Metallic prints or a photograph or other piece of artwork printed on a metal substrate is one of the latest trends in high-end art and home decor. There is some confusion as to what a metal photo print actually is and is not and how it differs from traditional photo prints while this all seems to be straightforward.
Dye-sublimation metal prints
People are most likely referring to prints that are made through the dye-sublimation process when they are referring to metal prints. Dye-sublimation was discovered in France in 1957 by Noel de Plasse, a researcher at a textile company Lainiere de Roubaix who notice that some solid dyes could transition to the gaseous phase without ever becoming a liquid and this is not a new process.
This was used extensively to print on textiles, paper, and other materials to create fabrics, banners, signs and even household items such as mugs and this was also dubbed as “transfer printing”.
This is a newer application of this process when it comes to metal photo prints which are most commonly aluminum. This technique for creating metal prints through dye sublimation in 2003 was developed by Roger Laudy, a professional printer, and owner of Image Wizards in Kentucky.
The process involved
The image is first printed in reverse onto sublimation paper using special inks to make metal prints made with the dye-sublimation process. The print is secured on top of a coated aluminum sheet in a heat press after it is cut to size. The ink is then turned to gas and bonded to metal because of the heat and pressure which is applied to it.
UV aluminum photo prints
UV curable inkjet printing is another method for aluminum photo prints. An image is directly printed onto aluminum with special inks which are cured under the UV light in this method. Instead of combining it with the dye-sublimation so that there is no sheen to the ink as in other metal prints as these deposits the ink on top of the aluminum substrate.
You will also come across other types of prints in the market which is being referred to as metal prints but they are all misnomers. Featuring multiple sheets of paper and laminate often Mylar, a metallic print is simply a photo printed on metallic paper.
Where would you hang the metal prints?
Except to that, they are a bit longer lasting, the metal prints can be treated like any other framed photo prints after you learn how to print on metals. As they are waterproof, and because of no glazing is necessary, there is no risk of moisture build-up underneath the glass or acrylic as metal prints are ideal for bathrooms.
The metal prints should not be hung in direct sunlight and any dye will fade in intense UV light though perhaps not as quickly as regular photographic paper while they are all durable. There are certain designs which are designed specifically to be hung outside in direct sunlight such as the ChromaLuxe metal prints and this is all due to their UV coatings.
Framing the metal prints
The metal prints do not require all of the normally recommended protective materials in a complete frame package such as mat board and glazing as they are created with the dye-sublimation process which is durable, scratch-resistant and will not degrade like any regular photo prints.