by Laura Gardiner
Studio Manager, Tribeca Printworks
What is an acrylic print? If you’ve ever heard the term “acrylic print,” it is most likely a result of one of two possible printing processes. It can be either a UV curable direct acrylic print, or it is an acrylic face mount. In the UV curable direct printing process the image is printed right onto the acrylic, whereas an acrylic face mount is a photographic print that has been permanently adhered between the acrylic and a backing material with an archival, optically clear adhesive. A UV curable direct print is more likely to be used for signage and pieces where photographic quality and permanence is less important. Acrylic face mounts are more likely be found in a high end gallery or establishment, and used for pieces where superior photographic quality is required. You can read more about our acrylic face mounts and other printing processes.
So what is an acrylic face mount exactly? Acrylic face mounts are composed of prints adhered between acrylic and a backing substrate to create a modern, frameless piece with the illusion of a floating image on glass. As the print is mounted face-in to the underside of the acrylic the image is given extra dimension and clarity. As a result of the materials used in this process, acrylic face mounts are unrivaled in definition, vibrancy and durability.
Acrylic face mounts start with the creation of a high-gloss archival pigment print or c-print. A double-sided, pH-neutral clear adhesive is applied between the print and a piece of acrylic (also known as plexiglass). The adjoined print and acrylic are then backed with a sturdy substrate and affixed with a platform on the back for hanging. The edges of the face mount are diamond-polished to lock in the print and provide an exquisite shine to the finished piece.
While initially common for commercial use, acrylic face mounts have made their way into the fine art sector and can be found in galleries, museums and residences worldwide.
What options are available for acrylic face mounts? If you decide to print your art and photography in an acrylic face mount, you will be faced with several finishing options to best serve your work. First, you will often have a choice of the type of print that goes into the face mount. The print must be on a non-porous high-gloss photo paper for this particular treatment. Many printers will offer a standard high-gloss as well as a metallic high-gloss option. Standard high-gloss is the most common choice, however the metallic can add extra shine and depth to the right imagery.
Next, you will have the option to choose what type of acrylic is adhered to the “face” of the print. Two of the most common options are ¼” clear acrylic and ⅛” non-glare acrylic. The ¼” clear acrylic is the best choice if you desire dimension and wish to optimize the high-gloss effect. Light will refract through the clear acrylic, enhancing and intensifying your imagery. However, clear acrylic is inherently reflective and not the ideal choice if the piece is to be hung in direct lighting (natural or installed). The ⅛” non-glare acrylic is the optimal choice if you prefer a slightly more matte appearance or if you know the piece will be receiving an ample amount of light.
Lastly, you will often have a choice of backing substrate and hanging hardware. The most frequently used backing substrates are sintra – a sturdy material composed of PVC and available in 3mm and 6mm depths – and dibond – a heavy-duty aluminum composite. Sintra is durable and pliable enough for face mounts up to 40×60, however you may want to consider dibond for larger pieces. Acrylic face mounts can be backed with either a wooden or aluminum cleated-platform of varying depths. This allows the piece to sit slightly raised and perfectly parallel to the wall to create the floating effect.
What kind of art and photography works best as an acrylic face mount? Artists and consumers choose acrylic face mounts over traditionally framed paper and canvas prints for the high-gloss and frameless effect. The smooth, high-gloss nature of acrylic face mounts demand high-definition, high-contrast, crisp and clean imagery. It is a great choice for intense black and white as well as vibrant and colorful photography. While acrylic face mounts are partial to photography, they can also be an innovative choice for digital artwork. However, If your work is particularly soft or grainy, then this may not be the right treatment for you. I would also steer away from face mounts for reproductions of original artworks (i.e. paintings, illustrations, etc.) as it lacks the organic qualities that these types of works demand.
Can I frame my acrylic face mounts? Much of the appeal of this treatment is that it eliminates the need for framing, but that does not mean that these pieces cannot be framed. A popular framing option for acrylic face mounts is a sleek and modern floater-frame. In a floater-frame, the face mount sits flush with the face of the frame. There will often be a slight gap between the edge of the face mount and the edge of the frame to give the appearance of a print floating inside the frame. Because face mounts are completely permanent, you may at some point want to update the piece with the addition of the frame. Acrylic face mounts can be further placed into most traditional, custom frames as well.
Still unsure whether an acrylic face mount is right for you? Please do not hesitate to visit us in our SOHO Studio to view samples of acrylic face mounts and all of our other printing and framing options. Aren’t local or can’t make it into the studio? No problem! Shoot us an email or drop us a line and we will be happy to guide you through the ordering process and advise you on the best choices for your work.
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