Sublimation aluminum printing is an amazing new medium which has been gaining popularity exponentially in the last few years. It is a medium which yields amazingly vivid colors, rich blacks, and a luminescence which is unmatched by any other media; furthermore, these unique attributes give a whole new avenue of exploration when it comes to digital file manipulation and the printing of these digital files.
For aluminum printing, as mentioned above, the colors when printed are amazingly vibrant and can often gain about 10% saturation (or thereabout). With this saturation what can occur is that colors can become easily oversaturated. However, the more common problem associated with this saturation is potential color shift.
When printing on other substrates files can be printed verbatim and there is very little (if any) color shift if printed by an expert printer. However, with aluminum printing, a 2-3% increase or decrease in the saturation of a color in the digital file stage can lead to roughly a 10-12% color increase or decrease when printed onto aluminum. The best way to avoid extreme color shifting is to communication. If you are apprehensive about a skintone being too yellow, a lake being too green, or a pair of jeans being too blue request your printer to do a test strip before committing to a full sized print. This is by far the best way to avoid drastic color shifts. If you are sending a pre-adjusted file in for printing a great recommendation I can give is to also send in the original for matching purposes. At LaminART we perform test strips upon request; additionally, we routinely perform test strips on various images for research and development purposes to make sure our machines and software are performing at their very best.
Another common and often prevalent concern with aluminum prints are prints being "too dark". The main concern, if not the largest concern with aluminum prints, is the stigma that aluminum prints are too dark (or are printed too dark). For aluminum prints the blacks are so rich and deep that they have a wider dynamic range than other substrates. However, once this range begins to hit the top 90% of the darkest black values the differences becomes very hard to distinguish, thus causing a very dark top end in the blacks without a great deal of distinction in the subtle transitions if not printed correctly.
Any easy fix it to brighten up very dark black areas in your digital files; however, unless you are printing many files on a daily/weekly basis this could still lead to inconsistent results as well. Again, a test strip could be key in preventing this, however blacks are a bit more predictable when printing so communicating with your printing provider is again key as they will likely have a good handle on how much to adjust for.
Finally, go with the medium. High contrast, bold colors, dramatic lighting, low key lighting, b/w images are all great choices for sublimation aluminum printing in the high gloss style. If you have an image with high key, subtle transitions, and muted colors it may too look good on the high gloss aluminum, however, it's best to go with it's benefits as opposed to going against them.
Whether printing with a large lab or a small lab the communication aspect of aluminum printing is paramount. As mentioned, with other media like photo paper or canvas there should be very little issue as it relates to printing consistency. With aluminum printing it is almost an art form in itself as it relates to the printing aspect. Looking at a file and having a skilled printing professional assess the multitude of factors in your digital file such as color saturation, amount of blacks in the image, value shifts etc. and make calculated decisions when setting up files for printing will only assist in getting you the absolute best results that are as true to your file as can be.
Hopefully these tips will give everyone a bit of an insight into the aluminum printing pre-press process and allow for better results in the quality of your upcoming aluminum prints! At LaminART we take great pride in the quality of our aluminum prints and the many positive reviews we have gotten. Thank you all.