Acrylic vs Metal Prints: Which Should You Choose (and Why)?

Acrylic vs Metal Prints: Which Should You Choose (and Why)?

Which is better, acrylic vs metal prints? Which product will make your photos stand out and shine?

Acrylic prints look gorgeous, but are they right for you?

As an experienced photographer, I’ve done my fair share of printing – so I’m well-placed to give you advice. In this article, I’m going to cover:

The key differences (and similarities) between acrylic and metal printsWho should purchase an acrylic printWho should purchase a metal print

So if you’re ready to determine the perfect print type for your needs, let’s get started!

A colorful metal print

Acrylic vs Metal: Table of ContentsAcrylic Prints vs Metal Prints: OverviewDurabilityVersatilityQualityPriceVerdict: Which Is Best, Acrylic Prints vs Metal Prints?

Acrylic Prints vs Metal Prints: Overview

Acrylic and metal prints have become popular in recent years, thanks to their versatility, durability, and just all-around stunning aesthetic.

While there are different methods of creating acrylic prints, companies usually start with a top-quality photo print, which is then mounted to the back of a sheet of plexiglass. The result is modern and vibrant:

A vivid acrylic print

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Ditto for metal prints, which come in several forms. The highest-quality version of metal printing involves transferring inks from paper to metal for a gorgeous looking piece of decor:

Metal prints look all-around amazing.

Related Post: Best Metal Print Producers Compared

In fact, out of all the popular print products, metal and acrylic are the most similar, and they both offer beautiful prints that are bound to impress. 

But there are also some key differences between the two print types, especially in terms of durability, quality, and price – so as we go through this article, I’m going to give you a thorough rundown of metal and acrylic products and why you might want to choose one over the other.

Note: There are dozens of acrylic and metal print manufacturers. Many of them do a great job, but others produce poor products – so even once you’ve chosen between acrylic vs metal prints, you’ll need to carefully select your printing company. Otherwise, you won’t experience the benefits of either acrylic or metal prints; the prints won’t look great, they won’t last for long, and you’ll end up dissatisfied.

Now let’s take a closer look at the different features of acrylic and metal prints, starting with: 

Durability

Acrylic and metal prints are designed for durability, and in general, both perform very, very well. 

Acrylic products are covered with a plexiglass sheet, which provides UV resistance and makes the print waterproof. This is perfect for a number of reasons; first, you can display your acrylic print in high humidity environments, such as bathrooms and basements. 

Acrylic prints tend to be pretty durable.

Second, you can easily clean your acrylic print. Did a child get mucky fingerprints all over the front? No worries – just whip out a cloth and rub away the dirt. Has dust begun to accumulate on the surface of your print? You can towel it off without worry.

As you can imagine, acrylic prints are also rip-proof and tear-proof, which makes them ideal for homes with young children or rambunctious pets. Compared to, say, canvas prints, acrylic prints offer major peace of mind; when an image is covered by plexiglass, damage isn’t a huge issue.

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But while acrylic products are plenty durable and can handle lots of damage, metal prints take this a step farther. 

Like acrylic prints, metal prints resist fading. Like acrylic prints, metal prints are waterproof, which makes them suitable for bathrooms and basements. (In fact, I’ve heard it argued that metal prints are slightly more waterproof than acrylic prints, because they’re pure metal, whereas acrylic prints do include photo paper in the package.) They’re also rip-proof and tear-proof and pretty much everything-proof, because they’re metal.

Metal prints go above and beyond.

Unlike acrylic prints, metal prints are scratch-resistant, so you can worry less about accidental damage during a move or a trip. 

And thanks to metal prints’ uniquely durable construction, if you’re planning on hanging one outdoors, I’d definitely recommend metal over acrylic.

Ultimately, while both acrylic prints and metal prints are durable enough for most purposes, metal has the slight edge.

Versatility

Which is more versatile, metal vs acrylic prints? 

Honestly, both products are pretty customizable. For instance, acrylic and metal manufacturers offer a handful of different mount options, so you can get various levels of sturdiness depending on where you’re planning on hanging your print. And there’s a huge array of sizes, from tiny 4x6s all the way up to 3×2’’ and beyond. 

Though if you’re planning to print big – here, I’m talking four-foot-by-five-foot big – metal print manufacturers do tend to have more options, so that’s certainly worth keeping in mind (though it’ll really depend on the printing company you use). 

On the other hand, acrylic products add a bit of versatility on the small end, thanks to the invention of acrylic blocks; these are tiny, thick acrylic prints that stand on their own:

Blocks are a fun little acrylic product.

As I’ll discuss in a moment, I do think that metal prints are slightly more universal in their appeal. They work with most surroundings – that is, they go with most interior design styles – whereas acrylic prints require a more modern look.

Metal prints are also far lighter than their acrylic counterparts. While the specifics depend on the manufacturer, an acrylic print is often quite hefty; this limits your ability to take acrylic prints of your work to art shows and gallery displays. Whereas a metal print (or two, or three, or more) can be transported more easily.

Quality

If you’re trying to decide on the perfect print type for your needs, I’m betting that quality (and overall look) is a huge deal. After all, you’re after a print that’s sharp, vibrant, and jaw-droppingly beautiful, right?

So which print type, metal vs acrylic, offers better quality?

Assuming you pay for a good manufacturer, both metal prints and acrylic prints will turn out great. But metal does feature a more refined look, which is why it works well pretty much anywhere, from homes and offices to coffee shops and galleries. Plus, colors are nice, details look sharp, and the entire print displays a beautiful, metallic sheen.

A beautiful metal print

That said, there’s something truly special about acrylic prints, thanks to the classic acrylic look. You see, because acrylic prints feature an unusual amount of material in front of the print, they seem weirdly deep, almost 3D. It’s enough to draw the eye of any viewer, and it’s certainly a great feature if you’re aiming to impress friends or clients. 

Also, acrylic prints are known for their incredible vibrancy; they take standard colors and make them pop like crazy, which is why acrylic products are superb for colorful outdoor shots, such as sunsets, fields of flowers, and more. 

A vibrant, lush acrylic print

Yes, acrylic prints tend to look better in a business than in the average home. But if you’re a fan of the sleek, modern look, or if you’ve got unusually vibrant photos that could use a little extra spice, acrylic is the way to go.

One last point to note:

Acrylic prints do suffer from glare. While this can be a problem with metal prints, as well, it’s much less common – whereas acrylic prints, when placed near a light source, reflect light in every direction. This can be minimized by careful placement, but it’s certainly an annoyance!

Price

Acrylic prints and metal points are both on the pricier side, relatively speaking. 

Canvas prints are cheaper than both of the above options. And paper prints are even more of a money-saver, though you’ll end up paying a lot if you decide to have them matted and/or framed.

But of the two options, which is better priced?

While acrylic prints aren’t majorly expensive compared to metal prints, there is a noticeable difference, and acrylic prints do cost more than metal prints. So if you’re focused on your budget and you like both options, just go with metal to keep the costs down. 

Verdict: Which Is Best, Acrylic Prints vs Metal Prints?

Now that you’ve finished this article, you know all about acrylic vs metal prints – and that each type is great for a different type of customer.

Acrylic vs metal prints: Which should you pick?

In general, I’d recommend acrylic prints for those who:

Prefer a modern, sleek styleTake colorful, detailed photosLove the 3D acrylic effectWant a print that looks like quality

Whereas I’d recommend metal prints for those who:

Are after a one-size-fits-all style (that still retains a modern bent)Require a durable print for outdoor or high-humidity environmentsAre aiming to keep the price down

So pick your print type. And go ahead and order your prints!

Are acrylic or metal prints better? That depends on the scenario and on your personal preferences. Acrylic prints are stunningly vibrant and offer a lovely 3D effect. But metal prints are more durable, and they look great, and they’re cheaper, too. Really, you should ask yourself: What do I actually plan to do with my prints? And make a decision based on your final answer.

Are acrylic prints any good? Absolutely! Acrylic prints, when done right, look incredible. They feature a 3D effect, plus mouthwatering colors. Of course, there are some bad acrylic printers out there, but there are plenty of acrylic prints hung up in galleries and in art shows. 

Are metal prints worth it? That depends on what you plan to do with your metal print. Metal prints offer several advantages over more traditional prints, such as the durable material, the display-anywhere flexibility, the beautiful final look, and more. Whether any of these reasons compels you to pay extra money is based on your own needs. 

Do metal prints fade? Unfortunately, metal prints do fade. Fortunately, this takes an exceedingly long time.

Are acrylic prints shiny? Acrylic prints are generally shiny. In fact, this is a major complaint of acrylic owners: they’re full of unwanted glare, which seriously affects the viewing experience. Metal prints, on the other hand, don’t have much glare at all (assuming you get the right surface).