Part 1 - Image Resolution - Quality images make quality canvas prints.
The first thing you should consider is that size matters. With stretched canvas this is not necessarily a personal preference, like in other walks of life, in the canvas stretching world it makes a massive difference to the overall quality and longevity of your finished canvas. You're going to find that that seemingly lovely picture of your Aunty Flossy's cat uploaded to Facebook doesn't look quite as lovely downloaded and stretched on a 12" x 16" Canvas
Why? I'm not going to go into too much detail, however a digitally printed image is made out of a framework(grid) of pixels. These pixels are very small dots that can be any colour. A cameras resolution is determined by how many pixels your picture will have. For example a 3 megapixel camera will have 2048x1536 (height and width) pixels. In the case of Facebook the original image can be compressed so much so that, although it looks ok on the screen of your computer, the amount of pixels you get when you copy the image and print it out on a large canvas looks a mess of blocky and blurred colours (pixelation). For printed canvas the more pixels you have the better quality/clarity and the bigger the picture you can go up to. For example a 10mp camera has 3872 x 2592 pixels. With this camera you could generally go up to larger sizes like a 40" x 48" without much loss on your image.
BIG is better
File size can also be a good indication of the quality of an image. Even for a smaller canvas of say 8" x 10" you'll need a file size of at least 600kb. To find out the size of your image, right click on it and select "properties". The general tab on this will give you your file size (which should be over 600kb to print something on canvas) and the summary tab will give you information on the pixels width and height. As a very general rule of thumb an 8 megapixel camera (an iPhone 5s has an 8mp camera) should see you OK for most sized canvas on the high street. Go lower than this and you may find that some of the larger sizes wont print as good as you thought.
Now there are some savvy retailers out there that will have some specific software that can "blow up" your image to a larger size. There's a great bit of software from OnOne Products that can do this, however there is still a degree to what size that the image can be enlarged to before you start to lose your image clarity.
What every good retailer should know.
A retailer that understands image resolution should be able to give you some indication of what size image you should go up to or at least red flag something that's just not going to be good enough. If the retailer does not understand this be wary of buying from them. To save yourself time and disappointment, make sure you've got big enough image for the canvas you want.
Part 2 of this guide - Canvas Selection
The next part of the guide I discuss what you should look out for when selecting the type of canvas to have your images stretched on. Part 2 - Canvas Selection =>
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Tim Jones is one of the three owners of Wunderbars Limited. He's a little bit (very) obsessed with canvas stretching.