Acrylic Prints Vs Canvas Prints

It’s a question we get every so often.. what is the difference between an acrylic print and a canvas print?  There are significant differences and advantages/disadvantages to both but before we get into those let’s discuss the materials and process involved in each.

Acrylic Photo Prints
The acrylic print is referred to by several names such as acrylic face or photo mount and the general acrylic name is often referred to as plexiglas (plexiglass), lucite or perspex which are just brand names of acrylic (everything you wanted to know about acrylic here!).  There are also two distinct processes of creating an acrylic print – direct printing on to the material vs printing onto paper and then face mounting to acrylic (the acrylic and print are adhered with 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 or 1″ acrylic in front of the print.  The face mount process is a more difficult process and more expensive, but well worth it.  Here’s a look at a 1/4″ acrylic face mount showing the acrylic face and dibond backer with the print sandwiched in between.

We are firm believers in the face mount method which provides greater color pop and vibrancy as well as color permanence (ie far less prone to fading over time).  Photo colors always look best printed on professional grade photo paper and the acrylic face mount takes advantage of the refractive quality of acrylic which helps to illuminate your print in the right lighting.  No other display technique can match an acrylic face mount in terms of vibrancy which is why this technique continues to grow in popularity among professional photographers.

While pictures online don’t really do them justice here’s a shot of one of our acrylic prints using metallic paper which adds even more color pop and vibrancy behind acrylic.   This image is of our thick 1/2″ acrylic.  You can see the incredible vibrancy the acrylic offers particularly in the right light.

acrylic print + metallic paper

Canvas Prints

corner of canvas printThe canvas print process has been around for a long time first using an offset printing process, but in more recent times canvas prints are created by dye sublimation or inkjet printers in what is commonly referred to as giclee.  The goal is to create the oil painting, old-fashioned look from a digital photography and many people like this style.  The canvas gallery wrap has become one of the popular mainstream ways to present a photo because it’s much cheaper than traditional framing and modern photo mounting.  With a canvas gallery wrap, the canvas image wraps around the frame and is attached to the back creating a frameless piece.  It still looks great if done right, but colors are more muted and has a textured look.


Here’s a closer look at how the two products compare.

Durability (Advantage Acrylic)
Acrylic has the advantage here for both the print directly on acrylic and print on paper then face mount behind acrylic methods.  The acrylic provides UV protection typically from 70 – 99% depending on the type of acrylic used and 100% moisture protection if going with a direct print on acrylic (less so with face mount).  That’s not to say there is no protection with a canvas wrap.  You’ll want to ask your print shop, but I’d imagine most will apply a post-print varnish to help protect against UV rays and moisture.  How about dropping?  Well, not recommended for either medium, but canvas has the advantage of being light so damage is minimized 🙂  Acrylic is shatter resistant and lighter than glass, but it can chip in the corners or edge if dropped or abused (FedEx and UPS I’m talking to you!)  That said we bulletproof all our packages and shipping damage is rare as well as fully covered by insurance.  How about scratching?  Both are vulnerable to scratching, but you can use acrylic that is scratch resistant at a considerably higher cost (we have a TruLife acrylic that offers scratch resistance).  Scratching shouldn’t be an issue at all provided the print is packed well, carefully hung and cleaned properly (ie using a damp, soft micro fiber cloth).

Uniqueness (Advantage Acrylic)
Not much of a contest here.  Acrylic in a unanimous decision.  Obviously, you’ve heard of the acrylic process for displaying your photos or you wouldn’t be reading this 🙂  But ask your friends, family and co-workers if they have ever heard of an acrylic face mount and you’ll get a dazed look of confusion.  While the process is becoming more popular it still hasn’t hit the mainstream yet.  Photographers looking to stand out from the crowd are having great success with the acrylic presentation.  When you walk into an art gallery and see traditional frame after traditional frame with a few canvases mixed in, then see an acrylic photo mount, it does stand out.  We’ll get into that a bit more in the appearance section.

[UPDATE:  this article was originally written 5 years ago and since that time we’ve seen an explosion in the number of companies offering acrylic prints .. almost all are direct printing to acrylic and you can even get one at Costco!  Please note though that not all acrylic prints are created equally and you get what you pay for.  Quite a few now or even coming from China and India.  Before considering purchasing an acrylic print please read our Acrylic Prints Buyer Guide.]

Appearance (Depends On Preference, But Acrylic More Impressive By Far)
No doubt, appearance is a matter of preference.  Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.  Acrylic provides a sleek, modern and vibrant look which looks terrific in modern decors while canvas provides more of an old-fashioned look.  Think a log cabin the woods or above Grandma’s fireplace 🙂  Ok that may be a bit of an exaggeration .. canvas can work in a modern decor too.  With the canvas print, you get a purposefully grainy look to give it the oil painting look, while acrylic is sharp and vibrant particularly when combined with metallic paper.  The blacks will be much more pronounced and you’ll see a 33% increase in color gamut over canvas.  In addition, the acrylic provides a rare refractive property in that light refracts within the acrylic to provide that near 3-D look and greater color vibrancy.

Transportability (Advantage Canvas)
Hopefully, you won’t have to do much moving of art or any moving at all for that matter.  I think we can all agree that moving sucks!  I’ll give the edge to canvas in the transportability department.  It’s lighter and probably a bit more scratch resistant than most acrylics.

Price (Advantage Canvas)
Canvas in a landslide.  If you’re on a budget, but still want a nice look for your photos, canvas is a great option that will cost about 50% less than an acrylic face mount.

While we have changed a couple things in our process and can’t reveal ALL our techniques, here’s a video demonstrating our acrylic face mount process that many have found very helpful.  No we don’t recommend you try this at home 🙂

Note About Glare: Since it comes up with this video in particular, I wanted to touch on the reflections a bit.  This video was shot opposite massive picture windows so unfortunately, it doesn’t show the vibrancy as well as we would have liked.  There will be glare with the acrylic just as there is with glass and for most people, this is not an issue.  If it does bother you, we have a Trulife (25% glare reduction) and a P99 (about 75% reduction) available and both maintain good color vibrancy.  Many of the anti-glare, anti-reflective acrylics really diminish vibrancy.

The Bottom Line
If you have the budget for acrylic it’s well worth the extra cash and you will not be disappointed, particularly if you’re a photographer trying to sell your work.  With so much competition today, it’s imperative to stand out from the crowd and unique display techniques such as acrylic photo mounting provide that unique wow factor that will help you stand out in the crowd.

In corporate settings, acrylic prints will provide a higher end, more professional look.  First impressions are everything and acrylic will make a statement.  There is a reason that many are calling acrylic mounts the next big thing in photo displays (actually it’s been around for a long time, but far from the mainstream).

For families, the decision is more difficult and we understand that cost is a big factor which is why we have a nice first order discount of 20% or 50% (see sign up at lower left), volume discounts of 15-20% and permanent discounting for our loyal customers.  The canvas prints are much more budget friendly for families that want to stretch the art budget a bit farther.

If you have your mind set on going with acrylic, then you’ll want to check out our feature article on what to look for when searching for an acrylic printing service since there are many companies now offering these and producing them in quite a few different ways.   Here is our acrylic product page with more details, photos, video and pricing.

If your decision is canvas, we have you covered here too!  See the canvas prints product details here.  We can do up to 60×40″ and offer a .75″ or 1.5″ frame thickness.

Alternatives To Acrylic & Canvas (Metal Prints, Bamboo, Birch, Aluminum, Dibond & Gatorfoam)
What if the acrylic print isn’t in the budget or you don’t care for the canvas look?  You’re in luck!  At Bumblejax we provide a range of options to meet just about any budget and style preference.

Metal Prints – great vibrancy, color richness at a more affordable price over acrylic
Bamboo – beautiful, eco-friendlier product but priced similarly to acrylic
Birch – this is our more budget-friendly wood photo mount product
Aluminum – your photo printed and mounted to 100% raw aluminum
Dibond – basically the same look and thickness as the aluminum product but about 25% cheaper
Gatorfoam – our cheapest product if on a tight budget .. just be careful with these since it’s more fragile

For a detailed look at all our products and more guidance on what product is best for you please consult our buyers guide or contact us.

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Comments (10)

  • glewis1

    Acrylic really pops, that’s true, but to me it just seems like people are so used to seeing tv screens that they identify with it more (because it looks like you’re hanging a tv on the wall… The glare alone is enough for me to not like it. Except for a very modern room

    March 25, 2013 at 6:22 pm
  • Bumblejax

    Hi glews1.. There will be glare at the right angles, but I think this concern is overblown. We’ve produced thousands of these acrylic prints and maybe a handful of people express concern about glare. Some like to spend the extra money to purchase non glare acrylic, but in our testing even the most expensive non glare acrylic will produce glare. People have been using traditional frames with glass for a long time and the glare on the glass hasn’t been an issue for 99% of people. If no glare is an absolute must, then it’s always recommended to opt for photo mount on aluminum, bamboo or gatorfoam where only a laminate is over the print. Softer look, no glare with these options, but not as dramatic particularly with striking, vibrant images.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:04 pm
  • Mark Smith

    Actually I like Canvas better. Looks more classic. No one even has acrylic or really sells it at stores. Not because it’s too expensive it’s just plain and simple that 95% of the public like the classic look of canvas. I think people would spend a couple hundred bucks if they really liked acrylic better. It’s not about the money. Notice how you never see mass sales of acrylic on groupon.

    November 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm
  • PinkGirl

    In my opinion, only original oil or acrylic paintings look good on canvas. This process has a very sleek, cool look for a copy.

    August 23, 2014 at 2:23 am
  • Ericka Grabovsky

    Here, it says that one of the processes of creating an acrylic print is “direct printing on to the material.” It does not specify the material? Pretty sure an associate said it is acrylic. Please let me know. Thanks

    February 16, 2015 at 9:04 am
  • Bumblejax

    Hi Ericka, yes some companies print directly to the acrylic. We do not. We print to paper first then face mount.

    February 17, 2015 at 11:27 pm
  • Ericka Grabovsky

    Thanks for clarifying the material and the specific process you use too

    February 18, 2015 at 1:51 pm
  • Andy

    Is it a bad idea to hang a face mounted acrylic print in the bathroom? I’m wondering how moisture-resistant they are because when I take a shower, my bathroom gets very steamy, hot and humid.


    March 9, 2016 at 10:34 pm
  • Bumblejax

    Hi Andy, we have quite a few customers hanging these in bathrooms with no issues but I’d imagine these bathroom are fairly well ventilated. If you have a small bathroom with poor ventilation I’d be concerned about it causing issues down the road. The print is sandwhiched air tight in between the acrylic and dibond, but there is still a risk.

    March 11, 2016 at 8:02 pm
  • Andy

    Thanks for the advice!

    March 20, 2016 at 7:27 pm

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