Acrylic prints are possibly the most spectacular way to display artwork on a wall. The acrylic provides an extra measure of rich color. It's a contemporary look that is generally produced without a frame, sitting flat but an inch or so away from the wall.
They can be made really large... like up to 48" x 96".
Like every other option for displaying artwork, there are several choices with making acrylic prints. For the most part, a fine art print is sandwiched between a piece of acrylic and another archival substrate.
Type and Thickness of Acrylic
Acrylic typically comes in two thicknesses: 1/4" and 1/8". Regular acrylic is really glossy stuff. While it showcases greater depth and saturated color, reflections can be distracting, similar to any other framed artwork with glass.
TruLife® Acrylic solves that problem, although at a price. It's sort of like museum grade glass in a framed piece... beautiful, but expensive.
It has several benefits:
• Virtually eliminates reflections
• Vibrant colors, depth and clarity
• Blocks up to 99% of UV rays
• Shatter resistant
• Scratch resistant
• Anti-static properties to minimize dust
• Cleans like glass, no special acrylic cleaners required
Printing and Backing Substrates
The least expensive method is to simply print a photograph directly on the back side of the acrylic (no extra paper print or backing substrate required), but the quality of the image suffers a bit with that method... Direct prints are lower print resolution than what can be printed on paper, which translates into less sharpness and detail. I've also noticed some banding in solid areas... in other words, streaking in elements of a picture such as blue sky.
A better way is to print the image on paper and mount it to the back of acrylic with either a very thin piece of clear film or gel. The process is known as a "face-mount" because the adhesive is applied to the face of the photograph. The paper used is frequently a high-gloss or metallic paper which complements the acrylic for a gorgeous display of artwork. That said, you can still combine a non-glossy paper with acrylic. I have one source which offers Canson Infinity Platine Fiber Rag, a paper with a very slight texture, with acrylic products.
In order to protect the print from damage, most acrylic pieces come with a backing material, either a 1/8" sheet of black DiBond or Sintra. It's not absolutely necessary – there is the option of just a paper backing – but keep in mind that wall mounting hardware must be affixed to the back, so it makes more sense to glue hardware to the back of DiBond rather than the print itself. If side views are important, the print can be sandwiched between two pieces of acrylic, for a totally glass-like appearance.
1/4" Acrylic with a 1/8" Acrylic Backing
There are also numerous ways of hanging your artwork on a wall:
Acrylic pieces are typically mounted flush with a wall and without a frame. A wood cleat is just a piece of wood that is screwed into the wall, and the frame which is mounted to the back of the artwork slides over it. A cleat provides more stability to the piece, especially for larger pieces. Cleats can be black, white, or natural wood colors.
Conventional hanging wire is one choice, although is not recommended for larger pieces.
Stainless steel posts known as "standoffs" can be used to hang the artwork as well. They come in various lengths and diameters, and simply require that the printer drills a hole in each corner of the artwork. The photo can bleed to the outside edge, or print within a border.