How Aluminum Prints are Made

How are HD Aluminum Prints made?

Dye sublimation has been around for years. Prior to founding HD Aluminum Prints, I sold my photography at art shows around the Pacific Northwest. I thought it would be good to share the secret of how HD Aluminum Prints are made and what makes them so durable as I am asked that question often.

There are far more variables in the process than printing. A custom icc profile manages the color so that what you see on your display closely matches your print on aluminum.  The icc profile takes into consideration the paper, ink, printer, pressure, time, and temperature that are all part of the process. Therefore, the process is really the key to great HD Aluminum prints. Here are the basics; PRINT, PRESS, FINISH.

PRINT- Usually a solid must turn into a liquid before becoming a gas. Sublimation is a process where a solid by-passes the liquid state and goes from a solid straight to a gas. HD Aluminum prints are not printed straight onto the aluminum. First, a mirrored, paper print is made using an inkjet printer and specialty dyes.

A print made directly on aluminum would have the same issues with durability as ink printed on paper or canvas. It would scratch off easily. With dye sublimation, a coating is commercially applied to the aluminum which hardens to form a wear layer on the aluminum. When heated, this coating softens slightly allowing for the dyes to be fused into it; when the coating cools, the dyes are locked in. The durability of HD Aluminum Prints comes from this two-step process of printing then sublimating.

Custom Sized Aluminum Matched up to Print at HD Aluminum Prints

PRESS- HD Aluminum Prints places the print and aluminum in a large heat press. The dyes are pressed firmly against the aluminum insuring the dyes have nowhere to go other than into the coated aluminum. The giant heat platen quickly heats the aluminum and at the same time ‘sublimates’ the dyes into the coating, fusing them into place. Sounds simple, eh? Well, here is the fun part. The print colors when made do not look like the colors on the computer monitor. When the dyes turn to a gas, they change color and become the vibrant colors expected in HD Aluminum Prints. Sometimes, I think I’d like to be a fly on the print and watch that process happen, but then I’d be a flat cooked fly and that would not be the ending I choose.

FINISH- HD Aluminum Prints are cut and finished in a way that produces fairly smooth edges. We recommend a 1/8” radius corner to keep the print from snagging, protecting the print and those who handle it.

Prints can be either framed without matting or glass, affixed in a flush mount, or float mounted. Flush mounts are created by mounting the print to the face of a metal or wood framework where the sides of the flush mount show. This produces a look similar to gallery wrapped canvas.

HD Aluminum Prints float mounts come in a variety of solutions. We offer hanging mounts made from 80% recycled materials.  For smaller prints, we make a float that holds the print 1” off the wall. For larger prints, our floats are beefier and hold the print 1 ¼” off the wall. Some galleries require a wire for hanging so our solution gives you maximum flexibility.

Those are the basics. Give us a call at HD Aluminum Prints and order your best images on aluminum today!