Just about anything you’d want to put on your wall—be it fine art or family photos—looks better in a picture frame. It adds elegance and order to your home or office and protects the originals from dust and, in some cases, UV light. In addition, frames extend the life of your artwork or photos, showing others that you’re the sort of person who makes an effort to do things right.
As much as choosing the right frame and backing is essential, so is choosing the right transparent cover to protect your display and bring out its best features.
Acrylic vs. Glass
There are generally two types of material used for covers in frames—acrylic and glass. While glass is often seen as the traditional choice, acrylic sheet like P-99 acrylic is swiftly overtaking glass in popularity for a number of reasons.
Here, we break down what each material has to offer.
There are three features of acrylic that make it a popular choice for frames: strength, lightness, and clarity.
Glass can break easily when dropped or accidentally hit with something. As a result, it’s particularly vulnerable when a framed piece is being shipped. In contrast, professional framers are highly skilled and extremely careful when shipping pieces and delivery services can often be less trustworthy regarding fragile materials. For this reason, many professional framers will recommend acrylic covers when shipping a piece. It’s also why many people who hang work in high-traffic areas choose acrylic so that any accidental bumping won’t result in shards of sharp glass hitting the floor.
Acrylic is also lighter than glass. This makes hanging easier and puts less strain on hooks or other mounts. Large plates of glass for certain oversized pieces can end up cracking from stress over a lengthy amount of time. Acrylic’s lightweight features also mean it’s less expensive to ship.
Finally, acrylic enjoys greater clarity. Unless it’s of a particular museum-quality make, glass can have a slight greenish tint. While a casual viewer may not notice a tint, a professional surely would. If you want your photos or artwork to remain as true as possible, you’re more likely to get that with acrylic.
If glare is a concern, non-glare acrylic is recommended for picture frames. When pressed flush against the artwork, the acrylic becomes 100% transparent without glare.
As for disadvantages, at 160 degrees, acrylic has a lower melting point than glass and could conceivably warp when exposed to extreme temperatures for a long time. It’s also more complicated than glass to recycle.
Where you buy your picture frame glass can affect the quality of your display piece. Box stores will likely have standard glass, which could have a tint and be more breakable. However, a professional frame shop will offer “museum glass” or “conservation glass,” which is considered more professional and will give you better quality.
That said, glass can still be quite fragile—except for scratches. Acrylic tends to scratch more easily. Because of this, you have to take greater care when cleaning acrylic than glass. While glass can be cleaned with many standard glass cleaners and paper towels, acrylic should only be cleaned with a microfiber cloth and, at most, a mild soap.
Glass’s overall heavier weight is a concern as well. While it may not be much of a problem for small framed pieces, the difference can be significant for large pieces. For example, an 18x24-inch plate of glass will be much heavier than an acrylic covering of the same size.
Does Acrylic Yellow Over Time?
World War II bombers used acrylic plexiglass for canopies, which are still clear today. Because of its chemical makeup, acrylic made in the United States is UV-resistant and will not yellow after prolonged exposure to sunlight. It also protects your photos and artwork from UV-related fading.
While it’s true that antique glass can yellow after extended exposure to the sun, glass sold today is of a higher quality—particularly glass used in frames. So when comparing acrylic and glass for yellowing, they come out equal.
What About Cost?
When considering prices for coverings, acrylic comes out to be a little more expensive. Still, the benefits that acrylic covers deliver can outweigh the cost difference for many purchasers. The lower costs associated with shipping, and acrylic being less likely to break, can often make the extra expense worth it.
Purchasing Acrylic Sheets For Picture Frames
Piedmont Plastics offers standard and non-glare acrylic sheet in sizes that fit most picture frames. Review our online inventory of acrylic sheet and choose from a selection of standard thicknesses, widths, and lengths. In addition, our branches provide cut-to-size services for most materials if you need something special.
Let us be your go-to source. Contact us today!