When deciding between acrylic printing and glass printing, assessing the qualities of each can feel a bit confusing. Each medium has benefits and drawbacks depending on your intended usage of the print. Luckily, we’re here to help! We’ll go over the characteristics of both glass and acrylic prints so that you can make the best decision.
Both acrylic and glass photo printing involves transferring your photo onto a more durable material. However, both printing processes differ in terms of materials and technique.
Acrylic Printing Process
First, it’s important to note that there are two types of acrylic printing. In the first, the direct printing or acrylic sheet method, as the name suggests, images print directly onto acrylic sheets. In the second, called face mounting, a picture will print onto high-quality paper, which goes between two acrylic pages. A backing behind these acrylic pages provides a base behind the picture that helps the light refract off the ink, making a stronger image.
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The Acrylic sheet method involves bonding the image with a clear acrylic sheet during printing.
Acrylic face mounting has a few more steps. A LexJet or Flatbed printer places the image onto high-grade paper. After the image prints, a sheet of acrylic goes on either side of the image. A black, white, see-through, or metal sheet goes behind these three layers.
Printing Process Glass
With glass printing, a coating is spread over the glass so that the ink does not slide off before it bonds to the glass.
After this, the ink gets added. The printer presses the image onto the glass sheets using ceramic-based ink. White ink goes behind the colored ink to make the colors more vibrant and less transparent. Finally, the glass goes into an oven that can reach over 600 degrees Celsius (1112 degrees Fahrenheit). The heat fuses the ink into the material.
A different technique uses organic ink, which allows for many more colors, but with limited durability.
Generally, acrylic prints look more true-to-life and have more vibrancy than glass prints.
Image Quality of Acrylic Prints
The acrylic sheet method allows light to shine through the paper. The effect creates a clear image.
The acrylic facemount technique allows the consumer to choose a backing to place behind the picture. The backing makes the colors in the photograph bright and luminous. Non-glare acrylic allows the image to appear more visible, with no distracting reflection.
Acrylic printing is smoother than printing onto glass. The acrylic printing process ensures that no bubbles or scratches will appear on the image surface. With glass, scratches or bumps on the sheet’s face may disturb the image and dilute its quality.
Image Quality of Glass Prints
Glass printing generally uses more limited colors than acrylic. The glass may also have some imperfections that will distort the picture. Additionally, the color on a glass-printed photograph is usually less accurate and duller. The reflective surface of the glass can also make it harder to see a photograph.
When choosing between photo mediums, it’s important to think about how long you want the picture to last. For short-term advertisements, photos on glass cans serve as a great option, but acrylic has properties that allow it to last long-term.
Lasting Power of Acrylic Prints
The acrylic sheet printing method produces a water-resistant image, but it still fades more quickly than acrylic face mounted photos. Acrylic facemount provides a protective layer of waterproofing for the image. Face mounting also ensures the picture has UV protection, which stops the image from fading due to light exposure. Acrylic sheets, also called plexi-glass, are shatter-proof, unlike glass prints.
Most likely, acrylic face mounting, with ink that holds its vibrancy for up to one hundred years, lasts the longest.
Lasting Power of Glass Prints
Glass does have its benefits. Unlike acrylic prints, the surface doesn’t scratch easily. The image will also retain its quality even in humid climates; acrylic will not. However, glass-printed photos have not gone through extensive testing on longevity. They are generally said to not last as much as acrylic prints, especially if printed with organic ink instead of ceramic.
Size of Acrylic Prints and Glass Prints
Acrylic prints can exceed fifty square feet due to their flexibility, strength, and minimal weight. Due to this, it makes sense to use them for larger wall prints.
Glass is harder to send through the mail as it breaks easily. It also weighs more and breaks more easily than acrylic, which means that it cannot reach the same large size as acrylic prints.
Cost of Prints
Cost may be the most important difference when comparing acrylic and glass photo printing. Acrylic printing always costs more, but as with many items, the higher the cost, the better the quality.
The acrylic sheet method is the less expensive version of acrylic photo printing. Acrylic facemounted prints cost more but yield higher quality, longer-lasting images than acrylic sheet printing. Both of these forms will cost more than glass printing.
Professional and Non-professional Uses
Artists and galleries most commonly print photos on facemount acrylic.
The brightness and clarity of the acrylic-printed image make it a favorite among artists. The long-lasting qualities of acrylic, including shatter-resistance, UV-light resistance, and water-resistance make it the most practical printing choice for fine arts applications.
Additionally, the ability to choose between different kinds of materials can make it appealing. For example, no-glare acrylic is especially useful to professionals who want their audience to have a completely unobstructed view of an image.
However, glass still has its uses, especially for framed prints. For more casual purposes, such as for at-home wall art, the low cost and smooth look of glass printing work well. The cheaper glass prints can provide a clean contrast to the framed art in an at-home display.
Glass printing offers a lower-cost printing method if you want to save money. Prints in a gallery or other fine-art settings are usually acrylic facemount printing, due to their versatility and longevity. Whichever print type you decide on, we hope this article has helped to clarify the finer points of the photo printing process!