In taking customer calls, live chats and emails we see a lot of similar questions being raised about product specifications along with some confusion about what exactly our customer is looking for. Today, I wanted to clear up a bit of confusion as well as lay out the differences, advantages, and disadvantages between photos on glass and photos on acrylic.
I think some of the confusion lies in the fact that sometimes people see an acrylic print in a gallery and not knowing exactly what it is, assume it is glass. If the photo you see in a gallery is frameless it will almost always be acrylic. Adding to the confusion, some companies are using “glass” and “acrylic” interchangeably in their marketing copy so you might be thinking you’re getting glass, but it’s actually acrylic!
So, first and foremost know exactly what you’re buying – acrylic or glass. There are important distinctions to be made between having your photos printed on glass vs printed on acrylic. There are also important distinctions to be made with the acrylic photo products so do your due diligence and know EXACTLY what you’re paying for. “You get what you pay for” absolutely applies in the printing industry! If acrylic is what you’re after be sure to have a look at our acrylic prints shopping guide which highlights variations in product components and manufacturing differences.
PHOTOS ON GLASS
For the purposes of this article, please note that when I say “photos on glass” I’m not referring to photos framed in the traditional way with a matte, glass and frame. I’m referring to the companies printing directly to glass with a UV printer. It’s not a common process and there aren’t many companies in the US offering it, but there are a few. At the moment, printing to glass with a UV printer is more popular in Europe, but it may become more popular in the States for signage in particular. For fine art applications, like we provide here at Bumblejax, I don’t see direct to substrate printing (whether it be glass, acrylic, wood, etc) rivaling the quality of printing to high grade photo paper and mounting to acrylic anytime soon. You just can’t achieve the same color accuracy and vibrancy.
There are some advantages to printing photos to glass, but this process is really best suited for applications outside of the fine art space where transparency is important. In addition to corporate signage, you might see photos on glass in things like privacy screens, awards and even shower doors.
I view the photos on glass products in the fine art space as more of a novel idea than anything else. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of printing to glass vs printing the photo to high grade photo paper and face mounting it.
Comparing Photos On Glass VS Photos On Acrylic (Face Mounting Technique)
Advantages Of Printing To Glass
- It’s unique!
- More scratch resistant.
- May hold up better in high moisture areas.
- More rigidity
- Can be transparent
Disadvantages Of Printing To Glass
- Diminished color accuracy and vibrancy (light passes through glass, while light refracts within acrylic)
- Limited sizes – companies offering photos on glass in the fine art space are very limited in sizes offered.
- Permanence – questionable although testing is currently underway; with the UV protection of acrylic, acid- free paper and pigment inks rated to last 100 years, acrylic face mounts should last at least a lifetime.
- UV Protection – again this is questionable with these products .. is there UV protection in the glass used?
- Imperfections – this is a common issue with direct to substrate printing such as glass. The tolerance level and what is acceptable depends on each individual company but one company that prints to glass has this in their FAQ: “The materials sometimes contain some small imperfections such as divots or bumps. We inspect each sheet carefully and if there are imperfections, we place them in the most unobtrusive parts of the image.” We don’t tolerate such imperfections with our acrylic photo mounting product.
In summary, the photos on glass products provide some really unique opportunities where fine art color quality and permanence aren’t of utmost importance. As UV printing technology continues to improve and more testing is done to determine longevity, it’s possible that printing to glass could come close to rivaling lightjet and inkjet prints in the future, but we’re not there yet. For those that aren’t concerned about color accuracy and print longevity, it’s a novel product idea worth looking into. At Bumblejax, we love unique product ideas and are always exploring new possibilities, but those new products ideas for the fine art market must meet our strict guidelines in terms of color accuracy and longevity. Many of our customers are professional photographers, interior designers and corporations making significant investments in artwork and need to know it’s going to last a lifetime. Our process using pigment ink,
Many of our customers are professional photographers, interior designers and corporations making significant investments in artwork and need to know it’s going to last a lifetime. Our process using pigment ink, high grade acid-free paper along with UV protection in both the ink as well as the acrylic, provide for a product that not only offers true color accuracy and vibrancy, but will last a lifetime. You can see more info about our popular acrylic prints here.