Metal prints are one of the most popular mediums available to display landscape photography, for a striking addition to your home décor with a contemporary look that adds beauty and interest to your walls in lieu of a traditional framed paper print behind glass.
It is important to know that there is more than one type of metal print, each with their own features and benefits, depending on the room in which you intend to hang the photograph.
Below, we will break down these differences so that you can make a better informed choice as to which metal print style may be best for you.
Dye-Sublimation Metal Prints
The most common type of metal print is produced with a printing process called 'dye-sublimation'. The photograph is first sized and printed on a special photographic dye transfer paper.
Next, a pre-manufactured aluminum panel with a unique surface coating is placed into a large heat press designed specifically for this printing process. The photo transfer paper is aligned over the panel, then the press is closed together and timed under a specific ratio of heat and pressure.
The dye in the transfer paper then infuses into the coating on the aluminum panel to create a durable, scratch resistant print that is uniquely waterproof.
A company called ChromaLuxe® is the most common manufacturer of the aluminum panels used by most professional printing labs. The panels are available in a small variety of surface finishes, like high gloss or matte, depending on the customer's needs .
Some benefits of dye-sublimation prints include:
- Scratch resistance/durability
- Variety of surface finishes
- Less expensive to produce
It is important to know that while these prints possess good detail and saturation, they are slightly less detailed or reactive to accent lighting as other types of prints. This is not the fault of the photographer or the printer, but rather due to the limitations of the print process itself.
Due to the manufacturing process of the panels, tiny surface imperfections may also be present on the surface of the aluminum, although the printer will usually orientate the panel such that any minor imperfections are hidden by details in the photograph itself.
Digital Chromogenic Metal Prints
The main difference is that the photograph is actually printed on a high quality photographic paper, then laminated to a sheet of aluminum or other substrate instead of infusing the photo into a coating on the metal.
With this process, the image is first exposed on a high quality paper like Fujiflex® Crystal Archive, a light-sensitive poly-based photographic material using a digital exposure system utilizing lasers or LEDs. The resulting image is then developed using photographic chemicals.
The photograph is then laminated to a stiff substrate like aluminum or Dibond, which is much thicker and robust than a dye-sublimation panel. Finally, a high-gloss laminate is placed over the image for UV protection.
Chromogenic metal prints possess the overall look of a traditional metal print, but with far better detail, sharpness, and saturation. Fujiflex® Crystal Archive material has an amazing 3D look, boasts dramatic color, and reacts to proper accent lighting with a beautiful glowing effect.
Benefits of chromogenic metal prints include:
- exceptionally high detail and sharpness
- high reactivity to accent lighting, resulting in a 'glowing' appearance
- smooth tonal transitions and shadow detail
- accurate color reproduction and vibrancy
Which Metal Print Is Right For You?
While both styles of metal prints have their benefits, it ultimately comes down to where you intend on hanging them. If you want to install your photograph in a high humidity area like a bathroom, then a dye-sublimation print is the only choice, as they are fully waterproof while chromogenic prints are not.
Also, if the bathroom has a bright window or overhead lights, you can choose a matte finish instead of glossy to help reduce reflections and glare.
If you wish to have a higher quality glossy print with incredible details and vibrant colour, then a Fujiflex® Crystal Archive chromogenic print is an excellent choice. Being much more reactive to accent lighting, they come alive with a beautiful glowing response that is hard to beat.
A Final Note
Before investing in a fine art print, it is recommended to research and understand the differences between other print mediums such as paper, canvas, and acrylic, not just metal, so that you can make a better informed choice as to what suits your needs in terms of budget and the quality that you desire. A comprehensive comparison of additional print styles can be found here.
Specifically, I hope this article has helped you to understand the differences between metal prints and how they are made.
Often, depending on how many rooms you wish to decorate, a combination of print styles is necessary when adding fine art to your home, and it all starts with knowing which mediums are right for you.