Glass vs. Acrylic for Photography Framing

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.

About the author

author

Mark Rogers is an amateur photographer and the founder of Frame Destination, Inc. In 2004 Mark realized the framing industry was not keeping up with the evolution of photography via new digital technology and started Frame Destination in his garage. Now his company has thousands of do-it-yourself framing customers across the US that it helps with its 11,000 square feet production facility in Dallas, TX.

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