Acrylic prints and metal prints are booming in popularity and both are incredibly vivid and durable. But is there an objective difference between the two, and what situations should you use each type of print in?
How are acrylic and metal prints similar?
Metal and acrylic prints are both very durable, resistant to humidity, and can last over 100 years without fading. Both are also very easy to clean and can make any photograph really pop out and become the centerpiece of any room.
Acrylic prints are made by encasing photo paper in a block of acrylic. The thickness of the block depends on your preference. Once the photo paper is sealed behind acrylic blocks, it becomes virtually indestructible.
Metal prints are also very durable. Here, the ink is transferred from paper prints to a metal surface. Once the ink sticks to the metal, it does not come off.
One important caveat to remember with acrylic or metal prints, or indeed any photo print is the printing company you choose! A poor quality acrylic print or metal print will not have the same look and longevity as a high quality print.
Metal and acrylic prints are very similar in most respects. There are a few situations where one form of wall art is preferred over the other, which we’ll get to now.
Acrylic vs Metal Prints For Different Locations
Because acrylic prints have a layer of acrylic over the print, they can look stunning when light refracts through the acrylic layer. However, one caveat is that the high reflectivity of acrylic does cause it to produce glare at certain angles, especially in direct sunlight.
To avoid glare, stick to a metal print with a matte finish, as bright light will make the colors look great, and the matte finish will not give off a reflection.
Bathrooms and kitchens
Bathrooms and kitchens are notoriously high-humidity environments. Either a metal print or an acrylic print will work fine here because they’re both highly resistant to humidity. However, do consider the way you mount the wall art, as certain types of mounts tend to degrade in humid conditions more than others.
The best way to mount metal prints and acrylic prints in a humid room is to use standoffs. Standoffs themselves are quite water-resistant. They’ll also keep your print further from the wall, allowing for better air circulation.
Areas with lots of traffic
In case you plan on mounting your prints in an area with lots of foot traffic(like in an office, a store, a community center, or gallery displays), you can expect a lot of people to touch the surface.
Metal surfaces are the most resistant to fingerprints. Acrylic tends to attract fingerprints very easily, much like glass. Although they can easily be wiped off, it’s a hassle.
Additionally, acrylic prints can develop very tiny scratches over time, especially if people touch them while wearing watches or jewelry. Metal surfaces are much more scratch resistant.
Finally, metal prints can easily be mounted using standoffs, which are the most secure way to fix the print to a wall.
If you’re planning on using a photo for an outdoor display, metal prints are again your best bet. Both acyrlic and metal prints are UV-resistant(letting you put them in direct sunlight), metal prints will always have a slight edge in terms of durability.
There’s just one thing to consider: if you live in a very hot climate like a desert, the constant exposure to direct sunlight can make a metal print quite hot to the touch.
What effect are you going for?
Another deciding factor between an acrylic print and a metal print is the effect that you wish to convey with your art.
Metal prints, and especially HD metal prints do a great job of conveying a very modern look. If you’re into industrial design and lines, an HD metal print will look both sharp and modern.
In some types of metal prints, white surfaces or low saturation points in your photo actually remain as the metal itself, so that also gives a really nice effect.
If you’re not a huge fan of metal prints, then you can also opt for acrylic prints and mount them on the wall using standoffs to get those straight, sharp edges that seem to float off the wall.
For a classic look, we actually suggest opting for an acrylic print instead of a metal print. Acrylic prints are printed first on photo paper and then encased in acrylic blocks, which does a slightly better job of preserving the colors and vibrance than metal prints, even if they’re HD metal prints.
This is because in an HD metal print, areas of the photograph that are white or have very low saturation will actually not have muck ink at all: the brushed aluminum or metal surface will show instead.
While this looks really good, it may not give you the desired aesthetic for some types of photographs.
Finally, if you’re looking for vibrance and color saturation, acrylic prints are the way to go. An acrylic print has amazing colors, and the addition of a layer of acrylic will give your photograph an amazing effect.
Acrylic prints are quite complicated to produce compared to metal prints, too. All the care and complex steps involved in making acrylic prints really shows in the final product!
Acrylic vs Metal Prints: more comparisons
The whole point of encasing a photographic in an acrylic print or transferring it into a metal print is to make it virtually indestructible!
So if you’re planning to mount the print in a damage prone area(such as one accessible by pets or kids), you can rest easy knowing that your print will be able to handle any kind of onslaught!
In terms of durability, there is not much of a difference in metal vs acrylic prints. Both are far more durable than canvas prints, and they’ll last much, much longer than any other kind of print.
Acrylic prints are photo prints encased in a block of acrylic, and metal prints are made by transferring ink directly from a photo paper onto a treated metal sheet.
Acrylic prints are also virtually waterproof and very easy to clean. You just need to wipe them clean with a damp cloth and you’re good to go.
They’re also very resistant to UV rays.
Metal prints have all the advantages of acrylic prints, with one more: metal does not scratch as easily as acrylic does.
Acrylic is much softer than metal, after all, and if a lot of people touch the surface, it can accumulate scratches over time. Metal prints are more scratch-resistant.
Between acrylic and metal, which type of print offers better quality?
Essentially, both acrylic and metal have superior print quality. Acrylic prints do have a slight edge over metal prints, since the colors are captured a little better on photo paper than they are when printed directly onto the metal.
This will be more evident in high-contrast images. These will be much more vibrant and pop out of the print a little bit more than they would off of metal prints.
Additioannly, because there’s a bit of acrylic in front of the paper, the image gets a bit of a 3D effect which makes the image really pop out.
Acrylic pritns will also have a glossy finish by default because of the plastic. Metal prints are available both in glossy and matte finishes, though a glossy metal finish will have a more metallic sheen to it than a pure “glossy” finish.
However, metal pritns will not have any glare! So if you’re planning to put your print in an area where there is lots of direct light, the acrylic print will give off some glare, while the metal print will be easily visible from whatever angle you look at it.
Between acrylic prints and metal prints, which one is more versatile? This is where things get interesting!
While it depends on where you’re ordering the print from, both acrylic and metal prints are available in a huge variety of sizes from small prints you can place in a little nook to a huge print meant to be the centerpiece of any wall.
It’s better to use a metal print if you need to go really big. This is because acrylic prints can get quite heavy thanks to all that extra material. Metal prints are much lighter, especially if they are made from aluminum.
So if you’re planning to haul your prints around(like to and from art shows), stick to metal.
When it comes to small sizes, acrylic prints are usually available in smaller sizes than metal prints. You can also opt for acrylic block prints that you can just balance on any surface.
They make for a nice addition to any room!
Related: Lustre vs Glossy
It may surprise you to know that acrylic prints are actually more expensive than metal prints! That’s because the printing processes for acrylic prints is much more involved than metal. There’s also a lot more material used.
Metal prints are a little bit cheaper than acrylic prints.
Still, both types of prints are a lot more expensive than canvas prints, though you do get what you pay for in terms of durability, longevity, and quality.
So while you’ll need to have a bigger budget to get your photo printed on metal or in acrylic, if you’re looking to shave off a few dollars before you hit checkout, consider a metal print.
No matter whether you go for metal vs acrylic prints, both are amazing options and can make any photograph or art look really amazing.
Here’s a quick recap. Go for acrylic if:
- You want colors that really pop out
- You want a 3D effect
- You are mounting the photo in a location that’s not easily touchable
Go for metal if you:
- Want a modern, industrial look
- Want something that’s scratch-proof and indesctructible
- Want something that’s easier to transport
- Want to save a few dollars on your final purchase
Frequently asked questions
Do metal prints fade?
Metal prints do fade, but it takes a really, really long time for the fading to be noticeable.
Are acrylic prints waterproof?
Acrylic prints are 100% waterproof. The photograph is completely sealed in a block of aryclic, preventing any moisture from getting through.
How long do acrylic prints last?
Acrylic prints can last forever if you take good care of them. The surface may develop small scratches if constantly touched or brushed against, though.