Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I would like to order custom frames from an online supplier and they come with 1mm acrylic (plexi) instead of glass. The frames will be 16"x20" or larger. Is the 1mm acrylic a good choice here? Some of my unknowns are is it rigid, sooth and completely transparent? Will it bow or show uneven reflections, etc. Basically, is a suitable choice for framing of photos this size? This particular glass has no UV protection or anti glare. It's a standard, entry-level product. I would really appreciate actual experiences with this material.

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I'd also be concerned about scratches. Plexi is much softer than glass. –  mattdm Oct 8 '12 at 16:12
    
i recently bought some picture frames from ikea (the cheapest ones) and they come with sort-of 1mm acrylic front. It comes protected on both sides by a peelable translucent film. It is very similar to glass on ordinary reflecting conditions, and hanging on the wall, i imagine it's not going to get too much scratches. –  JoséNunoFerreira Oct 8 '12 at 17:22
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Acrylic a good choice if treated well. Are you SURE it is acrylic? Could be eg Polycarbonate. Acrylic has excellent light transmission properties but is brittle - breaks more eaily than some. Long exposure (years) to bright light and weathering & mechanical abrasion etc can cause crazing of surface - good it in indirect light. More easily marked than som Not an issue if hing on wall. So - A' is less good tha P mechanically but excellent optically. A is used in concentrator photo voltaics at many suns intensity. P has ~= 5% light loss. A usually much less. vVen 10% is not discernible to eye. –  Russell McMahon Oct 9 '12 at 1:29
    
Thanks @RussellMcMahon - i think it is acrylic. The desciption provided on the site is "1mm acrylic (plexi)". 3mm optional. Can you make your comment an answer? –  Jakub Oct 9 '12 at 12:27
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FWIW, Plexiglas, Lucite and Perspex are all trade names for polymethyl methacrylate (acrylic). –  Blrfl Oct 9 '12 at 14:12

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Acrylic that thin is fine for small prints (11x14" or smaller) and tolerable for larger ones if you watch out for a couple of things:

Thin acrylic isn't particularly rigid, which means the front of your print gets less support than it will with glass. This gets worse as the print gets bigger, and thicker material will bring some of the rigidity back. You can make up for some of it with a sufficiently-thick (and stable) backing and enough of a lip up front to hold everything securely in place. Inexpensive frames come up short on this, and support for the print at the edges and corners will wane over time unless you have a whole lot of clips along the inside perimeter. Having your lab mount your prints on styrene will help with this, too.

If you intend for these frames to last awhile, I would recommend treating the outward-facing surface with a plastic cleaner and protectant such as Plexus or Novus Plastic Clean and Shine. These will help the surface resist dust and smudges, cutting down on the need for cleaning and opportunities for scratching.

Once hanging on the wall, you can't really tell it from glass without touching it or getting up close enough to see how far back the print is from the surface. I have a couple of posters in frames with acrylic that have been hanging for 20 years. The material has done fine, but I have had the support problems mentioned above.

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It should also be noted that Acrylic is not as good at filtering UV light than glass, and I don't believe acrylic survives as long itself in the presence of UV light (i.e. sunlight.) So above and beyond the simple rigidity and support concerns with Acrylic, your photos might not last as long (fade earlier.) –  jrista Oct 9 '12 at 21:51
    
Thanks @jrista - good point, although longevity and fading are not my primary concerns. This particular supplier also offers UV protected acrylic but according to what I've read this is at an expense of decreased transparency. Transparency is important to me (first impression); I've been framing with glass which often isn't transparent enough (good custom glass is also heavy and quite expensive) Weight is a concern as some of my framed photos are now so heavy I have to make sure I use adequate wall anchors - I almost feel it's unsafe for the buyers. –  Jakub Oct 10 '12 at 12:41
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@Jakub: If transparency is your concern, then it's not so much that glass is not transparent, it's that it is reflective. You need to get multicoated glass to improve "transparency", or mitigate reflections. That is usually called museum glass, and yes, it's expensive, but it's also amazing. –  jrista Oct 10 '12 at 13:49

protected by John Cavan Nov 4 '13 at 9:13

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