Acrylic Prints vs. Metal Prints – A Comparison of Photo and Art Prints

Nations PhotoLab Metal Prints

Acrylic and metal prints are two very popular ways to showcase artwork and photography in a home or professional setting.  At first glance they may look very similar, so what exactly are their differences? Whats the best use case of metal vs acrylic, and vice versa? We dive into the analysis below, enjoy!

Metal Prints or Acrylic Prints – Which is Better?

We’ve broken down a more full analysis in the article below, but to save you some time we’ve summarized it here:

  1. Metal prints and acrylic prints are very, very similar.  They both serve much the same purpose in terms of style, setting and genre.
  2. They are also quite similar in terms of price.
  3. Downside to acrylic prints is that they suffer from some scratches (not always noticeable, but not scratch resistant).
  4. Downside to metal prints is that they are slightly lower resolution due to the printing process, but this is likely not even noticeable (but still an important consideration if you have extremely detailed or large prints).

Other notable tips to follow:

  • Opt for HD acrylic print options.  These use high quality specialty paper and mount within acrylic sheet, which gives it the sharpest resolution possible.
  • If opting for “regular” brushed or matte aluminum prints (which are less expensive), consider getting a glossy or epoxy coating, which can emulate the sheen of HD.

That is this guide in a nutshell, if you want to read some more, please do!

What are Acrylic Prints?

Acrylic prints are photo or art prints that either printed directly onto an acrylic material, or printed onto a special paper sheet and the mounted onto the acrylic material (this process is known as “face mounting”).

When/Where are Acrylic Prints Used?

Acrylic prints provide a shiny/glossy finish and as such make for excellent options in modern and light environments, such as modern style homes or art galleries.

FUN FACT: The material that a print is printed on is referred to as the “substrate”.  Does that take you back to high school chemistry class?

What Companies Offer HD Acrylic Prints?

Acrylic prints are relatively commonplace, as the inkjet technology for direct printing to acrylic is much the same across various media (metal, acrylic, wood, ceramic, etc).

These are good for home decor and gift items, however for professional displays of artwork and photography, only HD acrylic prints will do.

These services are more rare, and to help nail down the best companies out there, we put together a guide on the Best Acrylic Print Companies.  We update this article very often, so check in to see what company made the top of the list.

How Much Are Acrylic Prints?

The price of acrylic prints will vary based on company to company, and type of acrylic print (i.e. face mounted or direct printed).  Face mounted prints will be higher priced, but as stated above they are also much higher quality.

With so much variability it’s hard to give a concrete answer, but last we check you can get a 24′ x 16′ HD Acrylic print for around $150.  Keep a look out for possible discounts that can drive this price down.

What are Metal Prints?

Metal prints are art or photo prints that are printed on a piece of metal (almost always aluminum).  They are printed either directly onto the aluminum via inkjet technology, or onto a dye sublimation transfer paper, which is then transferred to the aluminum and heat treated.

Direct printing either prints on a brushed aluminum (which as its name implies has a brushed texture, which makes its way into the final artwork), or white matte aluminum (which has a white background and doesn’t have the texture consideration as brushed aluminum).

The dye sublimation method creates HD metal prints, which are higher in quality (and price) than the direct printing counterparts.

When/Where Are Metal Prints Used?

Metal prints serve much the same purpose as acrylic prints in terms of style and setting.  They offer deep, rich colors (especially the HD metal prints), which work best in high contrast photos and artwork.

Some examples of styles and genres of artwork include nighttime photography, abstract and surrealist art and nature photography.  These would be best presented in a modern home or office setting, or in modern art galleries.

What Companies Offer HD Metal Prints?

While there are many different companies that offer various metal prints, most only offer brushed aluminum and smaller sizes.  These companies are great for discount, home decor options, but are not a good fit for displaying professional art or photography.

To help with that distinction we put together a guide on the Best Metal Prints Companies.  We update this list very often so check it to see how made the top of the list this year.

How much do Metal Prints Cost?

Prices will obvious vary from company to company, but last we checked you’ll probably be looking at ~$200 for a 24′ x 16′ HD metal print and ~$150 for a “regular” metal print.

Price also increases with size, so the bigger your print, the higher the price (and vice versa).

PRO TIP: Print companies offer discounts all the time, especially around holidays.  Do some scouting and see if you can land a nice discount (something in the 20-40% range).  They may also offer discounts for signing up to an email list, which sounds like a good deal to us!

Conclusion

Both metal prints and acrylic prints make great options for any artwork or photographic prints, and their differences can be quite nuanced.  Using the above guide you can be sure to make the most informed decision on your purchase.  Let us know in the feedback section if there is anything else you need to know!

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