Glass vs. Acrylic for Photography Framing

Written by Mark Rogers

Making a decision about what type of glazing to use in a framed item causes a surprising amount of consternation. The most common question is whether to use glass or acrylic for the picture frame glazing. However, the decision really goes far beyond just glass vs. acrylic. Even seasoned framers need to evaluate the best option for every job.

First, understand the purpose of glazing. It is often the last choice made in the framing process, and some even choose to forego it. However, glazing covers and protects everything within the frame. Without it, artwork risks deterioration due to exposure to temperature changes, humidity levels, UV radiation, and even dirt and spills.

Here we examine a variety of aspects and benefits of glass and acrylic, and we lay out some pointers on making the best decision for which type of frame glazing you need.

  • Picture Frame Glass is most commonly used for inexpensive, off the shelf, ready-made frames because it is inexpensive. It often has a greenish tint though, which can affect quality when viewing the framed image.
  • The green tint seen in inexpensive glass comes from the material’s higher iron content. Perfectly clear glass is available as a “high end” material that is sometimes referred to as water white or museum glass.
  • Acrylic is used almost exclusively by mail order or Internet framing companies, because it usually will not break during shipping. It perfectly serves the needs of most normal framing applications.
  • Most acrylic glazing is about 1/10” thick, while extra clear and regular glass are about 1/16” thick.
  • At Frame Destination, we sell both glass and acrylic, but we limit the size of the glass we ship to 24×28 inches to help reduce the chance of shipping damage.
  • Acrylic is also lighter than glass, which reduces the shipping cost.
  • Acrylic glazing comes in several forms, standard (no coatings, tint, or matte finish), UV filter acrylic (blocks up to 98% of Ultraviolet radiation, which helps reduce picture fading), and non-glare (a matte finish that reduces reflection and glare, making images more easily visible in poor light).
  • Reduced ultra-violet glazing has a component that blocks UV rays from reaching art or photos, thus prolonging their life.
  • Custom frame shops mostly use glass unless the frame is larger than 32×40.
  • For larger works, many custom frame shops use acrylic glazing because glass is very heavy when cut to large dimensions. Beyond that, you have to make sure the frame can handle the weight of the glass.
  • When hanging large pieces of art, especially those with glass glazing, you must ensure the wall behind the piece is capable of supporting it. Along the same lines, the wall hanging hardware also has to be able to handle the extra weight of the chosen glazing.
  • Many museums prefer acrylic to glass, because if the glass breaks, it can slice and destroy rare artwork. This may be a consideration for galleries as well causing them, to choose acrylic over glass because of reduced liability issues. Even some home installations warrant consideration of acrylic glazing, such as for pieces hung in children’s rooms or where vibrations from closing doors or breezes from open windows may create issues.
  • Anti-glare glazing optimizes viewing of pieces under bright light conditions.
  • One drawback of acrylic glazing is cost: it is more expensive than standard glass.
  • Acrylic scratches easily, and requires some special care when cleaning and handling it. The wood pulp in paper towels is enough to scratch the surface of acrylic glazing, so cleaning should be done only using microfiber cloths.
  • Acrylic is flexible, which means it is less likely to break than glass, but this also means it may bow or bend within a frame over time.

Making the correct glazing choice for a frame requires research and an understanding of both materials. Take the time to consider the best option for each framed piece by considering size, location, and budget. For a comprehensive break down of the pros and cons of both acrylic and glass:

  1. Consult the extensive review of acrylic glazing information on our website.
  2. Read more about the benefits of acrylic glazing on one of our other blog posts.
  3. In 2013, we expanded our line of framing glass sizes to up to 24×28 sizes. To learn more about our wide array of available glass sizes, please see the new larger framing glass sizes post.
  4. Make sure you understand the importance of how to properly clean acrylic.

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7 thoughts on “Glass vs. Acrylic for Photography Framing”

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  • Easy Signs inc
    Easy Signs inc March 16, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    Indeed a good piece of information and the whole comparison between the glass Vs Acrylic for photography framing has been comprehensively explained.

  • […] Destination has a great discussion on glass versus acrylic and the various types of each: see Acrylic Picture Framing Information. I personally like acrylic for its lightness and unbreakability, but it does scratch easily. (Do […]

  • Kapoor Plastics
    Kapoor Plastics May 26, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Helpful and informative post, Each and every point is described beautifully.

  • Types Of Photo Frames: Preserving Memorable Photog - La Poma de Ponent August 3, 2017 at 3:32 am

    These types of photo frames are unique in that they make the picture stand out, without any decorative elements of the frame that may serve as distractions. If you have a professionally-taken photograph of yourself or one of your family members, you can have it stand alone in a glass frame. The artistic elements of the photograph will be the only one to carry the appeal of the image. A simple glass frame will do much to highlight the images of your family members, providing a clear view of their physical traits, or even their implied personalities in the photo. Glass frames do that. They provide the simplicity of both art and function, making your photo frames stand out.However, because of their simplicity and their function in highlighting a picture, only people portraits tend to blend and function well with glass frames. Group pictures or random impromptu shots may not be so ideal for a glass picture frame. Here’s an interested side piece about Glass and Acrylic frames.

  • Ultra thin frames
    Ultra thin frames September 14, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    Very nice post! The description regarding glass and acrylic has really been amazing. Thanks a lot! It is good to know that framing process is being involved in this industry. These photos are actually amazing and useful. I like this unique idea you have provided here.

  • David Norriss

    I like how you mentioned that because acrylic is durable, it is mostly used by mail-order companies. It most likely won't break which is perfect for me. I want to send my mom a framed picture of me and my siblings for Christmas but I was afraid that it would break while being shipped to her. I'll replace the glass with some acrylic and hopefully, that will be able to survive the being shipped.

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