Metal Prints Vs. Acrylic Prints: What's the difference, and which is better for me?

Which is better, acrylic prints or metal prints? As a landscape photographer who sells his prints for a living, one of the most common questions I get from clients is which option should I choose, metal or acrylic?

When shopping for fine art photography, you will often run across many options in which photographers are selling their prints. The most popular are metal, acrylic face-mounted, canvas, and various photo papers. Most people are familiar with traditional mediums such as canvas and photo papers. The most common question I receive is, what's the difference between metal and acrylic prints? Both options look beautiful for printing photography. Here I will break down what these prints consist of and how one might be a better option for you based on where you will display your print in your home.

What is a metal print?

Hilo Bay Sunset Aluminum Print Mock Up

Metal prints are created by infusing dyes directly into specially coated aluminum sheets. A photo is first printed on a transfer paper and then sublimated onto a metal sheet using a heat press. A mount is then put on to the back so that you can hang the artwork. Metal prints are very popular and can be found in art galleries worldwide.

Pros of metal prints

  • Metal prints can display photography nicely, offering excellent contrast and a high gloss look.
  • Metal prints usually come ready to hang with a mounting system already attached to the back of the photo. You won't have to take your artwork to a framer and spend more money on a frame.
  • Because there is no frame, the photo looks like it is floating on the wall.
  • They usually have a lower price point than acrylic prints.

What is an acrylic face-mounted print?

Acrylic face-mounted prints are a step up in quality and offer more longevity for the photo print. A photo is printed using a laser printer and mounted on various second surfaces. The photo is then encapsulated in between an optically clear sheet of acrylic. The acrylic that I generally use is called Trulife Acrylic. Trulife Acrylic offers an anti-reflective coating that subdues reflection and glare. It is an archival acrylic that provides 99% UV protection. UV protection decreases the chance of your photo fading. It is also lightweight yet abrasion and shatter-resistant. In my opinion, Acrylic face-mounted prints are the highest-end mediums for printing digital photography. They are found in high-end galleries and provide the best color rendition and details for a fine art photographic print.

Pros of face-mounted acrylic prints

  • Acrylic face-mounted prints are more faithful to the original photos.

No matter what medium you print on, you will have a bit of a different look than the original digital photo. I have found that the very best reproductions of my photography have been done using high-end photo papers such as Fuji Flex, Lumachrome, and KodakEndura Metallic. The details in the prints are incredible. The color and contrast reproduction is far more accurate than any other print medium. The photo looks almost 3D, especially when under proper lighting conditions.

  • Interacts beautifully with light

You need light to make a photo print look its best. One problem is light can cause glare on photo prints when viewed at certain angles. When opting to get a high-end acrylic like Trulife Acrylic, you get an anti-glare surface that lets you better see the photo underneath.

  • They are considered archival and will last over a hundred years in the right conditions.

Buying fine art photography is an investment that should last a lifetime. The ink type used to print Facemounted acrylic prints will not fade or degrade nearly as fast as the inks used in metal prints. Having UV protection in the acrylic face will also help keep your print looking amazing for far longer than many other print mediums.

Which type of print should I buy?

A print on metal or acrylic is going to look amazing. I would keep in mind that the original photo is a digital image. It displays every bit of detail the original photo does. Suppose you would like to maintain the most detail possible and have the closest reproduction of the original image in print; I recommend spending a little more and getting an acrylic face-mounted print. If you are looking to save a little money, metal prints will still look beautiful. I don't believe you can go wrong either way.

Hawaii fine art photography prints by landscape and nature photographer Wade Morales

If you are interested in adding some Hawaii fine art photography to your home, feel free to browse my online gallery. I offer large format metal and acrylic prints of the Hawaiian Islands, where I have been photographing for the past ten years. Aloha

Photo "Waipi'o Valley Horses" taken in Waipi'o Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii

Photo "Keaukaha" taken on the Big Island of Hawaii
Kapoho Sunrise
Photo "Kapoho Sunrise" taken in Kapoho on the Big Island of Hawaii

Shop Wade Morales Hawaii fine art photography prints