About a month ago, I was contacted by a representative from AcrylicPix.com, a Montreal, Canada-based company that produces innovative direct-to-acrylic and direct-to-metal digital prints. I was intrigued, and asked if they would send me a few samples using images that I provided (in the case of their metal prints, they sent me a printed sample of something they had already produced). Below is an overview of what Acrylicpix.com offers, followed by my personal observations and some additional information.
AcrylicPix.com Options: AcrylicPix.com’s acrylic options include direct printing onto 1/8 and 3/16-inch thick acrylic, as well as direct printing on aluminum. They offer a wide range of sizes on their pricing page, and they will do custom sizes as well. Finishing options include a one-inch or two-inch mount that looks a lot like a wood frame, as well as float mount that allows the piece to “float” once inch off the wall. The company also offers direct printing on aluminum, and you can find out more about their metal options on this page.
According to the company, turnaround time is about a week to most locations in the USA and Canada, and shipping cost per piece for most sizes to the continental USA is US $15. You will need to contact the company for information on shipping costs for large packages, or for shipping rates to other countries.
The company has done a good job explaining why most people will want to opt for the “Sintra sandwich” on this page, compared with just having the hanging hardware attached directly to the Acrylic. See below for an example of what a 1/8″ plexi and 1/16″ Sintra sandwich look like from the side (the print of the dog below looks exactly like this when viewed from the side).
photo courtesy AcrylicPix.com
1. Ordering: In my case, I sent files directly to my contact at AcrylicPix.com in RGB with an AdobeRGB(1998) working space profile. However, most people will order through their online upload system, and there are many options apart from just the finishing options listed above, including converting to black and white or sepia, photo retouching and restoration, or background replacement. The company also suggests ways to make your images pop, such as using a custom border, which ends up looking a lot like a frame.
2. Packing/Print Protection: The two acrylic prints I received were very well packed. Each one had corner foam protectors and each was individually shrink-wrapped. After removing the plastic, there was a small amount “dust” to clean off (mainly from the packing material and small pieces of foam). Also, some static electricity was generated, so I recommend using a smooth static-free wipe to clean the surface of the prints.
3. Output Quality: I would rate AcrylicPix.com’s overall print quality on acrylic as very good. Most people will be able to see very fine dots in their printed images from a close distance, but from any normal viewing distance (even with prints as small as 11×14 inches), the image looks great. I will admit that I’m not a big fan of super-glossy prints, but the super-smooth, glass-like look and feel of these prints is stunning. Sharpness was spot-on, and color accuracy in my test prints was excellent when I examined the overall color and greyscale ramp under a daylight-balanced lamp. I used the popular PhotoDisc target to judge overall image quality, color and contrast, which you can see a part of below (behind the dog print). The prints have a slightly lower black point (Dmax) when I observed them next to my pigment-based reference semi-gloss inkjet prints produced on an Epson Stylus Pro 3880, but the prints still have plenty of contrast. Also worth noting is that the images have a nice even contrast range from the highlights to the shadows, with no banding observed in my test prints.
4. Finishing Quality: The build quality and workmanship of both of my prints is excellent. In the case of the acrylic print with a two-inch mount, the hardware is extremely sturdy and feels a lot like heavy-duty stretcher bars. However, it feels more stable than a canvas wrap, due to the acrylic/Sintra sandwich on the front. Of course, it is also heavier than a stretched canvas (about 3.5 lbs for a 16×20-inch piece with a 2-inch mount, shown above). The firmly attached hanging wire on both wood frames gives me confidence that it will stay on any wall when properly hung. The 11×14-inch one-inch floating print of the dog weighs in at just about 1.5 lbs. To best explain what the black edging looks like on the one-inch and two-inch mounts, it looks and feels like a high-end gaffer’s tape that has been very carefully applied.
One minor complaint I have is that a caulk-like substance is used to adhere the Plexi to the frame, aa well as the wood brace to the back of the floating frames. The caulk is clearly visible from the back, and that detracts from the clean look of the whole piece. If I were to present these to a client, I would simply use a few pieces of acid-free tape such as Lineco’s Self-Adhesive Linen Hinging Tape and carefully cover the caulk-like substance.
5. Permanence: As with any paper and ink combination, I was curious about expected permanence/lightfastness, so I inquired about any permanence testing that has been done on the ink and media combinations. I was directed to aPDF document which you can see at this link, that explains some standard testing that was done. That text is reproduced below:
Accelerated weathering tests have been carried out in a Xenon Arc Weatherometer set to the SAEJ1960 standard. Under these conditions the accelerated weathering of Uvijet KO inks equates to approximately 12 months outdoor exposure in a temperate climate, such as North America. If finished prints will be subjected to outdoor exposure exceeding 12 months, the use of an overprint clear or over-laminate is strongly recommended.
A representative from AcrylicPix.com recommended against outdoor display of their prints, but the testing above gives some idea of what might be expected with regard to fading over time indoors. Other companies have equated 12 months outdoor display life before noticeable fading or color shift with about 30-40 years of indoor display life before noticeable fading or color shift, but there are many variables. I wanted to give you some hard facts, and until testing is done by a company like Wilhelm Imaging Research (www.Wilhelm-Research.com) or Aardenburg Imaging and Archives (www.aardenburg-imaging.com), any expected fade data will probably be based on the outdoor testing noted above, or real-life testing by companies or individual users.
7. Conclusion: Overall, I recommend AcrylicPix.com’s acrylic printing service as a source of affordable, high quality, professional-looking acrylic prints. As with any print sandwiched or printed directly on acrylic, care must be taken when handling the pieces, and when dusting/cleaning them. I recommend using the same acrylic cleaners made for protecting and cleaning acrylic used in the picture frame industry. Print quality does not quite match the results I’ve seen from services who provide high-end face-mounted C-prints or inkjet prints to acrylic. However, the print quality is very good, and definitely worth considering for wall art (portrait, weddings, families, etc.), as well as fine-art and commercial (print-for-pay) projects.
Also, I really liked the look and feel of the direct to metal print I received from the company, but I am going to hold off on my review of their metal prints until I can have a print of my own done by them. It’s the best way I know to properly review this type of product. What I will say is that it is a unique look that allows the brushed metal feel to come through–almost like the look of sandwiching a photo of metal with another photo.
Disclosure: I received two acrylic prints from my supplied files and another sample metal print at no cost from AcrylicPix.com so that I could properly do this review.
For more information about AcrylicPix, visit their site at http://www.acrylicpix.com.