Framed Prints: Acrylic v Glass
Framed Prints, Wall Art, Photo Wall Décor, whatever you call it chances are when you think of a traditional framed print it is wooden, polcore or metal frame with a glass pane covering your beautiful photography. It’s always been like this so why change? Well settle in while we have a serious (not so serious) talk about acrylic.
Hitting you up with shattering revelations
Lets get the obvious out of the way right now, framers have always used glass in the past. It’s a classic, its weighty and makes your frames feel super expensive. The frames in Ikea (other multi-billion dollar Swedish home décor megastores are available – probably) have glass in them. The frames in most high-street stores have glass in them. The frames in your parent’s home have glass in them and yes, the frames that some other print companies use have glass in them!
This is mainly due to the fact that glass is incredibly inexpensive when compared to the acrylic. This brings the cost way down for the manufacturer plus glass can be much more resilient to harsh cleaning agents that some people might mistakenly use on them.
However, what has become obvious over time to both ourselves and many, many other pro labs is that glass is the absolute worst. I mean, THE worst! If you can humour the writer for a second then let’s take a look at the realities of glass in framing.
Shockingly, glass is highly breakable and especially so in transit. Even with dedicated courier services such as we use, glass is always a huge pain to ship. Far too many frames were damaged in the past due to glass breakages and speaking to my colleagues in the industry, everyone has the same problem. Its first and foremost for this reason that ourselves and most other pro labs in the UK go for the shatter-proof acrylic. Another incredibly important aspect to this problem is that glass should never be used in rooms where children are likely to be playing, sleeping, ect. For any of you with children you will know that anything can and often will happen! It’s much better to take away the risk of a frames glass shattering and someone being injured on a broken shard. Plus when glass breaks it can really do a number on the print below!
Remember how I mentioned how glass is heavy and makes your frames feel luxurious and expensive? That extra weight is not great at all in large frames. Nope – not one bit. The weight of the glass on large frames can actually cause some mouldings to bow over time. Obviously some frame mouldings handle this better than others. For example our stunning Vintage frames would never have a problem but with thin, modern profiles most framer’s would recommend acrylic in sizes 20×30” and above to avoid this issue.
Last but not least you have the tint! What tint you cry! “Glass is glass and see-through. I have it in my windows at home you northern liar!” I’ll not take it personally. Glass is actually not 100% colour-free. There is often a green tint to glass (science hat on) due to the iron content in nearly all commercial glass. We wouldn’t want anything compromising the finished product & print quality and if you’ve got a green tinted baby then no one is going to be happy.
So if you love acrylic so much why don’t you marry it?
So Acrylic! You’ll probably know it as Polymethyl Methacrylate right? No? well it’s sometimes called plexiglass as well. Over the last ten years the use of Acrylic in frames has sky-rocketed, and for good reason. Acrylic is lightweight and shatterproof! Much lighter than glass and 100% less likely to shower broken bits of itself all over your living room/children/dog/cat if damaged. This makes acrylic far more preferable to photographers who work with children, babies and families. Our large Multi Aperture Frames for example are incredibly popular with our newborn and family photographers and I personally feel far happier sending them out with acrylic rather than glass.
Another huge benefit is that acrylic will not break in transit. There are far fewer examples of broken acrylic as a result of heavy handling by couriers and due to it’s lightweight nature it allows us to keep our shipping costs down so that you, the photographer, can make even more dosh from your IPS sessions! If we were shipping glass in a big 30×24 multi aperture then the postage costs would be around double what we currently charge so another win for acrylic.
The acrylic we use is also laser cut and diamond polished giving ultimate clarity for your work behind it. Remember the green tint in glass? (urgh, glass) Well that is simply not an issue with acrylic. Due to it’s manufactured quality it lacks the typical slight tint you see in the majority of glass frames. ALSO! The glazing applied to acrylic during its creation adds a layer that will actually filter UV rays, helping to protect your photography for many more years.
Some people will tell you that acrylic is also less reflective than glass. It’s not a massive difference in my opinion, slightly less at most. So that’s a 0-0 draw on that front. There are non-reflective options on the acrylic however so you can eliminate glare completely but you’ll have to be aware of a quirk with non-reflective acrylic. Like non-reflective glass it has a tiny abrasion on the surface which provides its non-reflective effect. If you move the non-reflective too far from the print then it will look opaque and diffuse the image. That is why we’d only recommend non-reflective glaze on frames with only a single cut mount or no mount at all.
TURNS CHAIR AROUND AND STRADDLES IT. TIME FOR SOME TOUGH TALK
There are two main disadvantages to acrylic that you just can’t avoid. Luckily, they are super easy to fix. First up, the biggie, the bane of any framer’s life – static. Oh Static! Nobody wants a set of lovely framed prints on the wall, entirely covered in a thick layer of dust making them look like props in a horror movie. Luckily its such a simple fix. All you need to do is wipe the acrylic down with a microfiber cloth, eliminating both the static and the dust.
Shatter proof is not scratch proof. If you or your client uses traditional cleaning methods like a spray cleaner and kitchen roll or paper towel then that can damage the acrylic. So don’t and educate your client on this. Use the microfiber cloth we’ve just spoke about and it will easily pick up any dust from the surface.
While some photographers’ reasons for not using acrylic is valid, we strongly believe that the benefits far outweigh the negative. Frames with acrylic are a great deal more versatile than their glass counterparts and perfect for a whole host of display options. Not only are they safer in the home of your client or on public display but acrylic helps to preserve photos and frames far longer than traditional glass.
The issues that arise with acrylic like static and scratching are easily remedied whilst the issues with glass are far more difficult to remedy and there is no simple fix for them. For these reasons, unless there is a legitimate need for glass in a frame that can’t be overcame we will always use shatter proof acrylic in our frames. Its also worth noting that we use a much thicker grade of acrylic than some other manufacturers so we can avoid any unsightly flex in the acrylic.
All in all we feel that providing the best acrylic available in place of glass in all of our frames is by far the best option for both our photographers and their clients, enabling them to enjoy the stunning wall art up on the wall for years to come.