Acrylic Prints Vs Canvas Prints

It’s a question we get every so often.. what is the difference between an acrylic print and a canvas print?  There are significant differences and advantages/disadvantages to both but before we get into those let’s discuss the materials and process involved in each.

Acrylic Photo Prints
The acrylic print is referred to by several names such as acrylic face or photo mount and the general acrylic name is often referred to as plexiglas (plexiglass), lucite or perspex which are just brand names of acrylic (everything you wanted to know about acrylic here!).  There are also two distinct processes of creating an acrylic print – direct printing on to the material vs printing onto paper and then face mounting to acrylic (the acrylic and print are adhered with 1/8 – 1/4″ acrylic in front of the print.  The face mount process is a more difficult process and more expensive, but well worth it.  Here’s a detailed post we covered on this subject over at Facebook.

We are firm believers in the face mount method which provides greater color pop and vibrancy.  Why?  For two reasons really – one, colors always looks best printed on high quality white paper and two, the face mount takes advantage of the reflective quality of acrylic.  Acrylic has the unusual property of keeping a beam of light reflected within its surfaces which is what creates that WOW factor the first time you see an acrylic print done this way.  Great color vibrancy with a near 3-D effect.  No other display technique can match an acrylic face mount which is why this technique is growing quickly in popularity among professional photographers.

While pictures don’t really do them justice here’s a shot of one of our acrylic prints using metallic paper which adds even more color pop and vibrancy behind acrylic.   No, this image hasn’t been photoshopped! .. and it looks even more brilliant in person.

acrylic photo print with metallic paper


Canvas Prints

The canvas print process has been around for a long time first using an offset printing process, but in more recent times canvas prints are created by dye sublimination or inkjet printers in what is commonly preferred to as giclee.  The goal is to create the oil painting, old fashioned look from a photography and many people like this style.  The canvas gallery wrap has become one of the popular mainstream ways to present a photo because it’s much cheaper than traditional framing and modern photo mounting.  With a canvas gallery wrap, the canvas image wraps around the frame and is attached to the back creating a frameless piece.

Here’s an example of a canvas gallery wrap which I think is a good representation.  Again, you won’t get the vibrancy and resolution with canvas, but it can be a nice look depending on the image and of course it is cheaper.  You can purchase these with the image wrapped around the side, but I like this look better with just a solid color on the side.  The image wrapped around the side in my opinion looks  a bit cheesy.

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Here’s a closer look at how the two products compare..

Durability
Acrylic has the advantage here for both the print directly on acrylic and print on paper then face mount behind acrylic methods.  The acrylic provides UV protection typically from 70 – 98% depending on the type of acrylic used and 100% moisture protection if going with a direct print on acrylic (less so with face mount).  That’s not to say there is no protection with a canvas wrap.  You’ll want to ask your print shop, but I’d imagine most will apply a post-print varnish to help protect against UV rays and moisture.  How about dropping?  Well, not recommended for either medium, but canvas has the advantage of being light so collateral damage is minimized 🙂  Acrylic is shatter resistant and lighter than glass, but it can chip in the corners or edge if dropped or abused (FedEx I’m talking to you!).  How about scratching?  Both are vulnerable to scratching, but you can use acrylic that is scratch resistant at a considerably higher cost.  We’re of the opinion that scratching shouldn’t be an issue at all provided the print is packed well, carefully hung away from the hands of potentially destructive little ones and cleaned properly.

Uniqueness
Not much of a contest here.  Acrylic in a unanimous decision.  Obviously, you’ve heard of the acrylic process for displaying your photos or you wouldn’t be reading this 🙂  But ask your friends, family and co-workers if they have ever heard of an acrylic face mount and you’ll get a dazed look of confusion.  While the process is becoming more popular it still hasn’t hit the mainstream yet.  Photographers looking to stand out from the crowd are having great success with the acrylic presentation.  When you walk into an art gallery  and see traditional frame after traditional frame with a few canvases mixed in, then see an acrylic photo mount, it does stand out.  We’ll get into that a bit more in the appearance section.  On the other hand, canvas has exploded in popularity in the past five years and in the past couple years the big boys such as Costco, Walmart, Walgreens and even FedEx has gotten into it.

Appearance
No doubt, appearance is a matter of preference.  Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.  Acrylic provides a sleek, modern and vibrant look which looks terrific in modern decor while canvas provides more of an old fashioned look.  Think a log cabin the woods or above Grandma’s fireplace 🙂  With the canvas print you get a purposefully grainy look to give it the oil painting look, while acrylic is sharp and vibrant particularly when combined with metallic paper.  The blacks will be much more pronounced and you’ll see a 33% increase in color gamut over canvas.  In addition, the acrylic provides a rare reflective property in that light reflects within the acrylic to provide that near 3-D look and greater color vibrancy.

Transportability
Hopefully you won’t have to do much moving of art or any moving at all for that matter.  I think we can all agree that moving sucks!  I’ll give the edge to canvas in the transportability department.  It’s lighter, enough said.

Price
Canvas in a landslide.  If you’re on a budget, but still want a decent look, canvas is a great option to traditional frames and modern photo mounting using acrylic.  It will generally cost about 50% less and considering there are price wars going on every day in the canvas market we suggest you sign up to  a few newsletters of canvas print providers and you’re sure to get a screaming deal.  There are sales every week it seems and the big companies are driving prices even lower.  In my opinion you will see prices drop over time for acrylic pieces, but only for those companies that print directly onto the acrylic because it is less labor intensive and less prone to “breakage”.  The traditional diasec acrylic photo mount process that we model our process after is not as common because quite frankly it’s not easy to master the face mount process to the point where you can consistently produce them bubble and dust free, particularly with large pieces.  It’s an involved process we have spent quite a bit of time perfecting and there just aren’t that many companies doing it particularly in the US.  It’s more common in the UK.

While we have changed a couple things in our process and can’t reveal ALL our techniques, here’s a video demonstrating our acrylic face mount process that many have found very helpful.  No we don’t recommend you try this at home 🙂

The Bottom Line
If you have the budget for acrylic it’s well worth the extra cash and you will not be disappointed, particularly if you’re a photographer trying to sell your work.  With so much competition today, it’s imperative to stand out from the crowd and unique display techniques such as acrylic photo mounting provide that unique wow factor that will help you stand out in the crowd.  In corporate settings, acrylic prints will provide a higher end, more professional look.  First impressions are everything and acrylic will make a statement.  There is a reason that many are calling acrylic mounts the next big thing in photo displays (actually it’s been around for a long time, but far from the mainstream).  For families, the decision is more difficult and we understand that cost is a big factor especially in tough economic times.  If you have a modern decor. the budget and/or a feature spot in the house, then acrylic is also a great option for you.  The canvas print as I’ve said before still looks nice and is much more budget friendly for families that want to stretch the art budget a bit farther.

If you have your mind set on going with acrylic, then you’ll want to check out our feature article on what to look for when searching for an acrylic printing service to do your work (of course, we hope you’ll allow us the pleasure!).  Here is our acrylic product page with picture samples, video and pricing.

Alternatives (Bamboo, Aluminum & Gatorfoam)
What if the acrylic print isn’t in the budget or if you don’t care for the canvas look?  You’re in luck!  At Bumblejax we provide a range of options including our bamboo photo mount product (although similar in price to acrylic), the aluminum photo mount (another sleek and modern look, but more affordable than acrylic) and finally our gatorfoam product which provides a modern look at a considerable cost savings (about in line with a canvas print in terms of price).

Acrylic Prints: Is Non Glare A Good Option?

If you’ve done any research into acrylic photo mounting you’ve probably seen some discussion around the issue of regular vs non- glare acrylic and wondered what option was best for you, so we thought we’d spend a little time on the pros and cons of non-glare acrylic.

Pros:
Less glare of course!  That’s about it!

Cons:
(1) Diminished vibrancy of the image
(2) Color Cast
(3) Higher cost

It seems some people get overly concerned with the potential for glare.  Look around your home during the day and see how much glare is on your traditional glass framed art.  See it?  Had you every really noticed it before and if you did, did it really bother you?  Most will say no.  If it is a concern for you, proper lighting and strategically placed prints can help.  99.5% of our customers don’t inquire and don’t care about non-glare acrylic mounting.  The biggest disadvantage is the loss of vibrancy of your image which is a trade-off we personally wouldn’t make.  Some can even have a bit of a color cast to it.  It’s up to you though!  If you want non-glare acrylic we don’t provide it through our online system and don’t carry it in stock, but we can certainly provide a custom quote and order some for you.

UPDATE:  We have tested quite a few of the non-glare acrylic products out there over the years and never found one we were happy with due to the reasons above.  That is until now.  Keep in mind there is no acrylic that eliminates glare completely we’d recommend.  It’s best to just go with one of our products that don’t have an acrylic face (for example our bamboo, aluminum and dibond products offer a terrific look with no glare) if you want ZERO glare.  If you love the vibrancy of the acrylic, but want to minimize glare we recommend an anti-reflective acrylic.  You get the best of both worlds really – the vibrancy and reduced glare.  Our choice and recommendation is a product from Tru Vue called TruLife.  In addition to reducing glare around 30% (by our estimates), TruLife offers a bump up in UV protection (from 75% for our standard acrylic to about 99%), scratch resistance and anti-static properties to minimize dust.  You can order the TruLife acrylic for your face mounting over at our configuration page here. 

What Is Diasec Photo Mounting? Evolution Of Acrylic Face Mounting

You may have heard the term Diasec in your research of photo mounting and there is often some confusion about what it is.  Essentially, Diasec is a patented and trademarked process of acrylic face mounting first invented by Heinz Sovilla-Brulhart in 1969.  The process of adhering a print to acrylic without air bubbles, creating stunning color vibrancy, was first achieved by Heinz and the techniques used by several companies around the word today emulate the process.  However, the Diasec process uses patented adhesives and a proprietary process that is licensed by the company.

According to Wikipedia, the exclusive use of the diasec patent expired and the process can now be freely used without royalties. However, the name “Diasec” is a protected trademark held by the swiss company Alrane Inventing AG. The dutch company “Diasec Support BV”, has started in 2009 to support the swiss licensor by offering training and machines. Most if not all processes that face-mount photographic images to acrylic plates cannot use the same process as defined in the diasec patent. Only companies licensed by Alrane Inventing AG are legally allowed to call their process “diasec”.

Up until just a few years ago, the Diasec (or more generally acrylic face mount process), was for the most part only available in Europe, but it’s slowly made its way to the US and is becoming more widely accepted in galleries and studios across the country.  When we started Bumblejax three years ago there were companies offering the acrylic mount, but locating pricing and easily ordering online was non-existent.  For the first time you could easily find pricing and order a gallery quality acrylic face mount online at Bumblejax.  That was late 2009.

Over the past three years, more companies entered the market and began offering an acrylic product by printing directly onto the acrylic.  While it’s a novel idea and companies can offer it at a considerably cheaper price (it’s far less labor intensive), it’s not recommended if you want to display your work in a gallery setting or sell as an art piece on your website.  The reason for this is that it can not achieve the same color vibrancy that you get when you print the image on high quality paper then face mount behind the acrylic.  With the image mounted behind the acrylic, light refracts in such a way that makes the color pop and provides a near 3-D effect.  When proper gallery lighting is used, it almost appears as if the piece is illuminated from behind.  This can not be achieved with direct printing or glass in traditional frames.

At large sizes and further enhanced by printing on metallic paper, an acrylic face mount is unparalleled in the ability to provide that “wow” factor.  It truly adds value to an image that traditional frames and canvas prints can not.  Late last year, a new world record for the most expensive photo was recorded when an Andreas Gursky print sold for $4.3 million at auction.  How was it displayed?  You got it! With an acrylic face mount.

If you’re looking for a high quality acrylic print, you’ve come to the right place.  At Bumblejax we use a mounting technique that uses OptiMount Ultra which is a double-sided, optically clear pressure-sensitive mounting adhesive for face mounting the inkjet print to the acrylic.  The adhesive features UV absorbers to protect images from fading
and creates a permanent bond.  We’re a boutique shop based in Seattle that focuses on nothing but modern photo mounting and every photo mount is checked closely for quality before getting out the door.  We have over 100 rave reviews from our happy customers.  If you’d like to see more details on our process please see our detailed acrylic mounting product page here.

 

Acrylic Face Mount Proofs Now Available!

We have been providing steep discounts on samples for our pro photographer customers for some time now, but we also wanted to provide a way for anyone to get a look at the very popular acrylic product at a very affordable price.  What we’re doing is offering an acrylic product proof without the dibond backer and hanging hardware.  This allows us to offer acrylic face mount proofs at 7×7, 12×9 or 15×10 (the most common ratios at smallest sizes) at a fraction of the price.

Here’s how pricing breaks down…

7×7 – $19  ($40 off regular price)
12×9 – $29 ($70 off regular price)
15×10 – $39 ($80 off regular price)

(these prices reflect a mount without metallic paper)

This provides a great way to see the quality of work and how your print will look behind acrylic.


 

How Do I Clean My Acrylic Print?

 I get this questions a lot so thought I’d throw up a quick post.

The best way to clean your acrylic print is to wet a lint free, microfiber cloth with a product called Kleenmaster Brillianize or Novus #1 and then wipe the face of the print. This will not only clean the acrylic but will also polish the acrylic and help alleviate any finger print marks. Any other “normal” glass cleaners (such as Windex) tend to leave a film or streaks. In a pinch, you can also clean with isopropyl alcohol (do not use this often).

Joe Fenton’s Amazing “Solitude” Face Mounted On Plexi, Printed On Metallic

Hard at work: Joe Fenton creating his detailed piece titled SolitudeIllustrator Joe Fenton is an incredibly patient and passionate artist from Brooklyn, New York.  His “Solitude” piece consumed him for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week for 10 months, and when you see the detail of this amazing piece you’ll understand why.

‘It took courage to start it as I had never done anything that size before. As you can imagine, you have to invest a lot of your time to complete something like this.  I just had to believe in my process and have faith that it would work out!’ (via Daily Mail)

We just finished up a small sample piece for Joe printing on metallic paper and face mounting the digital reproduction behind 1/8” acrylic with dibond (aluminum composite) backing.  Hope you like it Joe!  Video and pictures never do these justice but nonetheless here’s a video of the piece.  A large scale piece taking up a wall would be spectacular.


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