I have been getting a number of questions around Acrylic versus Laminate finish, where to buy Acrylic Laminates in Bangalore and how to use them for Modular Kitchen & Wardrobe Shutter construction, hence thought of penning this down as a dedicated post.
Even before we get into a discussion on Acrylic versus Laminate Versus Paint its important to step back and understand what the discussion “really” is about. What I have understood from customer interactions is that when they say that they need an Acrylic finish what they really mean is that they are looking for a “Hi Gloss” Finish.
A Hi Gloss finish can ultimately be delivered via using acrylic, laminate, Duco Paint, UV Coating, PU Paint etc. etc. and, mind you, none of the above techniques are superior or inferior than the other. The usage of one over the other really depends on the application (Kitchen or the Wardrobe, or the Cot or somewhere else…), the design (whether the surface is plane or curved), the level of maintenance that the user can manage and finally the choice of colour and whether the specific colour that the customer desires is available in the chosen finish.
With that preamble let us now look at the characteristics and suitability of each finish

1. Acrylic:

This is sold either as 1 mm sheet that can be stuck on top of MDF/ Ply or as readymade 18mm board, pre-laminated with the 1mm acrylic sheet. Modular vendors cut these boards to the required size, apply the edge bands in matching colour and deliver the finished shutter to end customers/ designers. The thing to note here is that both Acrylic sheets and Pre laminated acrylic boards available in Bangalore are direct imports, usually from China, and none of the regular brands in India (Greenply, Century, Euro etc.) produce these. Hence the sourcing and sale of acrylic based products is largely unorganized with really no standard pricing. You will hence find prices of the finished shutters ranging from 600 per sqft all the way to 1400psft in the market with little or no marked difference in the product.
That said, acrylic gives a great hi gloss finish especially when the shutters are factory made from pre-laminated boards. Pasting of acrylic sheets on board on site is not recommended as this leads to waviness due to non-uniformity of the surface of the board or of the layer of adhesive.

Application & Use

In terms of its application, acrylic can be used only for plane/ straight line applications such as Kitchen and Wardrobe shutters. It cannot be used for profiled shutters nor in other “non straight line” applications.
From a maintenance perspective like any other glossy surface Acrylic tends to catch finger marks as well as scratches. Its scratch resistance is however higher than that of regular Hi Gloss Laminate.

Colour Shade Availability

Acrylic is available in limited colours and the shade book of each vendor varies – hence it is quite an effort in case you are particular about the specific colour you want

2. Hi Gloss Laminates:

These are similar to regular laminates but with a Hi Gloss finish. They are available from all the standard laminate manufacturers in India, some of them offer two varieties – the standard range and the hi scratch resistant range. In addition, the colour option availability is fairly exhaustive.
Here again it is best to go for factory made shutters as waviness is a standard issue in all Hi Gloss surfaces. At the same time, on site pasting is possible with Hi Gloss Laminates as carpenters are conversant in its use. Care needs to be taken to apply a 4 mm MDF sheet on top of ply to minimize the waviness. Also in case of shutters made on site the shutter size should be limited to 4 feet as longer shutters may bend due to the difference in expansion coefficients of ply, mdf and the laminate sandwitched together.

Application & Use

Due to the relative ease of use, cost & availability Hi Gloss Laminates can be used in a variety of application from Kitchen Shutters, Wardrobe shutters to Wall Paneling etc. When using for making shutters take care to find the matching edge bands so that the edges can be seamless. Matching edge bands are NOT available for the entire range and personally that has been one of my biggest complaints with the laminate manufacturers.
Also, as with Acrylic, the use of Hi Gloss laminates is limited to plane/ straight line applications. Hi Gloss Laminates do catch finger marks as well as scratches like other hi gloss surfaces. The Hi Scratch resistance variety is preferable but it is available in limited colour shades

3. Duco Paint:

Duco is the most versatile method of achieving a hi gloss finish. It is the same paint that is used for painting cars and hence works great on angular, non straight line & curved surfaces. While Duco can be sprayed on well prepared & smoothened Plywood, it is easier done on plane MDF. Applicators hence insist on pasting a thin MDF sheet on Ply go get a smooth finish without having to do as much preparation. On the other hand, the “Glossiness” of Duco is lower than that of Acrylic or Hi Gloss Laminate. Duco also tends to crack up along the joints, it is hence best to minimize the number of joints in the furniture or hide them under the MDF packing or via a bit of smart design

Application & Use:

Due to its versatility Duco can be used for most applications including cots, book shelves, partitions, shutters and wall panels. However, Duco is not recommended in furniture & spaces that see hi traffic such as the Kitchen & Wardrobes. This is because even with a small hit or scratch the paint peels off and over time this results in an unkempt look.

Colour Shade Availability

Since Duco is a type of paint, it is available in almost infinite colours. You even get metallic shades that can be quite unique but need a fair amount of judgement – more around where NOT to use than where to.
That covers I guess, as always would welcome your comments, questions, suggestions & inputs
Signing off