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When comparing acrylic vs metal prints, acrylic prints have long been the gold standard for high-end photo printing with their clean look and no need to be framed, but metal prints are quickly overtaking acrylic in terms of popularity, cost and presence in homes.
This article compares both acrylic prints vs metal prints in terms of appearance and the kinds of photos that work best in each format, and gives you some suggestions of where each is best displayed in your home, based on my own experience of printing my work.
You should bear in mind that printing processes differ from lab to lab, as does quality, so you need to make sure that you use a reputable printing company. The below comparison is based on the metal and acrylic prints from Nations Photo Lab, who are my recommended supplier of both prints at an excellent quality.
Acrylic Prints vs Metal Prints
Comparing acrylic vs aluminum prints side-by-side, you can see that metal prints are more vibrant due to the metal surface providing a much cleaner surface for the ink to adhere to.
Acrylic prints are slightly more washed out, because you are viewing the print through a thick lens of plastic, although the print itself is on regular photo paper which is then mounted under acrylic.
Metal prints have better durability than acrylic, being more UV resistant and therefore more suitable for being in bright sunlight or even outdoors. They also show less glare, which is better in brighter rooms, although acrylic prints do look incredible if you can get the lighting right on them.
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The Benefits of Metal Prints
Metal prints have a number of bonuses, mostly related to the locations in which they can be displayed. Although the picture that you choose to print is of course an important determiner of the material you choose, the location of where you will put the photo is perhaps even more important.
The Benefits of Metal Prints are:
- Suitable for use under bright lights or in direct sunlight, as they is no real glare.
- Resist fading from UV rays, meaning that they can be placed outside or in sunny locations.
- Color vibrancy from the metallic surface adds to the depth of color.
- Resists scratches and is very easy to clean fingerprints from.
- Cheaper than acrylic prints.
- Around 2mm thick, with no need for framing and can be hung directly.
- A very modern look, that works well in any room of your house, including bathrooms and kitchens.
The Benefits of Acrylic Prints
Acrylic prints give a real professional look to any photo, with the print originally made on photo paper then mounted under a block of acrylic. This provides many of the benefits of regular photo paper, plus a protective layer than increase longevity and can help to make the colors ‘pop’.
The benefits of Acrylic prints are:
- You get incredible light scatter, with light bouncing around inside the acrylic block and the mood of the photo changing as the light changes.
- Colors can seem to change with the lighting, which can look good, but is less suitable for a color managed print. Colors really ‘pop’ if you get the lighting just right though.
- Self-standing acrylic blocks are available, at 1-inch thick, or you can get a standard print with a .25-inch acrylic layer to hang as a regular print.
- Acrylic blocks can be stacked or placed in locations where you can’t hang a regular or metal print.
- Acrylic looks really high-end and solid.
- Deals with details very well, showing higher sharpness than metal prints and less texture.
Which is Better: Acrylic or Metal Prints?
Metal Prints are suitable for all-round use in any room, although might not display skin tones as well as acrylic, so are best for large-scale colorful landscapes.
Acrylic Prints should be placed out of direct light, in a low humidity room, and require more care and careful placement, but look stunning for all types of photo if you get the light just right.
Comparing a metal print vs acrylic print, it’s clear that both have their advantages, with a choice between them largely coming down to personal preference.
But there are a few qualities that mean that one is preferable in certain situations over the other.
In high-humidity rooms like bathrooms or kitchens, moisture in the air can cause mildew and discoloration on the photo paper behind the acrylic block, ruining your acrylic print in short order. Metal prints deal with moisture very well, by contrast, and can simply be wiped clean if they get wet.
Metal is also preferable for high traffic areas, and for households for children, as it resists scratching and can be easily wiped clean of fingerprints. Acrylic, as it is simply plastic, scratches very easily, and a simple scratch can really negatively affect the entire print.
Metal is also far more UV resistant, so can be placed in direct sunlight, and does not show glare or reflections at anything like the same rate as acrylic.
Overall, my personal preference is for a metal print for its ability to work in any room, under any lighting, although it is undeniable that if you can perfect the lighting and choose the right spot for your photo, acrylic will look absolutely stunning.