Displaying Metal Photo Prints Outdoors
Metal prints are famous for the almost 3D look they achieve along with beautifully saturated colours & depth & detail of image.
They are also extremely durable & studies have shown they can last longer than an archival photographic print .. at least 40 years & possibly 100 years in the right conditions.
But is it a good idea to hang a metal print outside? Yes, because they are so durable, in the right outdoor areas metal prints can be a wonderful addition & can last many years. There are also methods of protecting a metal print from the outside elements.
The Best Print Method For An Outdoor Metal Print
Metal prints are actually produced using an aluminium substrate.
For a print that’s going to live outside, it’s important to understand how they are made so you buy the one that is going to be best for the job.
Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with going into complete depth & detail, but to give you a
enough information to make the best choice.
There’s 3 processes used to transfer a photographic image onto the aluminium substrate.
1. Dye-sublimation - This is the most popular method used by print labs as it produces that amazing depth which gives that almost 3D effect.
It is also the best method for creating an archival print that will stand the test of time & will fare the outside elements.
A heat process is used to make the aluminium receptive to absorbing the dyes.
Then a protective clear coat is applied which most often incorporates UV protection.
2. Direct Print - as the name suggests, the image is printed directly onto the surface of the aluminium rather than being absorbed into the substrate.
Again, a protective clear coat is applied.
3. Face Mount - this is where the image is printed onto photographic paper which is then mounted to the aluminium & sealed with a clear coat.
To explore metal prints further, check out my comprehensive guide to metal prints.
Each of these methods have their advantages & disadvantages.
But most reputable print labs use the dye-sublimation method because it gives greater depth & colour saturation & that almost 3D quality.
There are companies that produce metal prints specifically for outdoor use. They are designed to handle direct sunlight & higher temperatures. They’re still only guaranteed for around 5 years & are mostly for commercial applications.
4 Tips To Keep Your Print Safe From The Elements
Whichever method was used to produce your print, there are some simple tips that will prevent unnecessary fading & damage.
1. Keep Out Of Direct Sunlight
Even though metal prints are of archival quality, anything will eventually fade when exposed to regular UV light.
So undercover entertaining areas & even on a verandah or porch is a good spot provided it’s always in shade.
Metal prints are simple to clean.
Usually just a wipe over with a non-abrasive cloth is all that's required.
Being outdoors, a print will get dusty a lot quicker.
Also if it’s near a BBQ or smoker, grease can eventually build up.
So regular cleaning will prevent damage that may be caused if grease build up becomes harder to remove.
3. An Extra Layer Of Protection
I have seen videos where a clear epoxy resin has been applied to a metal print.
If you’re confident, you can do this yourself.
Personally, I’d probably make a right mess!
But you can always use a professional.
I’m not sure of the cost, but it does make the print almost bullet proof.
Metal prints don’t rust, but aluminium can oxidize.
So if you're near the coast, exposure to salt air could potentially degrade the print over time.
Metal prints can be a fantastic way to create atmosphere & interest in an outdoor area.
If you have a Balinese or tropical style entertaining area for example, a large print of a beach scene can be wonderful.
They can work really well in man caves & garages too, photographs of cars & trucks or anything that suits the theme.
With a few tips on how to maintain your print, the amazing image quality of this style of art can be enjoyed just as much outside your home as well as inside.
I hope you’ve found value in this article & please feel free to share.