Pros & Cons: First Surface vs Second Surface Acrylic

Taye Harding

Today, we’ll explain the pros and cons of printing acrylic on the front side of the acrylic (first surface) as opposed to the back side of the acrylic (second surface).

PROPERTIES OF ACRYLIC

Before we can explore the differences between first surface and second surface acrylic, it’s important to understand the acrylic itself. Acrylic is very different from anything else we offer at MINOH. It’s a clear, plexiglass material that is durable enough for outdoor use, although we do recommend indoor use. The use of acrylic outside tends to limit the lifespan of the sign due to sun damage, exposure to the elements and other possible factors.

Acrylic is also very lightweight (about a half a pound per sq ft), which makes hanging the sign incredibly easy! Standoffs can also be purchased for the acrylic sign, allowing for a seamless installation and a professional look.

Standoff on acrylic sign

Although acrylic is one of the most aesthetically pleasing signs we offer, acrylic does have a few drawbacks. It can scratch easily, so to keep your sign looking brand new, be sure to avoid bringing sharp objects near it.

 

USES OF ACRYLIC

Acrylic can be used for many different types of signs such as lobby signage, directional signage and architectural signage. It’s the perfect alternative for traditional glass because it is safer and much more affordable. Acrylic can be cut to any shape you need, making it a great option for statement walls in your office, or even as custom directional signage. We offer both a halo cut and a contour cut. The halo cut would cut around the general shape of the design, while the contour cut can cut each of the pieces of the artwork out individually.

 

Acrylic is most commonly used to display company logos or high resolution photographs, but they can also be used as an artistic, prominent display in a lobby or the entrance to a business.

The ink is applied directly to the surface of the acrylic. Therefore, we are able to print on either the front or the back of the acrylic. While both offer different signage solutions, the purpose of this blog post is to help you determine which of these two options is right for you.

 

FRONT SIDE (FIRST SURFACE) ACRYLIC

First surface acrylic puts the ink on the front of the acrylic piece. This causes the sign to have a matte finish. You could feel the ink if you were to touch the face of the acrylic. Printing the acrylic first surface is also less expensive than printing the acrylic with a second surface print since second surface printing takes up more production resources.

First Surface Acrylic (printing on the front)

First surface printing also has its drawbacks. Since the image is on the front of the material, it no longer has a clear look to it. It’s simply a matte image. Also, since the ink is on the front of the material, it's more likely to be damaged or scratched.

 
Close up view of first surface printing.

BACK SIDE (SECOND SURFACE) ACRYLIC

On second surface acrylic, the ink is printed on the back of the acrylic. This means you look through the clear material itself and onto the print giving the overall look a glossy finish with a depth that first surface doesn’t provide. Also, since the print is on the back of the acrylic, it provides more protection from both the elements and vandalism. That’s why, if you’re putting the acrylic sign outside, it's recommended that you choose the second surface option.

Second surface Acrylic (printing on the back)

While second surface printing definitely had many benefits, it also has its own setbacks. Since it takes longer to print due to the material properties, it does cost more. And since the print is on the back, second surface acrylic can cause glare and can be difficult to see in sunlight. It also is susceptible to showing fingerprints due to its glossy finish.

Close up view of second surface printing.

While both first surface and second surface printing have their respective pros and cons, it’s up to you to select the best option for your sign. 



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