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How to Have a Canvas Printing Business Without the Equipment

Born and bred in the UK, I'm a professional writer, coder, digital media maestro, and all round creator of unique and fun stuff.

There's a great business opportunity out there to sell beautiful prints like these to your customers without even needing a printer!

There's a great business opportunity out there to sell beautiful prints like these to your customers without even needing a printer!

How to Sell Canvas Prints

A few years ago, I bought a number of canvas prints from eBay to hang in the hallway of my newly refurbished home. At £30 each, I thought I was getting a bit of a bargain compared to some of the other prices being touted online. When I found myself in the position of buying another two a few months later, curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to find out how difficult it would be to do them myself. I was amazed at the sheer volume of canvas sales taking place on a daily basis on eBay alone, and I was hoping there was a slice of this lucrative pie to be had.

More research yielded positive results for me. I learned that it was possible for you to easily print your own canvas and start your own canvas printing business without even needing to purchase the printer (although I initially did purchase a printer). Read on to learn more.

Setting Up a Canvas Printing Online Shop

First things first, don't get discouraged! You'll inevitably run into some snags along the way. Here's how my shop set-up process started out.

Buying the Printer

After around six weeks of researching online, I eventually took the plunge and bought a refurbished canvas printer (a nice 42" HP plotter, to be precise) for just under £1000. From my research, I was able to determine that an average A1 size colour canvas, mounted and ready to hang, would cost me around £5 in material costs, leaving me around £20 profit per sale after eBay, PayPal, and shipping costs.

What a result, count me in. What's next? Setting up shop.

Starting My eBay Shop

I set up my new venture in my spare room and started up an eBay shop. I offered a variety of different canvas sizes and images, some of my own, some from the public domain, and many images that customers sent to me of their kids, wedding days, favourite places, etc.

My First Complaint

All was going well until I got my first complaint! They (my customer) were not happy with the quality of the canvas print and wanted their money back, which put me out of pocket on the wholesale. I soon realised that I didn't have the proper Photoshop knowledge or skills needed to manipulate images to ensure they would give the best possible printed result. To be honest, I had no Photoshop or graphic manipulation skills at all and was just printing the images in the resolution I had them in.

Problems With the Printer

Next, my printer developed a problem which I wasn't able to fix without calling out an engineer. He arrived next day which was great; however, the two parts needed to fix my printer wouldn't be available for another four days! I was backed into a corner and had to agree to this. I was almost £350 lighter with nothing to show for it.

Outsourcing Canvas Prints

With sales building up and no printer to meet demand, I was running out of options. I didn't want to refund all that lovely money sitting in my PayPal account.

So, I started to look at my competitors again and took the plunge of contacting a few to see if they would offer me a discount if I ordered a block of prints at the same time. I was sitting on over 20 sales I needed to process, so hoped I could negotiate a decent discount that would mean I could keep my customers happy whilst at the same time ensuring I wasn't going to be out of pocket. I got a number of positive responses, and I eventually went with someone who agreed to do the canvas prints for £17 each, inclusive of packaging and UK mainland delivery, if I ordered at least 10 (separate) prints.

Not only was I able to fulfil my customers' orders, but I was also still able to make a profit by outsourcing the printing. Now this was getting interesting.

Developing the Business

I soon decided to sell off all my printing equipment and outsource the work 100% percent. This has to be the best decision I've ever made. I am able to make between £12-£15 profit per sale using the same principle. I have been doing this for around two years now and am averaging about 80 sales per week!

I don't just sell on eBay, I also do local flyer drops in and around the city where I live. 10,000 fliers cost me about £150 to print, then I can source a couple of people from Gumtree to deliver these for me in the geographic areas I choose. I usually get around 6-8% of those potential customers buying from me after these flier drops (based on some quick analysis based on where the orders are being shipped to against the geographic location that the fliers were distributed in).

Benefits of Outsourcing Canvas Prints

  • The person I outsource to is responsible for the full transaction, therefore, if my customer isn't happy with the quality, I just go back to my outsourcer, and they resolve the issue.
  • I don't have to do any printing, shipping or packing, which is great as it can be a real nuisance to do.
  • I have a number of different outsourcers I use, which helps when one is either on holiday or unable to cope with an increased workload.
  • Any orders that come into my inbox get forwarded straight onto my outsourcer, with the image attached, and that's pretty much the end of the work for me. £12-£15 profit per email sent. Good times!
  • My outsourcers are happy to provide the goods to my customers as a 'white label' item, i.e. they don't include any of their own contact details with the shipped item, so my customers are unaware that the printing has been outsourced.
  • As well as customers sending me their own images, I use a variety of online resources that supply images and photos free of charge for any use. There are literally hundreds of websites that provide images that are in the public domain and completely royalty-free. You can also go to some of the more commercial suppliers of images where you can pay per photo, although some of them require you to buy a different license if you want to use their images in a print run.

This is a great opportunity for anyone that wants to make an extra income without too much hassle.

Top Tips for Being Successful at Your Canvas Printing Business

  • Contact as many potential outsourcers as possible to give you the best opportunity and value possible.
  • Negotiate a sliding discount scale with them based on sales per month.
  • Ensure that you agree on a sound returns policy with your outsourcer, as well as setting out some terms and conditions for dealing with unhappy customers.
  • Have at least two or three different outsourcers at your disposal.
  • Agree that they will provide the items "white label" to your customers or even supply your fliers to promote your business further (include a discount code for repeat customers).
  • Stockpile as many decent images and photos as you can.
  • Look at what your competitors are selling on eBay to get an idea of pricing, the type of images to sell, etc.
  • Try to come up with some unique items, too, so you can try to develop a niche market for yourself.
  • Local flier drops can help boost business and awareness.
  • Review your pricing on a regular basis to remain competitive.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Taff on July 03, 2019:

I want to start with 3-4 picture on February 12, 2018:

Hi Nickel

My name is Tabby.

I would like to be printing some of my art.

Can you recommended some of the best printers who are also not expensive.

Noah Rosario from Merritt Island, FL on August 22, 2017:

Thank you dearly this information will truly be useful to me in my nearby future.

Ramat Lewis on September 12, 2016:

Thank you for this wonderful information.

Koki on July 24, 2016:

Very fruitfull information

I was having a delema in searching online fir a canavs prouduction

I need to ask if there are printers that gives a textured canavas

Glyn marsh on May 24, 2016:

Do you have names of company you use looking to start printing my photo be big help email g.marsh55@ many thanks

Gibbsy on May 05, 2016:

I was actually looking at setting up in a shopping centre or market on weekends

Painty on October 28, 2015:

Interesting article - but it would be nice to know who you're outsourcing to! Also an idea of prices. I run a pop up art studio business and have an idea for a slight pivot in my business model for certain events... Am trying to build a list of potential suppliers

tina on July 19, 2015:

I am looking for a website template that allows my customers to upload pictures, for me to provide prints. Does anyone know the best provider? I have been searching online for some time and can't seem to find any.

Kakanyo Sekgetle on May 18, 2015:

i need a name of canvas printing machine that have all different sizes from small to the larger sizes

vlad on May 03, 2015:

your article is nearly convincing... it has data that makes it more funny then anything else.. like couple of orders off local flyers, that you had more success on ebay then the printers who know the market way muche better then any so called part time antreprenors so.. on.. don't confuze people..

Marcella on February 16, 2015:

Im slightly confused about the outsourcing. Do the printer place prints onto canvas and then send them to your customers? Or are your clients just sent prints? Help!!! would really like to get down to setting up ASAP. Thanks in advance

Roy Davis from somewhere under a bridge on February 04, 2015:

wow this is fantastic. I was wanting to get into this business but more as a graphic artist selling original work rather than taking requests from customers. would you still say outsourcing is the way to go and if so who would you say are the best suppliers to get a good price/decent quality print?

Sandile RSA - DBN on January 17, 2015:

This is very useful, dankie mfana!!

Javier on February 19, 2014:


Gillian on January 21, 2014:

Hello there, what company do you outsource with? I am trying to find someone online but it's hard to do. Thanks!

James on November 25, 2013:

Hi LinusRubik,

This is great to hear as I'm trying to determine viability of doing just this!

I'm wondering what you think the best way to find a printer is?

mableray on April 26, 2013:

Good Tips. For the frugal entrepreneur, a canvas printing business is a good choice because of the low start-up costs. It is also one of the easiest businesses to start. This business can be quite lucrative and if you plan well, it can provide year-round profit.

However there are some good sites as well where you can directly upload your pics and get them print on large canvas. Recently I have seen among most of the site and was delighted at the quality of print they delivered to their customers.

Andy on March 23, 2013:


Thanks for this information it has been really really helpful in a few different ways. I keep looking online for royalty free images but to no avail. I feel a bit lost at what sites i can use for free. When i google royalty free images it comes up with payments all the time. Maybe im not looking in the right place. Any information you may have to help me get this up and running would be more than helpful and appreciated, i do feel that when i ask people for information i have a lot of doors shut in my face, im finding it hard for peope to help steer me in the right direction. thanks for taking the time to read this and hope to hear from you.