Pros and Cons of Printing on Metal
I was an early adopter of metal printing for fine art photography and have an extensive database of metal prints from a variety of different printers. As I’ve been doing this for some time, I get asked often about the pros and cons of printing on metal. So, let’s dive in.
- Metal prints look amazing. When you unwrap one of these prints they are as good as anything else out there. The quality is tremendous and the images look like the ink is still wet and will literally drip right off the aluminum.
- Printing on metal gives you a durable print. Unlike paper prints, you certainly can’t tear a metal print.
- They can be wiped down with a soft rag. I use a microfiber cloth to wipe mine, which is great to get the little dust particles off the glass if they’ve been hanging for awhile.
- They don’t need a frame. Printing on metal gives you a rigid surface, and its common for printers to include a ½” to ¾” “floating mount” that allows you to hang the piece right on the wall, without having to deal with custom framing.
- While printing on metal is awesome initially, they do fade. The industry said the images would last twice as long as a traditional archival print, up to 200 years. Well, I’ve got a few that are just a couple years old and they have noticeably faded. These are not images that were left outside or in any way have direct sunlight touching them. These metal prints have been hanging in galleries next to sister prints which were done on archival paper. The difference after a few years is noticeable.
- Metal prints are expensive. Not only are they expensive to print, but they are expensive to ship. If you are like me and have clients all over the country, shipping metal prints can cost you a small fortune. And while some customers understand the charges, others are alienated by the price.
- Don’t drop them! There is a good chance if you drop a metal print, you will damage your floors and the print itself. If this happens, you won’t be able to unbend the print.
- Hard to dispose of. Hopefully you won’t have to, but if you don’t have a need for your metal prints anymore or if you just don’t want it, they can be pretty tough to get rid of. Sure, you can take it to the refuse center, but if you have big prints like I do, and they are 40”x60” or so, I hope you have a truck, because most of the waste management services won’t take them.
I’ve been a bit more cautious of printing on metal, and encourage my clients to really understand the pros and cons of metal printing before they make the decision to print on this medium or to avoid it. If the technology gets better and metal printing does begin to retain it’s quality for the advertised amount of time, then I’d be less hesitant to print on metal again. However, for now, I’m going to be leery about metal printing altogether.