Metal Prints vs. Glass Prints: Comparison and Which is Better?

Metal and glass prints are sleek, modern ways to display photographs and art. Both forms of photo printing use specialty methods to impose an image on the material.

Each option has different advantages and disadvantages in quality, durability, and price. Below is everything you’ve ever wondered about the differences between metal prints vs glass prints.

Feel confident choosing the best method for your project, wall art, or keepsake by understanding which printing method works for you.

Metal Prints Definition and Comparison to Glass Prints?

Metal printing is an innovative photo printing method that combines the durable materials of aluminum sheets to create an art piece like no other. The material the printing is on is one of the main differences between acrylic and metal prints or glass prints.

The process for metal printing is dye sublimation. This specialty method begins with printing a copy onto sublimation paper.

Once the photo is ready, it goes to a heat press that reaches 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The dyes transfer through heat and gas directly into the metallic pores.

After cooling, the image seals with vibrant quality and dimension. This methodology requires your metal printing company to have top-notch skills and trade knowledge.

When getting a metal print, there are usually a few different finishes to customize your wall art.

For instance, brushed metal finishes will include a rougher metal texture that adds to the rustic feel of a photo. It will often add metallic notes to the picture and soften tones overall.

White basecoats will eliminate this and let the image’s color shine for itself.

Similarly, there is often a choice between a final matte or gloss finish. Glosses will add extra shine, and the matte option will stay natural and soft.

For more information, see our guide: What are Metal Prints?

Advantages of Metal Prints to Glass Prints

Head to head, metal prints vs glass prints each have their advantages and disadvantages. Metal prints have many positives, including durability, size, and scratch resistance.

First, metal prints are typically aluminum sheets, a flexible and reliable metal. No matter which metal, it’s sure to be more durable than most glass products.

At the same time, metal prints can be larger while lighter in weight than glass. The thin sheets of metal are sleek and ready to be on display. The printing process ensures high-quality, finely detailed photos, small or large.

Finally, if you choose metal prints, your picture will be scratch-free forever. These photos are easy to maintain and will be a long-lasting addition to any area.

If metal prints seem to be the choice for you, we’ve reviewed the best metal prints companies.

Disadvantages of Metal Prints to Glass Prints

Despite these benefits, metal prints can have some disadvantages next to glass prints. It partially depends on personal preferences for the final result.

Important to remember is that metal photo prints typically aren’t framed or have any protection in front of them, meaning that in direct sunlight, metal prints can occasionally fade.

When considering metal prints vs glass prints, the glass will typically have UV protection for the image. Some may even enjoy placing their glass prints in direct sun to admire how the lighting interacts with the inner reflections.

The thick glass isn’t just protective. The picture will have a more 3D-like appearance due to the glass, and viewing it from different angles may have fun effects.

Additionally, metal prints typically are flat and made for wall art. You can frame the metal print, but glass prints can easily switch for wall hangings or table decor.

What are Glass Prints? A Glass Prints Definition

With this discussion on the advantages and disadvantages, you may be curious about the complete process of glass printing.

Versions of glass printing began years ago, back to at least 1850. The basic principle was to put a design on a glass plate and allow light-sensitive materials to transfer the print.

Today, glass printing still relies on that same principle with modern tech. Digital printers quickly spray thousands of pigments of ink to create your image. Then, a UV light cures and sets the ink.

Usually, a white layer of ink is below the design to add extra vibrancy to the image and create highlights.

Glass prints can be acrylic glass or plexiglass. Plexiglass can be shatterproof. These durable materials are all waterproof, unlike traditional acrylic canvas photo options.

Depending on personal request, glass prints can have light backing to add stability to the image. Glass prints are ideal as free-standing pieces or wall art and never require frames.

Advantages of Glass Prints Compared to Metal Prints

When comparing metal prints vs glass prints, glass does win a few categories.

Glass prints are superior for direct sunlight placement. Unlike acrylic prints, metal prints may fade from UV exposure, but glass protects the image. Additionally, sunlight reflections within the glass add dimension and fun effects to images.

Plus, glass prints are resistant to temperature changes. Some metal prints could react and curl in particularly extreme temperatures. Both are better at handling heat than traditional photo printing techniques.

Overall, a glass print will have more depth than metal prints. The actual thickness of the glass creates a 3D effect. This effect adds plenty of eye-catching interest to any photo.

Disadvantages of Glass Prints Compared to Metal Prints

There are some main disadvantages to glass prints compared to metal prints. Here are the common issues when you try each.

Glass prints are heavier than metal prints, which are thin aluminum sheets. Both options are weightier than traditional paper printing, so this is a crucial consideration for wall art hanging.

The weight is one crucial factor that limits how large glass pieces can be.

Plus, glass prints aren’t quite as durable as metal prints, especially scratches. They also require a glass cleaner to keep the image pristine.

Finally, glass prints don’t have as many fine details as metal prints. The ink spray isn’t as accurate as the metal image transfer. This issue impacts overall quality and how large the photo can be.

Metal Prints vs. Glass Prints: Durability

Metal prints vs glass prints have impressive durability and share some remarkable traits. For instance, both are waterproof and more durable than photo paper.

Glass and metal are durable materials that won’t degrade for a long time, making them ideal archival materials. Besides that, they protect your image in unique ways.

Both are more heat resistant than acrylic, canvas, or photo prints than traditional photo printing methods. You won’t find your pictures curling at the sides from humidity.

Glass prints particularly excel at being UV resistant and can stand out best in spots of direct sunlight. Metal prints may fade in these harsher conditions.

On the other hand, metal prints are entirely scratch-resistant. Some glass prints may be able to stand up to this, but all metal prints can boast this quality.

Metal Prints vs. Glass Prints: Quality

The print quality comes down to the photo printing methodology and the expertise of the printing company.

Metal prints have the exact image pressed into the metal, and the pigments transfer into the material. This process creates a precise recreation, no matter the size.

Glass prints, however, spray ink and cure it with UV light. The colors are incredibly vibrant, but small details may become blurry.

Think of it as a difference in resolution, where metal prints can produce a 1080p image while glass might be closer to 720p.

Both of these options have a modern look, requiring no frames. Metal has more options for custom finishes, but each has its benefits. Generally, for those who prefer a matte look, metal is the way to go.

Metal Prints vs. Glass Prints: Price

Comparing metal prints pricing to glass prints pricing is difficult because the sizes of metal prints are not usually comparable to the sizes of glass prints.

The average price of an 8×10 glass print is around $55 USD.  The price of a metal prints of the same size is around $40USD.  See below for a table comparing metal print prices and glass print prices across a range of sizes:

Size (roughly) Metal Prints Price (USD) Glass Prints Price
10in x 12in $44 $70
16in x 20in $89 $105
22in x 24in $135 $135
24in x 28in $167 $145

Prices were taken from our favorite picks for metal prints (Pictorem) and glass prints (FractureMe)

Metal Prints vs. Glass Prints: What Types of Photos or Art are Best?

Overall, it may seem that metal prints win over glass prints. For larger wall prints, they typically are the more durable option, have a higher quality image, and are easy to maintain.

If you’re hoping to have perfect recreations of images or art in fine detail, you’ll want to choose metal prints. But there are certain situations where each excels, and if you’re unsure which type of print to pair with your project, this may help you choose.

Metal prints are superior for wall art. They have a sleek appearance that doesn’t require any frame. The material is lighter than glass and easier to hang.

Additionally, the quality of the print makes metal better to enlarge. If you want your picture to be a giant expanse across the wall, you may want to go for metal prints.

Metal prints are typically very vibrant, making them an ideal outdoor hanging option. The aluminum sheets can handle harsh conditions without a scratch and never rusts.

Of course, glass prints will handle sun exposure better than metal prints. So if you hang metal outside, it may fade. If you have an ideal place for your picture in mind and it’s in the direct sunlight, choose glass prints.

Glass prints have an incredibly dimensional appearance due to their thickness. This effect can make them fun to play with and change the position to impact the sun’s reflections. Glass prints are better options for tables and desks.

Plus, glass prints can stand on their own. They don’t require a frame and provide a very sleek look to any space with a vibrant and unique picture. Metal prints usually need an additional structure to stand up, which detracts from the image.

Wherever you decide to place a glass or metal print, you will enjoy the unique benefits of these modern printing methods.

Alternatives to Metal Prints and Glass Prints

If discussing the differences between metal prints vs glass prints still doesn’t seem right, you may benefit from trying other printing methods. Alternatives to metal prints and glass prints include: Fine art prints, luster photographic paper, canvas prints, and acrylic prints.

Fine Art Prints

Fine art prints are a specific option that recreates a traditional ink-on-paper feel. Beginning with the paper, you can choose from matte white, glossy white, or luster photographic paper, depending on personal preference.

Using high-quality archival ink to print the photograph will give you a product that feels rustic, soft, and very detailed.

With luster photographic paper the print usually produces a similar image to matte white or glossy white, but with a crisper feel, with some shine to the final image.

Canvas Prints

If you’re looking for an alternative to metal and glass prints with more textural effect, consider canvas prints.

Canvas prints are ideal for printing art recreations because they have the classic canvas texture. The ink prints come in options, such as traditional gallery canvas wraps or condensed on canvas boards. These options have the image printed onto the sides for realistic total coverage.

Some printing companies even offer loose canvas prints that you can stretch personally onto any frame or attach to other objects. Canvas prints are a more muted option, and you may lose some quality.

Plus, canvas prints are susceptible to any of the damages of traditional canvas art pieces. They can’t be in direct sunlight, but otherwise, they can last a lifetime. Still, it’s worth it for the unmistakable look and feel.

For a full comparison, see our guide on Metal Prints vs. Canvas Prints.

Acrylic Prints

Finally, acrylic prints can seem similar to glass prints. A print image has a sheet of acrylic coating attached to the front.  The acrylic adds a shiny appearance to the photo and brings out vibrancy. It often creates a dimensional effect, to a lesser degree than glass. The acrylic coating does add some extra durability to the image overall.

For a complete comparison, see our guide on Metal Prints vs. Acrylic Prints.