When you frame a photograph or painting, you want to preserve the look of the artwork for as long as possible. That's why you place the item behind a piece of glass or acrylic when it goes into the frame, rather than just pasting the item onto a backing board and sticking it in the frame. But the material you choose can affect how well the artwork does over the years, not to mention it can have health effects on you, too.


Glass used in picture frames can break. That is the big issue with glass. A wind gust, an earthquake, or another phenomenon that knocks the picture down can cause the glass to break, possibly leading to you being cut by the shards. Any picture that is not going to be secure or that will be exposed to possibly damaging circumstances (such as a picture you want to ship to someone after you've framed it) should have acrylic as its front piece. Glass is too much of a risk in these circumstances. A picture that will be secured, though, can use glass.

Other Damage

Of course, breakage isn't the only possible damage that can occur. The picture could be fine overall, but something or someone could brush against the picture and cause an acrylic front piece to scratch. Acrylic is fairly notorious for being easy to scratch compared to glass, so if you're going to hang or display the picture outside, for example, glass might be a better front piece. Just be sure you secure the picture against winds.


However, glass is a better choice if dust is going to be a major concern in the location where the picture will be displayed. Acrylic tends to build up a lot of static, attracting more dust than glass. You have to be careful cleaning acrylic, too, because the cloth you use could also cause scratches. Be sure to use a soft cloth and not something like a paper towel. One solution is to use a special cleaner meant for acrylic that can repel dust. If you can find one of these cleaners, then dust on acrylic will be less of an issue for you.


Your picture will be exposed to light and will likely end up being exposed to sunlight at some point. Plain acrylic does not offer a lot of protection against UV rays, which can cause pictures to fade. Glass meant for picture frames is a lot better at blocking these UV rays, thus protecting the item inside the frame. Again, you can find a solution by using acrylic that has an anti-UV coating on it. But if you don't want to spend the money on that, glass will be a better option.


Glass is heavy. If you're framing a relatively small picture, the weight won't really matter. But for a large picture, that glass could make the picture so heavy that it's difficult to hang it safely. For larger pictures, acrylic may be better.

Of course, with all of the variables that go into deciding where to display a picture and how, it's best to consult with a picture frame company or service to see what might be best.