How Long Do Metal Prints Last?

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How long will they last? Simply put, longer than you or me. In a scientific test, metal prints created by the dye-sublimation process were found to retain color balance as much as 4 times longer than archival photographic paper.

Leland H. Carlblom, Ph.D, Senior Scientist at R&D Coatings Inc, concluded the following:

“White MetalPrints panels imaged with 6 color SubliJet IQ inks were tested for color fade and color balance by an industry accepted, accelerated test protocol which utilizes a Xenon Arc Test Chamber to simulate interior daylight conditions. Three different long lasting silver halide/dye photo papers were concurrently tested for comparison. Image lifetime for the MetalPrints panels, as defined by the test protocol, was 2 to 4 times that of the long lasting photo papers.”

For the full article please see, Xenon Light Stability Testing by Leland H Carlblom.

Metal Prints vs Canvas

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You have a great image that needs a place in your home. You probably remember seeing an eye-catching metal print or an elegant canvas wrap somewhere at a gallery or at a nice home. Either choice can really upgrade the appearance of your room, but one will definitely work better. This depends on your image and the style of your interior.

Metal Prints
Metal Prints are all about vibrant colors and deep contrast. Soft subtle images generally don’t work as well on this media. The high contrast makes any image look bolder and its inherent sharpness brings out detail incredibly well. So if you have a relatively low resolution image or a flawed image, you might want to pass on metal.

As a general guideline, these categories of photography work really well with metal prints.

  • Seascapes – Could be our locale, but seascapes are the most popular type of photography for metal prints in our lab in Southern California. The shades of blue in the sky and ocean look so pleasing to the eye. There is so much detail in the waves that it feels like you could touch and feel the water with your hands. It seems that this media was made for seascape photography.
  • Landscapes – Landscapes are naturally abundant with vivid color. That’s why many landscape photographers choose metal for their galleries. Fall foliage look unbelievable on metal. Head-turning yellow leaves of the Colorado Aspens are a must see on metal.
  • Sunsets – Want to see a sunset ignite your wall? The rich warm colors of sunsets come alive on metal prints. The spectrum of colors between yellow and red pop with so much intensity.
  • Black & White – What?! Yes, black and white photos, look great on metal. You’re thinking, “You just told me to choose images with bold colors. Why are you contradicting yourself?” Truth is … metal offers unprecedented contrast. The blacks are so much deeper than any traditional print. Black and white photographers are always looking for contrast to get that great “pop” in their images. Metal has that in spades.

metalprints

Metal prints look most natural in modern or contemporary interiors. You probably seen them at offices, hipster hangouts and trendy restaurants. Their chic modern look and feel make them very popular with the young and progressive crowd. Due to high glossy finish and bold colors they’ll fit really well in interiors with simple clean furnishings and nice polished surfaces. Below is a great example found on Houzz.com

Aluminum Wall Scupture

 

Canvas Prints
Canvas prints are definitely more versatile than metal prints. They don’t look out of place anywhere. They look just as good in a museum gallery as they would in a nice cozy home. They’re warm and inviting with an air of sophistication.

Both soft and bold images work well with canvas. The colors come out much softer and flatter than metal, but they’re no slouch when it comes to color fidelity. The color gamut will be closer to traditional photo prints. What really makes them unique is the texture and wrapped presentation. The texture gives your image a soft yet artsy look. That’s why they’re a really popular choice for portraits and wedding photography.

As adaptable as canvas prints are, I personally think they look best in transitional interiors like homes in a Pottery Barn catalog. Canvas really complements interiors with simple and classic styling as seen in this example found on Houzz.com.

Art as Pop

 

Conclusion
Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of the unique characteristics of these two medias. While we did present some strong recommendations, they are essentially just guidelines. There is no real right or wrong. Ultimately, the best choice for your home decor is what makes you makes you happy.

Complete Guide to Metal Photo Prints

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If you’re looking for a modern way to display your photos in HD quality and head-turning color, metal prints are exactly what you’ve been waiting for. It’s hard to illustrate the superiority of metal prints on a computer screen. But, if you were to see them next to a traditional photo print in person, the difference would be obvious—it’s the one that makes your jaw drop. So, if you’re ready to show off that incredible shot, here’s what you need to know.

Finish Options
Metal prints come in two base color coatings, an opaque white and a transparent clear. This base coat serves the same function as paper. The inks are absorbed by this area of the specialized metal photo panel. This base is then protected by an outer coating, usually available in Glossy, Matte or Satin.

White Metal, the more popular choice, offers a traditional but vibrant look. Colors are rich and contrast is high. For the most part, colors look the way you expect them to look but enhanced and in High Definition.

white_metal_print

Clear Metal (aka Silver Metal) uses a clear base that allows the brushed aluminum to show through. Since the lightest color available (white point) is the metal itself, images will look darker. But, it will have a glimmer only metal can make. In my opinion, it makes most images look vintage in a modern way. Black and white images on clear metal look like 19th century daguerreotypes. It’s a very unique look.

clear_metal_print

A protective polymer outer coating is applied over the base surface.  Available in Glossy, Matte and Satin, each finish makes a very different look. Glossy is the most popular and the most eye-catching. Although there is some glare, this finish brings the most vivid colors out of metal prints. Matte is the most glare free and the lowest in contrast. Satin is somewhere in between but more like matte than glossy.

Quality – What to Look For
The two main factors for excellent metal photo prints are the quality of metal photo panels and the expertise of the print service provider.

Surprisingly, the quality of the metal photo panels can differ dramatically. Discount services like some found in Groupon use substandard materials that barely resemble professional quality metal prints. These panels can be overly thin with colors that look flat and inaccurate.  Consistent base coatings along with high quality aluminum are essential to getting great quality. While there are many brands of lower quality metal photo panels, Chromaluxe is the one brand that is used by professional photo labs and high quality printers. Definitely ask your printer what brand of metal panels that they use. If they don’t know, look somewhere else.

Next, you need someone with the expertise to get the best color out of them. The accuracy of any print depends upon the printer’s ability reproduce colors accurately and consistently. They should be well versed in color management and print production processes. They should be using high quality inks that have been profiled and calibrated to the metal panels. This is done by creating an ICC profile which is digital description of the color characteristics of their print process. If you have a monitor that was profiled and calibrated, the profiled colors of the metal prints should look very close to what you seen on your monitor. Click to learn how to get your prints to match your screen. Remember to ask your print service provider, if they have an ICC profile for their metal prints. This is a good way to get an idea of their level of expertise and their commitment to quality.

How Are They Made?
Metal prints are made by a process called dye sublimation. Unlike the traditional method of printing directly on the surface, which may damage easily, dye sublimation infuses the image directly into the hard coating to provide lasting durability and protection.

The first step requires your image to be printed on paper transfer media on a giclee printer with specialized sublimation inks made for the metal print process. The print will look like a flat colored mirrored copy of the original image.

giclee

This sheet is then taped on to blank metal photo panel which is then placed in a heat press. The heat and pressure causes the sublimation inks to transform into a gas. The gas is then absorbed through the pores of the polymer coating of the metal and into the base coating. As the metal cools, the pores close and the metal surface stabilizes.

heatpress

Additional Benefits
Other than the obvious image quality, metal prints offer additional benefits.

Metal prints offer great value. Since metal photo prints don’t need to be framed, you can save big on framing costs which are often much more than the price of the print itself. When ordered with a wall mount for a nominal fee ($5 to $10), you can have wall decor ready to hang at a fraction of the cost of a custom framed traditional photo print.

Durability and archivability of metal prints are excellent. The surface coating is very tough and scratch resistant. It doesn’t require any glass to cover it. Also, they are incredibly fade resistant. The Rochester Institute of Technology tested metal prints to last up to 70% longer than archival silver halide photographic prints.

Since they are printed on aluminum, metal prints are also water proof. If you have finger prints or something gets on it, just use a damp cloth to wipe it.

Where to get metal prints
Although metal prints are a great value, they are not cheap. They will cost much more than just a traditional print of the same size. Since you’re spending more, you’re much better off going to a competent pro lab or printer that knows what they’re doing rather than a clueless big box reseller who sends your order out to some off-site unknown mass production print plant. Prices will vary amongst service providers. Avoid the really cheap places and use the tips mentioned here to find someone who is willing to help you get what you want.