Comprehensive Guide For Metal Printing

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Updated: 04/22/2024
by Michael McCarty
Founder, Tribeca Printworks

What Is A Metal Print?

A “print on metal” may refer to a few different things in today’s market. It could be a paper print that has been mounted to a metal substrate, a metal sign that has been directly printed utilizing a UV curable printing process, or it could refer to a dye sublimation print on aluminum. You can find more information about Tribeca Printworks’s HD Aluminum prints as well as our other printing options.

What Does HD Aluminum Mean?

HD Aluminum typically refers to a dye sublimation print manufactured by ChromaLuxe. They are the world’s leading manufacturer of high definition aluminum photo panels that have been specially treated with a multiple-layer polymer finish that acts as a receptor for the dye sublimation transfer process. This results in a very durable image with stunning clarity and depth. The most distinguishing feature of an HD Aluminum print however is in the presentation. Because the aluminum itself is less than 1/16th of an inch it creates a very sleek modern piece that floats freely from the wall without the need for any additional frame.

What is Dye Sublimation?

The dye sublimation printing process has been around for many decades now and has been widely used for fabric and apparel printing as well as product printing on mugs, key chains, etc. An Image is printed in reverse on a special transfer paper, which is then applied to the substrate and placed in a heat press. The combination of heat and pressure turns, or “sublimates” the dyes into a gas, which is transferred to the the receptor surface. This sublimation process results in an image that is incredibly durable, that can be commercially cleaned and that is very scratch and fade resistant.

Different Finishes for HD Aluminum Prints

One of the great things about the ChromaLuxe aluminum surfaces is that there are multiple finishes to choose from. The standard finishes are Matte White, Gloss White, Matte Silver and Gloss Silver. The White vs Silver refers to the base color of the print. If you have a white base the whites in your image will be white, and the color range will appear natural. If you choose a silver base bear in mind that your “base” white point will be silver and the colors will not appear natural. When people think of an HD Aluminum print they are often imagining the high-gloss and rich colors of the Gloss White surface. It has the appearance of a glossy photograph and can feel dimensional. These tend to have a slick, commercial feel to them. The Matte White surface creates a much more subtle photographic feel, with much less surface glare. Many fine art photographers prefer the Matte White for this reason. The Gloss Silver and Matte Silver versions can result in very interesting images but are also quite unpredictable and may require a bit of experimentation. We don’t recommend those surfaces when color fidelity is needed but we have found that high contrast black and white images can be stunning when produced in Glossy Silver.

Are HD Aluminum Prints More Detailed Than Regular Prints?

This is an area that has caused a lot of confusion because of the “HD” label applied to these ChromaLuxe prints. The “high definition” appearance is more of a function of the quality of the piece, the flatness of the metal and our optical interpretation of the depth of the color. The truth is that the dye sublimation process actually causes the ink to spread slightly more than a direct inkjet print, and the result  is that the true detail of an HD Aluminum print is less sharp than that of an inkjet print on a fine art paper. This would be most noticeable if there were text or graphics being reproduced. So we often tell people that it isn’t a matter of “better,” but simply a nice alternative to framed prints, or canvas.

What Sizes are Available for HD Aluminum Prints?

Because the aluminum panels must be pre-cut there are fewer sizes available for HD Aluminum, however most common photographic sizes can be accommodated from 4”x6” up to 40”x60” as well as a variety of panoramic sizes. You can always contact us to see if we are able to print in the exact size you need, or check out our pricing page for further information on available sizes. 

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