What is Dye Sublimation Printing on Aluminum?



The technical definition of sublimation is the change of the solid particle directly into a gaseous state and then back into a solid within the designated substrate. In the case of dye-sublimation these specially designed sublimation inks, via heat and pressure will turn from this solid form of a printed paper transfer containing these dyes to a gas which will allow it to penetrate the pores of the coating on the aluminum. They then transform back into a solid from their gaseous state.

The fact that these dyes are suspended at different levels in the coating is what gives our aluminum prints their depth and sometimes 3-dimensional appearance. There is no other process that allows you to attain the deep and rich blacks and jaw-dropping color as photos on aluminum.



So what exactly does this process look like?



Step 1. The file-work


The advantage of using Vivid Metal Prints to do your printing is that we are kind of like working with a friend more-so than a print lab. So whatever your circumstances are – hit us with it! Is there a custom job you need to do? Email us about it at info@vividmetalprints.com. Do you only have a very specific file-format type? Is the file huge? Send it on over. We’ll figure it out together. So naturally as with any other lab, the first step is always vetting the file(s).

We have a few resources that you can check if you need help with them.


Check out our blog with useful videos and articles that can help with this process should you need it.

Visit it by clicking HERE or on the image.


Once we have your file(s) we communicate to confirm everything looks good and if we notice any red flags. 



Step 2. Print the transfer!


It is such a fun experience seeing the moments people have captured and sent to us. Your files are our windows into your lives and we couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of that experience.

We use EPSON sublimation printers which we work very diligently to keep color corrected and calibrated. You can read our article about this process by clicking HERE. We have actually replaced some of the components in our printers to achieve better and cleaner results both in terms of detail but also in smooth gradients. EPSON’s Japan engineering team even flew out to check out some of the changes we made to improve on future models. Vivid Metal Prints is always working to stay on the cutting edge of the process and retaining the most amount of detail in your aluminum prints.



So once the transfer is printed (which is a mirror image of your file) it is ready for the next step: sublimation!



Step 3. Sublimation!


Once the transfer is ready, we use special high index heat tape to attach them to each other for the next step, which involves sending it through our one of a kind heat-press. As stated in the introductory paragraph on this page, we use heat and pressure to convert the dyes in the paper into a gas which then is embedded into the coating on the aluminum.


This is the process for both the final prints, but also for the proofs that we produce for anyone who requests them ($25/per image). Proofing gives you the peace of mind that what you are getting will match exactly what you approved.



Here is a video on our proofing process so you can see what that entails:


Step 4. Framing and Packing!



Once you have approved your proof and once the final print is ready, it is time to get a frame on it!



We have many frame combinations and options to choose from. Here is a video explaining these options:


The last step is to get it wrapped and packaged and on it’s way to your door/dock.


If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.


(336) 283-8679