We get this question every once in a while. What is the difference between a canvas print and an acrylic print? There are some significant differences between the two and they both have advantages and disadvantages but before getting into those, let’s first cover the processes and materials that are involved with each of them.
Acrylic Photo Prints
There are several names that acrylic prints go by, including photo mount and acrylic face, while acrylic, in general, are often called perspex, lucite or plexiglass, which are just brand names for acrylic. Also, there are two distinct processes that are involved in creating acrylic prints – which involves direct printing onto a material versus printing on paper and is then face mounted to the acrylic (the print and acrylic have adhered with 1, 1/2, 1/4, or 1/8″ acrylic in front of the print). when it comes to the face mount process, it is a more expensive and difficult process, but it is definitely well worth it. Check out this 1/4″ acrylic ace mount that shows the bond backer and acrylic face with the print in between the two.
We strongly believe in the face mount method. It provides greater vibrancy and color pop along with color permanence (over time it is much less prone to fading). Photo colors always look their best when they are printed on photo paper that is a professional grade and the acrylic face mount takes full advantage of acrylic’s refractive quality which in the right lighting helps to illuminate your print. There is no other display technology that is able to match the acrylic face mount when it comes to vibrancy, and that is why the technique continues to become increasingly popular with professional photographers.
Although online pictures don’t really do it justice here is a shot of an acrylic print of ours using metallic paper. That adds even more vibrancy and pop behind the acrylic. The image is one 1/2″ acrylic. Especially in the right light, the acrylic offers incredible vibrancy.
The canvas printing process has been used for quite some time. It was first used as a type of offset printing process. However, canvas print in more recent times was created using inkjet printers or dye sublimation is what is usually referred to as giclee. Creating a traditional, old painting look is the goal with a digital photo. Many people love this style. The canvas gallery wrap has emerged as one of the most popular mainstream ways of presenting a photo since it is a lot less expensive than modern photo mounting or traditional mounting. With canvas gallery wraps, there is a canvas image that wraps around the fame and attached to the back to create a frameless piece. When done right it looks great still, but the colors have a textured look and are more muted.
To compare the two products, here is a closer look.
Durability (Advantage Acrylic)
The advantage here is with acrylic for both the methods of printing on acrylic directly and printing on paper and then face mounting behind. The acrylic provides UV protection, typically from 70 to 99% depending on the kind of acrylic that is used as well as moisture protection when it is going on acrylic with a direct print (not as much with face mount). That doesn’t mean that a canvas wrap does not offer any protection. You should check with your print shop, but most should be able to apply a post-print varnish that helps to protect against moisture and UV rays. What about dropping? For either medium, it is not recommended but canvas does have the advantage of being lightweight, so it does help to minimize the damage.
Acrylic is lighter than glass and is shatter resistant, but if it abused or dropped, it may chip in the edges or corners. However, all of our packages are bulletproofed, and shipping damage is quite rare. They are also fully covered with insurance. What about scratching? They are both vulnerable to scratching, but acrylic can be used that is scratch resistance at a much higher cost. As long as the print is cleaned properly, carefully hung, and packed well scratching should not be an issued.
Uniqueness (Advantage Acrylic)
This is much of a contest. The unanimous decision is acrylic. You obviously are familiar with the acrylic process to display your photos. Otherwise, you would not be reading this article. However, ask your co-workers, family, and friends, if they know what an acrylic face mount is and they will give you a confused and dazed look. Although the process is becoming increasingly popular it hasn’t made it to the mainstream yet. Photographers who are wanting to stand out have seen a lot of success using acrylic presentation. Whenever you walk inside of an art gallery and see one traditional framer after the next with a couple of canvas mixed in, and then you see one acrylic photo mount, it definitely stands out. In the appearance section, we will be covering this is a bit more depth.
Appearance (Depends On Preference, However, Acrylic Is Much More Impressive)
Appearance is definitely a matter of preference. It is definitely true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A vibrant, modern, and sleek look is provided by acrylic which looks fantastic in modern decors, while a more traditional look is provided by canvas. Think of it above Grandma’s fireplace or a log cabin out in the woods. Well, that might be somewhat of an exaggeration. However, canvas prints can work well in a modern decor also. With canvas prints, you can get a look that is purposefully grainy to provide it an oil painting appearance, while acrylic is vibrant and sharp especially when it is combined with metallic paper. Blacks are more pronounced, and the color gamut will show a 33% increase over canvas. The acrylic also offers a rare refractive property in light refracting inside the acrylic to provide a nearly 3-D appearance and greater color vibrancy as well.
Transportability (Advantage Canvas)
You hopefully won’t need to move art around a lot or, even better, no moving at all. I think all of us can agree that moving really suck. In terms of transportability, I give canvas the edge. It is lighter and most likely more scratch resistant compared to a majority of acrylics that are out there.
Price (Advantage Canvas)
In this department, canvas wins in a landslide. So, if you are on a strict budget, but would still like your photos to look nice, then the canvas is an excellent option that will cost around 50% less compared to an acrylic face mount.
Although we have made a few changes to our process and cannot reveal every single one of our techniques, here is a video that demonstrates our acrylic mount process which many people have found to be useful. We don’t recommend that you try this out at home.
The Bottom Line
If you do have a budget for acrylic, then it can be well worth the extra money and you won’t be disappointed, especially if you are a photographer who is attempting to sell your work. There is so much competition these days, it is critical to stand out in the crowd and demonstrate unique display techniques like acrylic photo mounting to provide your own wow factor to help you stand out.
Acrylic prints in a corporate setting will provide a more professional, higher-end look. First impressions mean everything and acrylic truly makes a statement. That is why many are referring to acrylic mounts as the next big thing when it comes to photo displays.