When you picture a traditional picture frame, you likely imagine a wood or metal frame with a solid glass cover. It’s been used by our mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers and it surrounds us to this day. Glass certainly has some great characteristics when it comes to displaying and protecting our favorite photos and works of art, but modern technology has produced an alternative that better fits our needs: Acrylic glass.
What is Acrylic Glass for Picture Frames?
Acrylic is a glass alternative that has gained popularity as a framing material. You may know it as Acrylite® or Plexiglas®, which are brands of the same thermoplastic scientifically known as Polymethyl Methacrylate (aka PMMA). It’s hard, flexible, lightweight, and even recyclable. Acrylic glass does a great job of providing clarity as well as protection, and that makes it especially beneficial when it comes to showcasing and preserving photographs and artwork.
Downfalls of Glass
Acrylic glass is a popular framing option for many photographers and artists. Traditional glass, though still a popular option for framing, can be incredibly heavy, which makes larger display pieces a risk. Big or small, all glass comes with the same risks should the art fall. Glass shards can cause damage that can’t be repaired, and this is a big cause for concern when it comes to displaying and preserving original pieces. Many museums and galleries will not use traditional glass in expensive or irreplaceable artwork due to the risk of glass slicing the artwork if the frame is dropped or hit.
While picture frame glass is a good option for some projects, it can affect picture quality. Though many people don’t realize it, glass isn’t truly clear—it has a green tint from iron content. This affects the clarity and color perception of art framed behind glass. Unless treated, glass used in frames also allows fading over time caused by damaging UV rays passing through the glass. UV protecting treatments on glass are available but can fade over time since they are applied to the surface of the glass. If preservation and protection is a concern, glass may not be the best option.
Benefits of Acrylic
Acrylic glass is lightweight and shatter resistant, eliminating the potential for damage during transportation or surprise falls. It’s a great insulator too, decreasing the risk of damage from condensation beneath the frame.
Acrylic is optically superior, naturally without tinting commonly seen in glass. This optical purity makes it a great option for displaying and protecting framed photos and art. Since it is an artificially created glass alternative, special treatment options can be applied to protect against common glass issues, such as light glare and UV penetration. Acrylic glass from framing is available in Standard, UV-filtered, Non-Glare, and UV-Non-Glare, allowing for a full range of aesthetic and protective qualities. Unlike exterior treatments found on glass, these protective features are incorporated into the acrylic product, making it less prone to breakdown over time.
Since acrylic is more lightweight and flexible than glass, it can bow over time. It’s also much more vulnerable to scratching than glass, so it’s imperative that acrylic only be cleaned with gentle microfiber clothes. Because of the risk of scratching, this framing option is best used in minimal contact situations. Acrylic glass is also more prone to issues with static, making this the wrong option for charcoal-based art.
While acrylic glass has greater clarity than traditional framing glass, reduced-iron glass takes optical purity to a higher, albeit more costly, level. Purity can also be affected by a slight yellow tint in UV filter protection and the loss of sharpness in Non-Glare Acrylic Glass.
When It Works Best
Acrylic glass is a great option for framing original art pieces because there’s no fear of tears or punctures from broken glass. Larger artwork and photos do especially well with acrylic framing because of the reduced weight risk. Keepsake photos from wedding albums, professional shoots, and special events are also well-paired with acrylic glass as you can opt for UV protection to allow for clarity while reducing the penetration of the sun’s rays.