Metal Prints 101 | The Ultimate Guide
While many art collectors look to museum quality Acrylic Fine Art Photography prints as the top of the line choice in nature photography wall art, countless others look to the worlds best metal prints as a striking, durable and more affordable alternative. With a bright, high gloss surface and modern visual appearance, metal prints are displayed in homes, businesses and art galleries around the world. In fact, in locations where humidity and heat are a factor, like Hawaiian Photography Galleries, metal prints are sold almost exclusively as their high end product.
So what exactly is a metal print? Can you sharpen an edge and shave with it? Use it as a shield when sword fighting? Melt it down and turn it into a wristwatch? These are just a few of the questions I will answer as we take a deep dive into metal art and metal wall decor below. Grab your hard hat and buckle up.
What Is A Metal Print?
Metal Prints are photography prints produced using a product produced by UW Solutions called ChromaLuxe. ChromaLuxe is an aluminum substrate with a very fine multiple layer polymer finish that contains a specialized, formulated coating providing the foundation for a visually stunning and durable fine art print.
Essentially a thin sheet of aluminum, ChromaLuxe prints are also surprisingly light with durability unmatched in fine art printing. ChromaLuxe prints are produced using a technology called sublimation, where inks are infused directly into specially coated metal sheets, creating images with stunning color, vibrancy and resolution. ChromaLuxe panels are scratch, fade, water and flame resistant. Requiring nothing more than simple glass cleaner, they are effortless to clean as well. Metal prints can be produced up to 48" x 96" creating large, captivating image displays for the ultimate in metal wall decor.
What Are The Benefits of Metal Prints?
In the world of fine art photography you have a long list of possiblities. You can have artwork printed on wood, metal, plastic, stone, glass and even create a luxurious shower curtain or coffee mug! So what are the benefits of metal prints and why should you choose them for your next wall decor project? Let's find out!
Metal prints are virtually indestructible. They can be displayed in damp and humid environments like bathrooms and outdoor pool areas. In fact, if you want to, you can take a blowtorch to the surface of the print and it will be just fine. All ChromaLuxe products meet ASTM standards for flame spread and smoke development, making them exceptionally safe for every environment. They can be displayed in the hottest and most humid environments on earth with no concern at all. The truth is that metal prints can withstand just about any common (and most uncommon) stressors you can throw at them.
2. Scratch Resistance
When displaying artwork in a public area or in the presence of wild and crazy children (or grown ups) you may have concerns about accidental damage. Metal prints have incredible scratch resistance and really need to take a beating to see any effect at all to the surface of the print. That sword fight you've been looking forward to may just be in your future after all!
3. Aesthetic Appeal
Metal prints are quite striking and provide a clean, crisp and modern appearance to your artwork, allowing them to either stand out and make a statement or blend in to existing decor depending of the size and how it is displayed. Metal prints can be displayed unframed, or framed with a number of aesthetically pleasing float, edge and surface mounts. Metal prints can be produced in sizes up to 48" x 96" and can even be cut to virtually any shape you can imagine.
Metal prints are very light, especially when compared with an Acrylic Face Mounted or externally framed piece of art. This makes mounting a metal print effortless, allowing an individual to hang the piece by themselves in most cases. Every metal print from ChromaLuxe is lightweight and easy to carry, relocate or display without additional mounting hardware required. Because a metal print is a single sheet of lightweight aluminum, you never need to worry about the print falling off the wall or separating from the frame, no matter where or how long it is displayed.
5. Effortless Cleaning
Grab a bottle of windex and your least favorite kids soccer jersey, because that is all you will need to shine a metal print right up with no effort at all. I have pieces in my home I have never had to clean more than simply dusting the top edge. Unlike paper, framed glass or canvas prints, you can get them dirty, wet, hot and bothered...uh, if you want to.
How Long Do Metal Prints Last?
Quite simply, your metal prints will outlast you. ChromaLuxe Metal prints are a durable product that is resistant to weather such as sunlight, rain, and other environmental conditions that can result in yellowing, fading, or aging. ChromaLuxe metal prints were tested by Wilhelm Imaging Research and achieved a permanence rating of more than 60 years using two distinct ink sets. This rating is more than three times better than silver-halide photo papers. In reality, your metal prints could look just as stunning the day you check out, as they did on the day they checked in.
Acrylic Prints Vs Metal Prints
Often times collectors of my work look to me to help them choose between acrylic photography prints and metal prints. To many, the price of the artwork isn't the first consideration, but comes secondary to quality. In the world of fine art photography prints, quality is measured by both image quality and print quality. One won't matter unless both are the very best money can buy. Instead of simply telling you my personal preference, I'd like to share the winning qualities of each.
Visual Qualities | Metal Vs. Acrylic
Many of the visual differences between metal and acrylic photography prints can only be identified when comparing the two side by side. At first glance, when not illuminated, a metal print will often appear brighter than the same image printed on a silver halide paper like Fujiflex. Once properly lit, the acrylic print takes on an ethereal glow, making the image appear backlit, or illuminated from behind. A metal print does not share this same effect and simply appears brighter when illuminated.
While typically not identifiable by non photographers, the fine detail of the image when comparing the two mediums is clearly won by a traditional photographic print mounted behind acrylic glass. This does not mean a metal print has poor detail, it simply does not have the same level of detail and fine detail and tonal shifts that a traditional photo medium possesses.
When color and contrast are compared, a metal print has a lower color gamut, higher contrast and as mentioned previously, often times appears brighter overall under comparison. This brighter, high contrast punch is one of the reasons metal prints work so well in public display, when high quality lighting is often not used. All things considered, if you are looking for the very best image quality overall, a traditional photograph behind acrylic glass wins almost every time.
Physical Qualities | Metal Vs. Acrylic
Where visual qualities of metal prints slightly underperform when compared to traditional photo papers, when physical qualities are compared, metal truly brings home the gold.
A metal print is both lighter & stronger while boasting strong resistance to water, heat, humidity and surface scratching. As a single sheet of aluminum vs the three glued layers of an acrylic print, separation of materials is non existent.
The combination of weight, durability and brighter overall appearance without external lighting makes metal prints a top choice of many interior design, hospitality and medical facilities around the world. Artwork can be displayed, moved, cleaned and admired almost worry free after initial installation.
In the home, where more care can be taken, higher quality materials are appreciated and external lighting is often used, traditional photographic prints behind acrylic glass have always been my personal preference and suggested medium. That being said, the same benefits above, that clearly tip in favor of metal prints ring just as true at home as they do in the workplace. Many collectors of my work purchased their first piece of art on metal and have never looked back.
Either Way You Win
Over the past decade I have directed my work to be produced as both metal and acrylic prints many thousands of times. I have personally viewed no less than one hundred of my images side by side on both mediums. While I typically will have a personal preference one way or the other, my experience with fine art photography printing allows me to make adjustments when finalizing the images for print that bring the visual similarities closer together, despite which medium of choice is requested. Either way, you win.