What medium is best for art prints; framed, canvas, metal or acrylic?
Buying photo art to decorate your walls can be a very complex process. The art we use to decorate our homes is a reflection of our personality, a personal touch to pul the room together, a reflection of our taste and deeper selves. So searching the right piece can be quite challenging and intimidating. This can make the decision to buy a print quite hard. Choosing the actual print is only half the work. When buying a photo print most people end up with the same question: what medium is best, canvas, metal, acrylic or paper. These media are quite distinct from each other and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. What medium will work better on your walls depends on your image and the style of your interior. The prints I offer are produced by Fine Art America, so to discuss the various options I use their range of products as a reference.
Framed photo prints are the most classical style of prints and have been around for the longest time. They are suitable for all styles of images making this style the most flexible medium where the frame can change the mood of the artwork. You can choose the kind of frame that matches the mood of your room or complement the color patterns, the furniture or style of your interior. Fine Art America offers over 250 different frames which can be used to create museum quality masterpieces. Next to that they offer 9 different types of paper to be printed on. Every type has its own qualities regarding texture, contrast and color range. Framed prints are the most expensive choice of all these media. You can go low budget and choose to buy a paper print rolled in a tube, but when you have to frame them afterwards you might end up paying even more. Also many of my prints are not standard size and will require custom framing; which is why I recommend ordering the frame with the print.
Canvas prints work very well for a wide range of image styles. What makes them unique is the texture and the wrapped presentation. The photo is directly printed onto the canvas and its texture gives the image an artsy oil painting look that many people adore. Canvas prints look good in any location, whether it is an art gallery, an office or a cosy living room. These prints are lightweight, durable and can be hung without a frame or be made more formal by adding one. Prints on canvas tend to be a bit softer and colors are a bit flatter then on other media. This makes this medium perfect for softer low contrast images, also images with a lot of texture or grain will look best on canvas. You won’t get the vibrancy and resolution with canvas, but it can be a nice look depending on the image and of course it is cheaper than acrylic or a framed print. Next to that the paint-like appearance and the 3D look of the stretched canvas might be the feel you are looking for. As these prints are printed directly on to the canvas and aren’t covered by a piece of glass, they are less reflective than the other options. This makes canvas prints more versatile when it comes to lighting. While other media can cause problems due to reflections of windows or other light sources, canvas prints don’t suffer from unwanted glare, so if you want to decorate a wall facing a window or other light sources, canvas might be the best choice.
Metal prints are a more recent and modern way to display photo art. With their glossy finish, rich colors and sleek look they combine perfectly with modern design or a minimalistic space. Metal prints of Fine Art America are of the highest quality where the images are directly printed into a sheet of aluminum. This process creates photos with a vibrant luminescence, incredible detail and resolution. Its high glossy finish results in a stunning image that really grabs your attention. Metal prints are cheap, extremely durable, light weight and come ready to hang – no framing required. The aluminum sheet is offset from the wall by a wooden frame giving it the appearance to float. Since it’s so thin, even giant pictures are incredibly light. They work very well for images with vibrant colors, and deep contrast. The detail and color intensity of these prints really lets the image come to live. Also black and white images with high contrast and lots of detail work perfectly on metal. The high contrast and the deeper blacks of metal prints results in black and white images that really pop. Soft and subtle images on the other hand don’t work as well on this medium. Best results are achieved with images that are lighter in color and images with a focus on the light turn out amazing on metal. Darker photos tend to come out better on other materials such as canvas or acrylic. As metal prints are quite glossy you want to stay away from walls facing windows or other light sources as glare and reflections can be disturbing.
Acrylic prints are relatively new and not yet well known by the wide public but due to their natural gloss and amazing color vibrancy, they are getting more and more popular. Looking at an acrylic photo print is an eye-popping experience. The vivid colors, the depth and amazing details create a magical effect. The thick acrylic gives you the illusion of a 3D print and it actually looks like the photo is back-lit. With their glossy finish, rich colors and sleek look they work perfect in combination with modern design or a minimalistic space. At Fine Art America, the image is printed directly onto the back of clear acrylic, a technique that allows light to come from behind the image, giving it that trademark glow and the possibility for backlighting. Photos that work best on acrylic are images with vivid colors and high contrast. If you want the colors really to pop, acrylic is the best choice. Also images that are more muted or monotone in character will benefit from the increase in contrast of an acrylic print. Not only color but also black and white images and acrylic prints are a perfect combination. The high resolution, sharp detail and polished look results in black and white prints with deep blacks that will really catch your attention. These deep blacks make acrylic also the best choice for darker or low key pictures. There are some occasions where acrylic doesn’t work. Acrylic is perfect for accentuating contrast and color while maintaining a smooth facade. Grainy images or images full of texture might work better on other media. Darker images (low key) work really well on acrylic whereas really light images (high key) come better to their rights on metal or canvas. Just as metal prints, acrylic prints are very glossy, which can cause problems when facing windows or other light sources. For that reason, the picture’s position and lighting are important as the reflections can destroy the viewing experience. Although acrylic is the more expensive choice and relatively heavy, by using this medium you can be sure to make the artwork jump off the wall and get noticed!
The perfect medium for all situations doesn’t exist, none is better or worse than the other. They all have their characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. It is a combination of the image style, the location where it will be hung and your personal preferences, that will determine what will work best. I can assure you that all media work well with any image, but some will give that little extra. All featured images are mine – that is the ones hanging on the walls, not the interiors – and are available through my webshop.
Here’s a brief reminder what to take into account when choosing a certain medium:
- Vivid colors work best with acrylic or metal
- Textured or grainy images work best on canvas
- Clean smooth images work best on acrylic
- Low key (darker) images work best on acrylic or canvas
- High key (lighter) images work best on metal or canvas
- Black and white images work best with acrylic or metal
- High contrast works best with metal or acrylic
- Low contrast works best with canvas or acrylic
- With framed, metal and acrylic images reflections might occur
- price (low to high): metal, canvas, framed, acrylic
- Framed prints generally do well for all kind of images
- Acrylic and metal do particularry well conbined with modern design or a minimalistic interior
- Canvas and framed prints have a more traditional look and feel
- At the end the most important is your personal taste and preferences