issues with non-glare acrylic

Started May 28, 2012 | Discussions
sam_siciliano Junior Member • Posts: 33
issues with non-glare acrylic

I finally got around to printing some large (13 X 19) photos on my Epson 3880 printer on premium luster Epson paper. I was very happy with how the prints turned out. I ordered a couple frame kits from American Frame which gets good marks in DP Forum, and I had a good experience with them too. However, as an experiment, I ordered one frame with regular acrylic and another with non-glare acrylic. I hadn't tried a non-glare product for something like 30 years, back when I tried non-glare glass. To my eye, the non-glare acrylic has the same old issues. It mutes and blurs things, making colors less vivid and hiding some of the detail. In the end, I think in the future I'll live with the glare so people can really see my photos.

I wondered if others have the same feelings and if there are any other options. I have followed a couple printing threads where people mentioned just mounting and framing their photos without either glass or acrylic, the idea being if they wear, you can just reprint. Somehow I do hate to leave my beautiful image completely naked like that! All the same, I really did not like what the non-glare acrylic did to the photo. I didn't pay much attention to which side of the acrylic was outside in the frame. Does it make much difference if you have it backwards?

Finally, I've seen mentions of museum glass but I don't know much about that, and it's not an option at the main framing kit places. Does it help with glare and in a better way than non-glare acrylic?

Thanks,

Sam

Hugowolf Forum Pro • Posts: 12,674
Re: issues with non-glare acrylic

sam_siciliano wrote:

To my eye, the non-glare acrylic has the same old issues. It mutes and blurs things, making colors less vivid and hiding some of the detail. In the end, I think in the future I'll live with the glare so people can really see my photos. I wondered if others have the same feelings and if there are any other options. >

Yes, anti-reflective acrylic reduces contrast considerably. I wouldn’t use it unless the print is in a position such that the reduced image quality is less than some considerable glare.

I have followed a couple printing threads where people mentioned just mounting and framing their photos without either glass or acrylic, the idea being if they wear, you can just reprint. Somehow I do hate to leave my beautiful image completely naked like that!

Coat the print with something like the Hahnemühle spray, and go over it with a feather duster once in a while. It won’t stand up to someone spilling wine over it, but it will hold up pretty well.

All the same, I really did not like what the non-glare acrylic did to the photo. I didn't pay much attention to which side of the acrylic was outside in the frame. Does it make much difference if you have it backwards?

It does make a difference, how much I don’t remember.

Finally, I've seen mentions of museum glass but I don't know much about that, and it's not an option at the main framing kit places. Does it help with glare and in a better way than non-glare acrylic?

Oh yes, it is much better than anti-reflective acrylic. It doesn’t have the surface texture of the acrylic and actually gives a higher contrast than regular framing glass, because it transmits about 97-98% of light compared to 88-89%. It is about 12 times more expensive than regular glass per sheet.

Framing shops will often add in some percentage in case they break a sheet, which doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I have been quoted anywhere between US$200-400 for the glass to cover a 24 x 36 inch matte. The last time I bought museum glass, which was only a few months ago, it was US$286 for four sheets of 30 x 42 inches. I just hate working with it, glass cutting hasn’t really changed for hundreds of years, it is still score and snap.

Brian A

technoid Senior Member • Posts: 2,144
Re: issues with non-glare acrylic

Hugowolf wrote:

sam_siciliano wrote:

To my eye, the non-glare acrylic has the same old issues. It mutes and blurs things, making colors less vivid and hiding some of the detail. In the end, I think in the future I'll live with the glare so people can really see my photos. I wondered if others have the same feelings and if there are any other options. >

Yes, anti-reflective acrylic reduces contrast considerably. I wouldn’t use it unless the print is in a position such that the reduced image quality is less than some considerable glare.

I have followed a couple printing threads where people mentioned just mounting and framing their photos without either glass or acrylic, the idea being if they wear, you can just reprint. Somehow I do hate to leave my beautiful image completely naked like that!

Coat the print with something like the Hahnemühle spray, and go over it with a feather duster once in a while. It won’t stand up to someone spilling wine over it, but it will hold up pretty well.

All the same, I really did not like what the non-glare acrylic did to the photo. I didn't pay much attention to which side of the acrylic was outside in the frame. Does it make much difference if you have it backwards?

It does make a difference, how much I don’t remember.

Finally, I've seen mentions of museum glass but I don't know much about that, and it's not an option at the main framing kit places. Does it help with glare and in a better way than non-glare acrylic?

Oh yes, it is much better than anti-reflective acrylic. It doesn’t have the surface texture of the acrylic and actually gives a higher contrast than regular framing glass, because it transmits about 97-98% of light compared to 88-89%. It is about 12 times more expensive than regular glass per sheet.

Framing shops will often add in some percentage in case they break a sheet, which doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I have been quoted anywhere between US$200-400 for the glass to cover a 24 x 36 inch matte. The last time I bought museum glass, which was only a few months ago, it was US$286 for four sheets of 30 x 42 inches. I just hate working with it, glass cutting hasn’t really changed for hundreds of years, it is still score and snap.

Brian A

Ditto on museum glass.

Acrylic has two kinds that reduce glare. The cheapest is usually called anti-glare and the expensive stuff is anti-reflection. Sounds like you have the anti-glare stuff. The former reduces glare by fuzzing the reflection and has the side effect of reducing the image dynamic range. It reduces glare by reflecting light in different directions. The problem is that it still reflects a lot of light. Anti-reflective acrylic is coated with a special optical film that reduces the reflectance of light. look for reflective levels below 2%. This is similar to the way museum glass works. These usually also cut uV but you only see the effect of that if you print on paper with optical brighteners. It helps the longevity of the print.

Here's more tech info on one anti-glare acrylic

http://www.archplastics.com/PDF_Literature/AR_tech_data.pdf

OP sam_siciliano Junior Member • Posts: 33
Re: issues with non-glare acrylic

Interesting responses, especially about the two types of acrylic. The anti-reflective acrylic sounds like it might be the ticket, but the two framing sources I've used, americanframe.com and framedestination.com only offer non-glare. Anyone know any framing sources that include an option for the high-priced AR acrylic?

Thanks,

Sam

OP sam_siciliano Junior Member • Posts: 33
Re: issues with non-glare acrylic

Didn't have much luck finding sources for AR acrylic online. Finally called a local retail frame shop, and for 16" X 24" they quoted me $128.76 for museum glass and $276 for optium which is the high-end True Vue museum type acrylic. Well, it is spendy, but for something you're going to hang on your wall for many many years it might be worth it. I might want to try a smaller piece first just to make sure it works as advertised!

OP sam_siciliano Junior Member • Posts: 33
Re: issues with non-glare acrylic

I've put in considerable time on trying to track down more info about optium, the museum level acrylic. There are actually two versions of optium, 'optium museum acrylic' and 'optium acrylic.' Both are fantastically expensive, and I'm not sure why the non-museum version even exists, since it seems to have most of the properties of the musueum version, although it only comes in one thickness. You can find technical info on both products at the http://www.true-vuecom website.

I can't find anyone that sells optium over the internet. It is so expensive, wholesaling at around $750 for a 4' X 8' sheet that no one wants to stock it. I got a price from Beard's, one of the larger local frame shops with several stores around Portland, Oregon. I wanted 31" X 23" to frame a 17" X 25" print. They quoted me $221 for museum glass and $406.43 for the museum optium. When I called many of the smaller shops, they either couldn't get optium or basically told me I'd have to order the whole sheet, which would probably be around $1000 or more. It's obviously not something they work with much, because of the price, and again, they don't want to buy the sheet at that price and have it sitting around in the warehouse with a big piece cut out of it for several years.

Anyway, looks like it's only an option if cost isn't much of concern to you. I did get one quote for museum glass down around $150, and I may just go with that. My impression from looking at the forums is that people have used museum glass but not the optium. If anyone does have any experience to relate with it, I'd be curious about the product. It's certainly spendy and hard to track down. Forget trying to order a piece over the internet. I certainly haven't had any luck finding a site that sell it.

I did discover you should read spec sheets. The optium fact sheet warns you NOT to use standard acrylic cleaners on it.

Robert Snow Contributing Member • Posts: 987
Why not go naked?

I have tried various things over many years, and have tested longevity when displaying prints in different ways.

My conclusion is still a work in progress, but at present I favor one of the good sprays...four light coats, each coat at 90 degrees to the previous coat...then framed without glass or acrylic. I also sometimes hang an image (mounted on gatorfoam) without a frame. Not a perfect solution, but spraying helps longevity and eliminates gloss differential.

I let the prints "cure" for 2-3 weeks before spraying and wait for humidity below 50% and moderate temperatures (I spray in my garage). I use either Premier's Print Shield or Hahnemuhle Protective Spray.

I currently dry mount my prints on gatorfoam (not cheap), but this really gives the prints a finished look and so long as you mount at low temps, I have found little or no problem with longevity.

Of course, I print no larger than 16 x 2x. The dry mounting alone could run into some cash if you don't have a large press and do your own.

That is about it. I have tried the high end glass and acrylic, and between their cost and the cost of a good frame, it just becomes overwhelming moneywise. Of course, this is a hobby for me so cost does matter.

When company comes, they always zero in on the images that have no glass. I think the pure image without cover just looks better.

Just my thoughts...

bob snow

Lord Ham New Member • Posts: 1
Re: issues with non-glare acrylic

There are many types of non glare/anti-reflective acrylics with different amounts of matte texture. I have found that a material referred to as "P99" offers the best image quality.  It has an almost imperceptible surface texture though it is quite expensive.  I can buy this stuff and cut it at home with a scribing tool.  My Dad owns a plastics business (eplastics) and even with a discount it's not cheap. Museums apparently buy P99 with a uv protection (even more expensive).

jrkliny
jrkliny Veteran Member • Posts: 3,710
Re: issues with non-glare acrylic

I am late to this thread so you have already heard that the best choice is museum grade glass.  Even so expect some glare.  Others have already mentioned the possibility of using a protective spray.

I would consider doing absolutely nothing but a bare mount.  Since you are doing your own printing, why not just make another print at the same time.  Save one in archival conditions and hang the other.  That would be even less expensive than the spray technique.  I rarely hang any of my photos for more than a few months.  I am willing to bet that once you replace the image, the hung version will be no different than the one in archival storage and if so you can always discard it.

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geoffst New Member • Posts: 1
Re: issues with non-glare acrylic

You can't put matting between Non-Glare Acrylic and the picture. It must be flush, this is the reason for your blur. End and Out.

Seelan New Member • Posts: 3
Re: issues with non-glare acrylic

geoffst wrote:

You can't put matting between Non-Glare Acrylic and the picture. It must be flush, this is the reason for your blur. End and Out.

I am considering Tru View Optium Museum Acrylic to frame an important diploma. There is a mat with with university medallion. How well do you think this would work?

technoid Senior Member • Posts: 2,144
Re: issues with non-glare acrylic

Seelan wrote:

geoffst wrote:

You can't put matting between Non-Glare Acrylic and the picture. It must be flush, this is the reason for your blur. End and Out.

I am considering Tru View Optium Museum Acrylic to frame an important diploma. There is a mat with with university medallion. How well do you think this would work?

Mattes work fine with that. There are two major kinds of anti glare materials. Anti-reflective uses a very thin, sputtered coating of a material that reduces light reflected from the surface. This can be combined with uV blocking coatings. A cheaper material uses an uneven surface (similar to semi-gloss and pearl print paper surfaces) which break up reflections. For those it's critical to have the print close to the plastic (or glass) to reduce blurriness.

Tru View Optium Museum Acrylic is the former and quite good. But it's expensive. Also, it doesn;t prevent reflections from the print surface. It's best with matte prints.

The highest gamut can be achieved by careful lighting at 45 degrees from straight on viewing using glossy media. If the background light is sufficiently low compared to the illumination light there is not significant advantage to using anti-reflecting material and glossy prints will be better. Diffuse lighting where the image is lit with diffuse room light is best done with matte paper and anti-reflective coatings.

kennebunk larry Forum Member • Posts: 90
Re: issues with non-glare acrylic

geoffst wrote:

You can't put matting between Non-Glare Acrylic and the picture. It must be flush, this is the reason for your blur. End and Out.

What I'm trying to find out 'definitively' is the damage that occurs when placing the acrylic in direct contact with a print.

George Storm New Member • Posts: 1
Re: issues with non-glare acrylic
1

I have some personal experience with much of this. I'll go through some of my observations:

Etched, sprayed (or otherwise roughened) surface (non-glare acryilic or glass):
This works by scattering the light it reflects directly, and by refraction (two passages) redirecting the light that comes from the back surface. So the picture has to be mounted with the diffuse surface away from the picture. The scattered light will always appear as the addition of near-uniform light to the front of the picture; this will always reduce the contrast, particularly in the darker regions of the picture. Many manufacturers offer different levels of scattering; the optimum will depend on the environment.
Mounting the glazing the wrong way around means that the amount of light in the clearly reflected image will be slightly more than half of flat material. It also results in the angle of scatter being increased by a factor of about 1.5, so the unwanted near-uniform haze would not reduce as much as you would have hoped (if at all). On the other hand there would be no noticeable degradation in the resolution of the image.

Contact between acrylic and the picture: the effect depends on the materials used in the image. Water-colours, gouache, poster paints, and fully dried glycee prints should be fine from a chemical point of view. However, there is a theoretical possibility of electrostatic damage with acrylics unless the rear surface is coated with a conducting layer and/or the front is antistatic (or you always use conductive cleaners). Pencil and charcoal on paper are quite fragile, and I wouldn't risk them touching anything like this unless you plan them to remain in contact for ever. Being of a nervous disposition I have avoided using contact methods on anything that is irreplaceable and not expressly designed for contacting.
That said, some of the best visual results I have seen with acrylic-based pigments have been when the acrylic paint was in direct contact with uncoated smooth acrylic glazing. Water colours, prints etc. are not far short; indeed, the biggest problem could well be that the colours are more saturated than the artist produced originally. (The glazing front face in these cases had a multilayer anti-reflection coating).

As regards multilayer coatings, they are not all alike. Except for the sort of case described above, you would usually use glazing that is coated both sides and spaced from the picture. The three principle optical characteristics to watch out for are distortion, reflection levels and UV protection. The protection standard for museum glazing is 97% absorption, so just 1/30th of the UV reaches the picture. Ultra-low UV transmission with the reflection levels below 1% is (IMO) ridiculously expensive, so I reserve this for high-value items that are not replaceable. For prints, I either arrange access to an electronic copy or check that the artist will maintain the data file and will exchange (numbered) damaged copies with good ones.
Conservation grade glass is available with reflection below 1%. Museum-grade acrylic such as Optium nominally reflects 1.6% (maximum) of the on-axis incoming light, so you will need to use glass (breakable and potentially damaging) or non-conservation-grade material if this is a problem (it isn't usually, but I have one location where it is). I have some locations where UV levels is not a problem but either of reflection or breakage would be a serious issue; the best material I have found for this sort of location is VISAR01 acrylic, which reflects less than 0.5% from 420-nm to 720-nm (the sensitive part of the spectrum); picture-size is quite limited, and naturally the blue end will degrade if you look off-axis.

I hope this overlong screed is of use to someone...

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