Find Your Finish: Keys to Choosing the Right Glass-Finish Film

Experiential Innovation

Glass-finish films are a versatile, affordable way to achieve the look of glass without the cost. Here’s how to choose the right one for your application.

As vinyl and polyester films have evolved, achieving slick, rich looks at a fraction of the cost of glass has become more achievable than ever. We spoke with 3M architectural finishes specialist Elizabeth A. Ziegler about the keys to getting the look of high-end glass finishes for a fraction of the cost.

Why choose a glass finish to begin with?

Elizabeth Ziegler: Most of the glass finishes offered by 3M Commercial Solutions division are all decorative solutions, where there are three different types of glass products. 3M’s decorative polyester line has 60 designs and comes in different gradations: horizontal, dot, and prism, as well as mattes and solid colors. The vinyl frosted and dusted line is a perfect solution if you want to cut in logos or designs. 3M also offers a multi-layer optical film that changes colors in dazzling ways as you walk by it. Customers use these films to enhance décor and for dramatic impact.

Are there other reasons to choose a glass finish?

EZ: Absolutely. When you start looking at glass installations, you could be talking about many thousands of dollars, especially if you’re looking for specific treatments, such as sand-blasted or etched glass. Durable glass-finish products give you the same look for far less money. They’re also versatile; if you’re ready for a change in a few years, it’s easy to change the look. These products can also enhance your brand. Hampton Inn uses them on glass doors; their logo is cut out of the opaque film, giving the company an effective, attractive way to reinforce their brand throughout their facilities.

Beyond branding, what are some other applications?

EZ: Customers use these finishes to enhance their décor and get rich looks on a budget. Using frosted, dusted, or other partially or fully opaque products on clear glass can provide increased levels of privacy and even help keep confidential data out of sight from those who are not authorized to have access to it.

What should customers consider when choosing these products?

EZ: You need to think about how you’ll use them. If you want to cut or print color on the films, dusted crystal products are typically your best option. The Fasara line by 3M has its own patterns. There is also the multicolored dichroic line by 3M that is typically used when a customer wants an unusual, dramatic, and artistic effect. Some of our decorative films can be used outside, but if the requirement is for exterior film that provides UV protection or similar solar shielding properties, 3M Renewable Energy film options can be considered.

You should also consider where the film will be applied. For films facing outside, we add UV absorbers into the adhesive so that the film doesn’t discolor or yellow.

How long will the films last?

EZ: We usually say three years outside, five years for an interior perimeter application exposed to light, and 15 years for interior applications. Depending on the environment, it’s likely that they could last even longer.

For high-quality, glass-like finishes, 3M offers a variety of films for virtually any application. From there, customers can let their creativity go to work, designing everything from logo imprints to slick, brightly colored effects, all at a fraction of the cost of real glass.

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