Acrylic Header SIgnage 101

Clear vs Frosted vs Milky Acrylic Signage 101

 

At Signs.com we offer a variety of signage solutions to enhance your business or home. One such product, our clear acrylic signs, bring a professional look for your display needs. We’re often asked how our clear acrylic differs from frosted acrylic and milky acrylic signs and which is the better option. Though we don’t currently offer frosted acrylic or milky acrylic on our site, we get plenty of requests to provide them as an option to our clear acrylic sign. As such, we’ve outlined not only these different types of acrylic but some alternative options to achieve the similar appearances. Knowing the difference between these acrylics can help you decide which will be the best for you.

Clear Acrylic

 

Our clear acrylic signs are made from a durable, lightweight, and transparent thermoplastic which acts as a glass substitute. Like glass, clear acrylic allows for perfect transparency. The design is printed directly onto the acrylic, which adds a lasting finish to your sign. Though it acts as a glass substitute, acrylic is far more lightweight and can be slightly bent without breaking.

 

The printing method we employ allows for your design to be printed on either the front or back of the acrylic. When printed on the front side (called standard surface), the image will be presented with a matte finish. The texture of the ink will be evident when handling the sign and the transparency will be affected in the areas where the design covers the acrylic. Having the image on the front of the acrylic also exposes it to a higher risk of scratching.

 

Standard Surface Clear Acrylic
Standard surface clear acrylic

 

Printing the design or image on the back of the acrylic (known as second surface printing) will give a transparent, glossy, or sheen effect to the sign, allowing you to view the design through the acrylic. This printing method will give an added depth to your sign. Second surface printing can also help protect your design since the actual print is behind the acrylic, shielding it from being affected by elements or scratching. The front surface of the acrylic is still prone to scratching, so make sure to handle with care when installing and place your sign in an area where it will avoid being frequently contacted.

 

Second Surface Clear Acrylic
This is second surface clear acrylic. Notice how the entire surface is reflective unlike the standard surface.

 

Using our design tool will allow you to customize your clear acrylic sign to meet your needs. Within the design tool you will be able to see which parts of the sign will remain clear. The white and grey checkered area of the sign will indicate where your sign will be clear. If your design is uploaded with a colored background, that color will print along with your design. To remove any unwanted background on your design, you can upload a PNG file with transparency which will then show the white and grey checkered background anywhere your design isn’t.

 

 

Frosted Acrylic

 

Like its clear counterpart, frosted acrylic is a durable and visually appealing signage solution. Similar to frosted glass, frosted acrylic is not completely see-through but does allow a certain amount of translucency. This translucency can be likened to a ‘blurred’ effect of the acrylic. Looking through frosted acrylic will be as though you are trying to look through glass that has been fogged up, or as its name implies, a frosted window.

 

This frosted effect is great for diffusing light, which gives frosted acrylic signs an added dimension when placed in front of a light source. This acrylic can make for an attractive name placard for your office, or it can be used to indicate points of interest within a business or office building. Images or designs printed on frosted acrylic will have some translucency to them, allowing light to pass through the entire surface of the product.

 

The frosted effect offers a level of privacy as a partition or wall in conference rooms, reception areas, or cubicles. Using this acrylic as a means of privacy will allow you to maintain a visually appealing space in your business or home while still giving you privacy.

 

Though we do not offer a standalone frosted acrylic, we can create a visually similar alternative using our frosted window decals attached to our clear acrylic product. Please note that if you decide to purchase a frosted decal and clear acrylic to achieve this look that these two products will come separately. It is incumbent on you as the customer to then adhere the decal to the clear acrylic. The frosted decal will provide the same frosted effect that you would find with frosted acrylic, preserving the quality and appearance that you are looking for in a frosted acrylic product. Like with frosted acrylic, the design printed will be transparent and allow light to pass through.

 

One of the only differences that results from using this method is that the opposite side of where the decal is attached will be glossy. The frosted decal has a naturally matte finish and a slight texture to it, whereas the clear acrylic has a glossy, smooth finish. It’s important to note that looking through the glossy side when a frosted decal is adhered to the opposite side will have the same frosted effect, only the glossy side will have a slight reflective property. The frosted decal will not have a reflective property.

 

Frosted Decal on Clear Acrylic
This is the frosted decal applied to a clear acrylic sign.

 

Another way we can produce a frosted effect on our clear acrylic is by using an entirely white background but changing the opacity (or transparency) of the white to 5-10% to allow for light to pass through the completed product. Using this method will give you one side of the acrylic that is printed on and one side that remains glossy and smooth. The printed face will be matte and slightly textured. Unlike the frosted decal, the portion of your design that is not white will not be considered transparent. If you prefer this latter method, please contact us as we are currently unable to do this method through our website. 

 

 

Milky Acrylic

 

An alternative to both clear and frosted acrylic is milky acrylic. As its name implies, milky acrylic is milky white in color and offers a white translucency. Unlike frosted acrylic, the design or image printed on the acrylic will not be transparent. The milky portion of the acrylic will allow light to travel through the product, though it is not as transparent as its frosted cousin.

 

Milky acrylic can be used in similar ways as frosted acrylic. The appearance of this acrylic can be enhanced by using a light source with this acrylic, especially when implemented as a sign material. We recommend using a light source or placing the sign where light will travel through it to increase its visual prominence. The milky white color will diffuse the light differently than a frosted acrylic would, allowing for a unique and visually appealing display. The light passing through this acrylic will be softer to the eye, whereas light passing through a frosted acrylic will be brighter.

 

The decorative aspect of the milky white acrylic is one of its selling points. You can use this acrylic as a covering for light fixtures or use it as a surface for a countertop or table. When used as a surface, including a light underneath the acrylic will bring your milky acrylic surface to life.

 

Creating greater privacy is another benefit of using milky white acrylic. The lack of complete transparency gives this acrylic a range of uses for privacy. Create barriers in restrooms, add a partition in a room, or place in doors or window frames.

 

We do not currently offer a milky white acrylic, but we do offer an alternative that allows for a similar effect. In order to create this effect, use an entirely white background on a clear acrylic sign, then adjust the opacity to 25-30% to give a milky effect to your acrylic sign. Currently, this is not possible on our design tool. You would need to adjust the opacity in your file and then upload it. Alternatively, by sending us a design file we could make the appropriate changes before uploading it for you. Simply contact us for free design services.

 

Milky acrylic compared to milky substitute
A comparison between milky acrylic (bottom) and the milky substitute with 25% white opacity (top).

 

The Choice is Clear

 

The lightweight and durable acrylic that we offer is perfect for decoration and displaying logos, information, or directions. Our custom acrylic signs are also commonly used in offices, reception and lobby areas, board rooms and many more professional settings. With several different options of acrylic, it’s really up to your preference and use of the material that will ultimately decide which option is the best for you. Our alternative options to the typical clear acrylic add variety to this versatile material. We’re positive that your acrylic sign will enhance your business or home!

Ryan Martin

Ryan is a content writer for Signs.com and an alumnus of Brigham Young University - Idaho. He previously worked as an editor for the BYU-Idaho Scroll newspaper, where he further developed his writing and communication talents. His love for sports, outdoor adventures, and In N Out Burger keeps him busy when he's not behind the computer.