTSC converted to PAL before playback
Now you can rescue your holiday memories, whether it was a wedding in Barbados, sky diving in Hawaii, holidaying in Vancouver or even swimming with dolphins in Orlando. To find out more click the link below:

TV Wall Bracket Killed the DVD Video Player

The digital age is well and truly upon us now - every day something new comes along that alters the way in which we live our lives. Some people love it and others hate it. Much like the industrial revolution changed the way we work, the digital revolution is doing the same today. Personally I view it as exciting times as new technology created today will eventually become the standard which we will live our lives by. However, whether we look back at these times with fondness or regret, only time will tell. Rose tinted spectacles on standby!

I’ve been doing video, camcorder and cine transfers for around fifteen years now which is something I never imagined I would still be doing today. I mean surely at some point you have to run out of a finite amount of media to transfer - right? And yet, every day more work comes in and more work goes out. Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining! I’m just stunned that the demand is still there and I have often wondered just when will it drop off? Perhaps, maybe not in my life time - who knows, and does it really matter? Probably not.

What I find interesting is the way in which people react to all these changes. There are some that don’t want to move with the times and resist every effort to modernise. I don’t know if this is out of fear of the unknown or whether they just like “old stuff” as my ten year old would say! Then there are some that are in a race with the bank to have the newest, latest and greatest, and throw out anything that is older than a couple of years. Lastly there is a sort of in between crowd that realise if they wait a bit the prices will come down and they can still have the newest gadget but at half the price of what the neighbours paid - “who’s got the last laugh now” they think just as the neighbours are about to upgrade again! Makes me laugh.

Then there’s “retro status”. I’m not quite sure what their definition of retro is. It seems to be either diehards that never upgraded any of their technology and after a long period of looking old fashioned, nostalgia kicks in with the general populace and suddenly they find themselves cool again. Vinyl records are kind of like that and seem to be making a come back for some reason - I don’t know, cool album art maybe? Or, everyone who threw everything out for all the new tech has suddenly realised that so has the rest of the neighbourhood and they are no longer special, and wouldn’t it be cool to have some “old stuff” lying around. And so they run out and buy some CD’s, DVD’s, records and videos from the tat shop that they dumped there five years earlier to use as pseudo art pieces. Kind of like having books on the Starship Enterprise - totally pointless in a digital age, but hey, you don’t have them do you?

Then there’s the way in which everyone upgrades - modern televisions are a perfect example. In ye olde days it was a gold fish bowl box / furniture. I mean where else were you supposed to put the photos of the grand children? Then they got flatter tubes, wide screens, Dolby this, 3D that, larger screens, satellite and digital broadcasts…. Fair milked you over the years, didn’t they? In each case though, it was the TV that was replaced and everything else more or less stayed the same. Video players became DVD players which then became Blu-ray players etc. etc.

Then they became thin - really thin and everything changed. Now you could hang it on the wall! Yeah, well cool. Except this had an unexpected twist. Suddenly having this behemoth slab of liquid crystal arrays screwed to your wall looked really odd with a DVD player perched below it. I mean there’s the Ikea TV stand with no TV on it with all your DVD’s scattered next to the DVD player perched in the middle looking rather out of place. (Okay I know some TV’s have DVD players built in, but just like the old hifi / separates analogy, if the DVD player breaks then you have to throw away an otherwise perfectly working TV).

So what to do with all this “clutter”? The simple answer is don’t bother - get rid of the DVD player and all that “old stuff”. Gumtree on standby for the TV stand. The only problem with this is now you can’t play DVD’s! Oh well not to bother as I can always stream the video using Netflix / iPlayer. Thus thinner televisions and wall brackets killed the DVD player. Well at least until they become “retro” and pseudo art pieces in the future. Whether they will still work is another matter…. What’s a scart lead?

Conversely, the “wait until the price drops brigade” haven’t wall mounted their TV’s and still have the DVD / Bluray player perched below on the Ikea stand. Why is this you ask, well either they’re waiting for the price to drop low enough to replace their current television or perhaps maybe they might have looked just that little bit further ahead and realised that televisions are going to become thinner still. Oooohhh!

There are now experimental paper thin OLED TV’s being developed - as thin as paper. Wow, now that’s impressive! I don’t know if it will be as simple as unrolling your TV from a tube and sticking it to the wall with Velcro but let’s just say you won’t need industrial scaffolding to hold it up. Wall bracket removal guides and Polyfilla Youtube videos are going to become popular…. Oh look, the “must have it now’s” have just taken out another credit card to one up the neighbours! Oh dear (no pun intended).

As for DVD’s, well, who can tell? It’s probably best to copy your precious memories onto USB or the cloud and hope they don’t become obsolete. Luckily we can also supply your “old stuff” on USB. 

Can't wait for holographic TV!

Buy Cheap Canvas Prints

“Buy Cheap Canvas Prints - Cheap Wall Art - Discounted Canvas Prints - Best Prices Online”

Oh no, please tell me you didn’t did you? Seriously? You searched for “buy cheap canvas prints” - what are you thinking??? Nobody minds “inexpensive canvas prints” as this means you are matching similar quality at a better price but “cheap” says it all - you’re not even expecting it to be good quality! Just cheap.

This is a gift for someone, right? Oh dear (forgive the pun) - I’m assuming you either don’t like them or you certainly don’t care about the quality. Oh, oh, insult = browser back button pressed in 3….2….1 - Wait!!! At least read some of this and then make your mind up.

Well you’re still reading this, so allow me to continue - not all canvas prints are the same quality. Saaaay Whaaaat? Yes, it’s true that there are cheaper alternatives but it’s a bit like comparing branded baked beans with the supermarkets own brand. Technically one is cheaper but you just know you’re taste buds are in for a disappointment…. Q: “Why do you keep buying them if you don’t like them?”. A: “Cause they’re cheap”. It doesn’t make them better though, does it? Think about it - if they were actually as good as the branded beans then nobody would buy the branded beans that cost more. “Dinner’s ready - it’s that runny, lumpy, flavourless no brand from the cheapo-market”…. “What do you mean you’re goin’ down the chippy?”.

Hand Made is Best

I can give you a lot of reasons why hand made is better, and I’m sure you can too, but the fact is we all know that “hand made” is a phrase that all marketing people will try to foist on you when they want you to cough up more money for something - right? Not always it isn’t - it’s also a sign of quality as a real person has been involved in making your canvas and your friends and family will appreciate this too. People, by far, appreciate hand made more because you can customise your order uniquely to the person that you are buying it for.  “Could you do it like this?” or “Is it possible to?” or “Can I have?” are what people want rather than “Computer says no!”

To illustrate, imagine you call a company to speak to someone - would you prefer to speak to somebody or would you prefer the touchtone maze “press 1 to be disconnected, press 2 for a long hold, press 3 for more options”? I know what my choice would be - the real person. “What’s that got to do with canvas prints?” I can hear you all saying. Well, imagine you sent a photo that wasn’t quite the right shape to print on the size you are looking for - would you prefer someone to contact you who had looked at it and suggest a better size for the canvas or would you prefer an automated printer to just go ahead and print it and perhaps crop someone’s head off? What if the colours were not quite right - would you prefer them to be colour balanced correctly or not? Perhaps your photo even requires some retouching. Maybe to remove that horrible spot that would just have to happen right before the wedding…. Or perhaps that wine stain on the dress…. Or perhaps that annoying background object (now, now that’s no way to talk about your mother-in-law!) Wouldn’t it be better for a person to evaluate your canvas prior to printing it rather than having the uploaded photo regurgitated on the canvas? Of course you could always take a chance and if doesn’t match your expectation then you could try giving them a call:  “press 1 to be disconnected, press 2 for a long hold, press 3 for more options”…. “Guten Tag, wie kann ich Ihnen helfen?”…. “Errrmm”.

“Okay I can see your point of view but they’re just sooo cheap, what would it matter if it wasn’t printed as good as it could be - I could always blame it on my photography or the camera?” Well, have you considered the materials that are used in production?

Quality Matters

As with everything there are different grades of canvas, stretcher bars, inks and varnish that go into making a canvas.

For starters is the canvas going to discolour over the years? You know when you paint your house and a few years down the line it starts to go an off shade white, well do you think your canvas might do the same? Would you prefer it to stay white? Well proper artists canvas won’t discolour with time. What about edge cracking - do you think a person or a machine can gauge more accurately the amount of tension to apply so that the canvas is taught but not cracking around the edges? Then there is the type of canvas - is it synthetic or cotton canvas? Both are good, but what do you prefer? Are your canvas prints glued to the frame or have they been stapled in? Do you think the glue might come unstuck in the years to come?

What about the stretcher bars - they are using stretcher bars aren’t they, or is it something from the local DIY store? “What’s the difference?” I hear you ask. Well proper stretcher bars come with wedges so that you can re-tension them with time. All canvas prints will change tension with time due to changes in temperature and without wedges how can you possibly adjust this and stop them from sagging? What about warping - will they warp or twist over time because they have used kiln dried wood? How about the source where the wood has been harvested - has it been well managed allowing for regeneration or do you think it was just chopped down with little thought for the environmental impact? Do they come with FSC certification which guarantees the forest has been managed in an ethical manner or are you going to just take their word for them replanting the trees? You can find more information on FSC stretcher bars here.

Will the inks stand the test of time or fade with age? Are they using genuine manufacturers ink or a cheaper alternative ink? Has it been tested so that it won’t fade? Will they still be around to complain to when it does start fading? Then there is the printing process - is it properly calibrated using a RIP (Raster Image Processor). A RIP allows proper profiling of the media that enables you to get the best possible colour reproduction of your canvas and without one there is no guarantee that your prints will be colour accurate or even using the full colour gamut available for printing.

Varnish is essential for the canvas - it seals it protecting the canvas from U.V. damage and any abrasions (like when you are re-decorating and accidentally rub it against something). It also allows you to clean them with a damp cloth when they become dusty. (Don’t try that on a canvas without any varnish on it - you’ll mark it). The varnish also brings your canvases to life - it enriches the colours making the blacks black and the colours lively and vivid. Your canvas printer does use varnish to seal them, don’t they?

At the end of the day it’s up to you, but at least be aware of what you are truly buying and why it’s cheaper - it’s because not all canvas prints are made to the same quality.

“Your beans are ready!”

Pictures Made From Words

Stuck for Buying Unique Gifts?

Have you ever been stuck for a gift for “someone who has it all”? You know, the usual “What would you like?” and the stock reply “I’m not fussy” leaving you with the conundrum about what to get them. Obviously “nothing” isn’t going cut it and likewise there is a limit on how many times you can buy sweets / chocolate / flowers / jewellery / perfume etc. So you struggle on trying to find something suitable (that they don’t have already) and start to go down the gift voucher road - “It’s a gift and they can use it how they like”, but…. It’s not very personal and it looks like you put little or no effort into their gift. Wouldn’t it be better if you could buy them a gift which is not only unique to them, is fun to do, and also guaranteed that they don’t have already? Well now you can!

Pictures Made From Words

We can take your photos and combine them with a personal message to form a picture made out of the words from your message that is in the shape of the photo.

"You Are My Sweetheart" (Click to enlarge)
That’s got you thinking now, hasn’t it? You know that your gift is going to be the best!

Unique Gifts

As unique gifts go these are easy to think of - you know that person really well and what their likes are, what their hobbies are and even their personality traits. So choose something they cherish, write a loving message, combine them together and et voilĂ  - the perfect present! They’re ideal for Birthdays, Weddings, Anniversaries, Christmas, Christenings, Valentines - any occasion that’s special for people, and they’re equally just as good in picture frames as they are on stretched canvas prints.

"Happy Birthday" (Click to enlarge)

Fun Designs

Did we mention they’re fun to do? I’ve personally managed to spend lots of time “researching” photos that look really good and turning them into pictures made out of words: “I’ll just try this one”, “and then this one”, “oh, and then that one would look really good”…. And then your afternoon just disappears. Back to work! In fact I know you already have quite a few photos in mind and are wondering what they would look like - it’s addictive.
"I Need A Hug" (Click to enlarge)

Bold Shapes

Choose a photo that’s personal to them and make sure it’s quite a bold shape - try to select something that is easily recognisable and fills a lot of the picture. Fine detail photos are not ideal - close ups work better. It’s also best to remove the background to make the shape stand out with the finished picture. We can even help remove the background in the photo if you need us to. As for the message, well that’s up to you (we won’t tell!)
"You Rock My World" (Click to enlarge)

Printing Your Pictures

Once you have a photo that you think would work well - send it to us with your personal message to or use our upload section. We will then prepare a proof of your masterpiece and once you’re happy we’ll print it and despatch it for you - easy! So even if you can’t make it to the celebration you can let your friends and family know that you really were thinking of them by sending them a uniquely personal gift.

Happy Printing!

The Importance of Choosing the Right Canvas Stretcher Bars

Stretcher bars are one of the key components of all canvas prints - they form a frame that retains the shape of the canvas by stretching and smoothing it to its maximum width and height possible, enabling you to display your photography at its very best.

It is, however, important to recognise that not all stretcher bars on the market are of the same quality, and quality really does matter when you are looking for your canvases to last a lifetime.

Why use FSC Stretcher Bars?

At Canvas Printmaker, we make the choice to only use FSC certified stretcher bars. Although there are cheaper products on the market, the full costs of not using FSC certified wood are more than just economic. The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo ensures that your stretcher bars are not harvested from timber sources that are ecologically damaging to the environment. The FSC take a long term view to forestry management by replanting the trees that have been used. They reinvest rather than profiteering from local communities and the global environment.

With this in mind it’s important to understand that some cheaper stretcher bars are not from sustainable forests which are damaging the environment.


All wooden stretcher bars and canvases “breath” as they expand and contract over time depending on heat and cold. By adjusting wooden wedges in the corners of the stretcher bar frame you can re-tension the canvas allowing it to become taught (it should feel and sound like a drum). Over time these may need tightening by lightly tapping the wedges in with a hammer.

However this is only possible if you actually use wedges! Many canvas printers don’t with the result being baggy canvases years down the line without any means of adjusting them.

Warping, Bowing and Twisting

Freshly cut wood (or green wood) is full of moisture which dries out over time and it’s the drying process that warps the wood. As a result wooden stretcher bars made from green wood will bow and twist over time preventing your canvas print from hanging flush on the wall. It is therefore important to use seasoned wood to reduce the moisture content before it is made into stretcher bars.

As seasoned wood takes time and costs more to produce many canvas printers opt for cheaper alternatives including kiln dried wood. Force drying wood quickly is never a good idea as it usually causes more warping in the process as the wood can be perfectly dry on the outside but still be quite moist in the middle. This in turn actually accentuates warping and should be avoided.

Beware of Stretcher Bar Alternatives

We have seen many stretcher bar alternatives on the market - most notably MDF. While there is nothing primarily wrong with MDF as a material, using it as “stretcher bars” is not a good idea. MDF has a very low tensile strength which means it will bend out of shape very easily - particularly if you tightly stretch canvas over it. Worse still, should it ever become wet then it will lose all structural integrity and swell in the process.