The Water Resistant Qualities Of Metal Photo Prints
Metal, or aluminium photo prints as they are also known, produce amazing image quality.
They’re highly durable & are rated to last up to at least 40 years & in the right conditions up to 100! Pretty impressive eh?
Although they can be more costly, it’s a print medium that is well worth the investment.
So you want to make sure that your metal print isn't exposed to elements that can reduce it’s longevity .. so ..
Are metal photo prints waterproof? They are extremely water resistant, but not completely waterproof. They are perfect for high humidity & wet areas & are durable enough to be directly exposed to water. But actually submerging a metal print in water may not be the best idea.
How Water Resistant Are Metal Prints?
As mentioned, it probably isn’t advisable to totally submerge a print completely in water.
Why would you anyway? I’ve never done it & couldn’t find any information about taking it to this extreme.
If a metal print needs cleaning, simply wiping it with a damp cloth is sufficient.
You can learn more about how to properly clean an aluminium print in this article.
But this style of print is extremely durable & highly water & moisture resistant.
They’re perfect for bathrooms, high humidity areas & sheltered outdoor spaces.
I also wrote an article if you’d like more information on hanging a metal print outdoors.
Being made from aluminium means they’re non-ferrous & don’t rust.
Do Metal Prints Rust?
But aluminium can oxidize.
So exposure to salt air can create damage over time.
There are companies that produce metal prints specifically for outdoor use. They’re weather & water proof & can handle direct sunlight & higher temperatures. But these types of prints are mainly used for commercial applications as they are only guaranteed for around 5 years.
Does The Printing Process Affect Water Resistance?
The photographic image is transferred onto an aluminium substrate in 3 ways.
2. Direct Print.
3. Face Mounted.
Dye-sublimation is the most popular method used by quality print labs, because through a heat process, it actually infuses the inks or dyes into the metal.
This is what gives the print such depth & colour saturation.
Then a clear coat is applied which usually has UV protecting qualities.
Direct printing is laying the ink down onto the surface via an inkjet system & finishing with a clear coat also.
Face mounting is when the image is 1st printed onto photographic paper, then the paper is mounted onto the aluminium & sealed with a clear coat.
I can’t talk from experience as I’ve never tested each printing method.
But I would imagine the face mounting method could be more prone to water damage if moisture were to seep under the clear coat.
It could then cause mould, mildew or discolouration of the photographic paper.
Dye-sublimation is generally regarded as the better method for creating an archival print.
Reasons To Choose A Moisture Resistant Print
Unlike canvas or photographic prints, the water resistance of metal prints have some advantages.
1. Not prone to damage in high traffic areas. Taking off your dirty shoes in a mudroom for example & you accidentally put your wet & grubby hands on the print.
Or little fingers covered in ice cream touching everything as they run down the hallway!
2. Great for high humidity areas. Metal prints are perfect for bathrooms.
It’s possible to hang other print mediums, but over time the high humidity can take it’s toll.
Metal prints aren’t prone to mould either.
3. Great for outdoor areas. They will fade over time if left in exposed spaces that receive sunlight.
But in sheltered entertainment areas & under a shady verandah or porch they are ideal.
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4. Easy to maintain & clean. Because metal prints simply wipe clean, they’re easy to keep looking great.
In outdoor areas you may need to clean on a more regular basis, but indoors they generally just need dusting.
Extra Ways To Waterproof Your Print
If you really want to take it to the next level, there are ways to add extra protection to your metal print.
I’ve seen these methods used on canvas prints to waterproof & protect them.
Liquid or spray on varnish. I can see the logic in applying this to a canvas print, but a metal print is already finished in a clear coat.
I’m really not sure how the 2 chemicals would react with each other, it may cause more harm than good.
I’ve never tried it myself on a metal print, but if you have a print you’re not fussed about, give it a go .. it might be an interesting experiment.
Epoxy resin. I’ve seen videos of this being done & it would no doubt add that extra dimension of protection.
Again, you’d need to make sure the resin won’t have an adverse reaction to the clear coat.
But for prints being displayed outside, this could be a really good option.
Metal prints are highly durable straight out of the box.
Beware of cheap ones though, I’ve seen them bend really easily & even crack.
But a print from a reputable print lab is going to be water resistant to serve most people's needs.
To explore this print medium more, please check out my comprehensive guide to metal prints.
If ever you’re in doubt, simply contact the printer or supplier & ask.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful & please feel free to share if it helps anyone else.