Deciphering Shades Of White

Shades of white enclosure

Comparative Data for White, Opal & Clear Acrylic

Making up the largest portion of the Ponoko materials catalog, acrylic is a very popular material for laser cutting. Being stronger than glass, UV resistant and economical in price it’s used for a wide range of applications including electronics enclosures and signage. When it comes to selecting the right finish for an application, similar color options can be hard to differentiate between. This article comparing shades of white acrylic provides numeric and visual information to help provide clarity on the options currently available.

Light Transmission Data

The biggest difference between opaque white, white and opal acrylic options is the amount of light each of these materials let through. With that in mind, here are some approximate light transmission values. Included is clear and clear matte acrylic options, as these are often considered and compared with white options:

ColorThicknessLight Transmittance (%)
Opaque White0.12in (3mm)9%
White Matte0.12in (3mm)31%
White0.12in (3mm)31%
Opal0.12in (3mm)42%
Clear Matte 0.12in (3mm)90%
Clear 0.12in (3mm)92%

In the white colors, light transmission changes with the thickness of the material. The thicker the white material, the less the light transmission. For instance, a thicker opal option will have a lower transmission number than listed above.

Shades Of White: A Visual Comparison

While having numerical data provides accuracy, a visual comparison can provide a clarity that may not be as obvious from a table. Below is an image of the materials listed above. The background print helps illustrate the visibility of background objects with each material in the 0.12 (3mm) thickness.

Shades of white comparison image

Popular Uses For Materials

Still not sure which color of acrylic is right for your needs? Here are some common ways these acrylic colors are used:

Opaque white – Popular for signage where high contrast white options are wanted due to its low light transmission value.
White – Popular for signage where high contrast is not required.
White Matte – Popular for panels and electronics enclosures with high touch use (matte material shows less finger prints than gloss)
Opal – Popular for backlit illuminated signage (light is placed behind opal material making this material popular for light box type installations).
Matte Clear – Popular for electronics enclosures (matte material shows less finger prints than gloss and internal components are hinted at, but not fully exposed)
Clear – Popular for edge lit panels (signage and electronics) and mounting plates (electronics).

Get your own samples

If you’d like to buy some of the small samples pictured above, you can find these on Ponoko materials pages once you select an individual material.

If you’d like more material comparison information like this, please comment below about the type of information that you would like to see.

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