And How To Minimize UV Damage
Acrylic prints, whether you’re buying one or printing your own photograph, are a stunning way to present an image.
Because you’re viewing the photograph through a thickness of acrylic, it gives the print superb depth & the colours can really pop.
But will acrylic prints fade? Any print medium will eventually fade over time & acrylic is no different. Sunlight & other environmental contaminants can accelerate the fading process, but acrylic prints are highly UV resistant & under optimal conditions will last decades.
What Causes Acrylic Prints To Fade?
There’s a number of factors that can cause fading & general deterioration of an acrylic print.
2. Certain light sources
The number one cause for any print fading, including acrylic, is sunlight.
We see colours as we do because matter absorbs certain light frequencies.
The level to which a wavelength is absorbed by an ink or dye, is what creates the colour that is visible to our eyes.
The chemical compounds used in inks & dyes is what determines the light frequencies, or wavelengths, they absorb.
Exposure to sunlight will eventually break down these colour absorbing compounds.
Indirect sunlight, although not as severe, can still cause fading.
The only way to really protect your print from fading is to store it in cool & dark conditions.
But then it’s defeating the purpose of having an acrylic print in the 1st place .. to enjoy it!
But because the printed photograph is protected under a layer of acrylic, ambient light is insignificant in contributing to any fading or bleaching.
Alternate Light Sources
Something we don’t really think of as causing fading is indoor light sources.
But fluorescent & incandescent lighting does emit ultraviolet light.
But to be honest, it would need to be a strong light source & the print would need to be exposed for an extended period to notice any bleaching or colour fading.
An example would be lights used in tanning booths.
LED lights on the other hand emit no UV radiation.
Acrylic is a type of polycarbonate which is subject to warping in very hot conditions.
So keeping your print in a hot car for example is not a good idea.
Some sleepouts & other rooms or sheds can get really hot in summer too.
So if you’re going to hang your print in an outdoor area, make sure it’s not subjected to high temperatures.
Technically, a humid environment won’t cause fading, but it can degrade the print.
This is due to any residual chemicals being left behind in the printmaking process.
These can include mounting materials & airbourne contaminants.
A humid environment can accelerate the reaction of these contaminants & over time cause discolouration.
That said, the way acrylic photo prints are made, the actual printed photograph is sealed & well protected from outside contaminants.
They’re actually an ideal choice for bathrooms & other such wet areas.
The only time I would see humidity as an issue would be an acrylic print that was a direct print & not face mounted.
What's the difference? .. you ask.
All is explained below.
Preventing Acrylic Photo Prints From Fading
I say this in nearly all my articles, but it’s true ..
Choose a quality made print to begin with.
Reputable & professional print labs use quality papers, inks & material.
You may even be able to request UV resistant inks.
Also a professional print lab will use a good quality acrylic.
There’s 2 ways an acrylic print can be made.
One popular way of creating an acrylic print lends itself to vary sharp images with great colour depth.
This is known as a face mounted print.
The image is printed onto a high quality photographic paper which is then mounted & sealed to the rear side of the acrylic sheet.
This means you’re viewing the image from the front through a layer of acrylic.
It also protects the image from sunlight & UV exposure.
A backing substrate is then applied sealing & protecting the photographic paper.
The 2nd method is direct printing.
The image is printed in reverse to the rear of the acrylic sheet in dots just like an inkjet printer does.
So then when viewed from the front you’re seeing the image the correct way around.
Different substrates can then be used to seal in the ink, each giving a different quality to the final image.
Both methods have slightly different characteristics, but both deliver that amazing depth that these types of prints are known for.
Some Extra Tips To Prevent Fading
1. First & foremost, avoid displaying the print where it can be exposed to direct sunlight.
Sometimes this can’t be helped, as rooms can catch a bit of sun at certain times of the day.
If you can, draw the curtains or blinds.
2. Although the chances of your home lighting emitting enough UVs to be of any concern, there are filters available that can be fitted over fluorescent tubes.
3. Not a cheap solution, but tinted windows cut out UVs by over 99%.
They also keep the room cooler.
So if you live in a hot climate, it may be a win win!
4. Spray on UV protective coatings are available.
I’ve never used one myself, but Krylon is a well known brand & they state that their product is safe for “wood, metal, wicker, plastic, glass, plaster, ceramic, paper, paper Mache & dried/silk flowers.”
A quality acrylic photo print has the potential to last decades when cared for & displayed in a thoughtful way.
They are also used in outdoor areas because they are resilient to moisture & the environment.
Provided they’re kept out of direct sunlight & extreme heat, there's really no reason why you can’t enjoy these amazing & unique prints anywhere in or outside the home.
To discover more about this wonderful print medium, I've written a complete guide.
I hope you’ve found value in this article & if so feel free to share, thanks!