Last updated on March 4th, 2020 at 05:14 pm
There has been growing popularity of custom photo print services, largely because of the growing availability of affordable print services and the increased quality of readily available photos and cameras due to smart phones.
The most popular of these prints is canvas prints, however metal prints have a big leg up from canvas prints on many different areas.
We cover that more below, but it’s probably not necessary considering you are already on the lookout for the best metal prints! So let’s get into it!
#1 – Pictorem – Best Overall
By far the best metal print provider is Pictorem, and we don’t think it’s all that close.Pictorem is a company based in Quebec and New York but ships to over 99 countries, including (obviously) the US and Canada. It was founded in 2014 and it’s quickly established itself as one of the highest quality photo printing services in the world. Let’s take a look at a few of the advantages of Pictorem:
- Either choose Custom Metal Prints (i.e. upload your own photo).
- Or select from HUGE library of photographs and artwork (unlike many other services who only do custom prints).
- If you are an artist, you can also sell through their platform, hint hint.
- 5 different types of metal prints (check below for full breakdowns of these types):
- Brushed Aluminum Prints
- Available in Box Metal (looks like a Canvas but it’s aluminum). Available in Matte White or in Metallic.
- Disk Prints – metal disks make great options for decoration.
- Epoxy Metal Prints
- Dye Sublimation Metal Prints via ChromaLuxe (astounding quality, highly recommended).
- Brushed Aluminum Prints
- Museum/archival level quality in all their prints. If you want your prints to last, go with these guys.
- Sizes from the very small to the huge (up to 96″ x 60″)
- Often gives significant discounts (up to 40% off!)
So what are these different kinds of Metal Prints and which is best for your needs? Let’s take a look?
Types of Metal Prints that Pictorem Offers
Option #1 – Brushed Aluminum (Metallic or White Finish)
The most common and inexpensive option from Pictorem is the brushed aluminum print. These prints have the paint printed directly onto the metal (unlike more advance sublimation printing covered below).
It has two types, metallic and white. If you choose the class metallic option, any “white” spots in the image will be a shiny metallic finish. This can work very nicely, such as this example below:
However if you don’t want the image to have this metallic effect, you can use the “Smooth White Metal” option. This will print on a white metal background.
The white metal option gives you the advantages of a metal print, with the neutral color of a canvas print. See this example below:
Benefits of Brushed Metal Printing
- Weatherproof and strong aluminum panes.
- Perfect for outdoor displays (unlike canvas)
- Brushed metal finish can provide a great accent to many pictures.
- For others there is the white finish, which is more neutral.
- If you want something relatively inexpensive but high quality, this is the choice for you.
- Like all Pictorem’s prints, they use museum/archival quality paints and materials, which avoid yellowing and fading due to UV rays.
Think this is what you need you can check out details and pricing on Pictorem’s brushed metal page.
Option #2 – Epoxy Metal Prints
Epoxy prints are one step up from simple brushed metal prints. They are actually a combination of brushed metal prints and a coating of glossy epoxy.
This provides extra sheen and protection to the metal print. The thick epoxy coating also adds a visual depth to the artwork or photograph.
Check this video for a quick peek at the epoxy coating process:
Benefits of Epoxy Metal Printing
- Has all the durability of metal prints (can be used both outdoor and indoor)
- Epoxy coating adds a level of scratch resistance.
- Optical depth provided by the glossy coating, perfect for stunning visual landscapes or colorful artwork.
- Like all Pictorem’s prints, they use museum and archival quality materials that avoid yellowing and fading due to UV rays.
- Easy to clean, just treat it like glass!
Sound like what you want? Check out details and pricing on Pictorem’s Epoxy Print Page.
Option #3 – HD Metal Sublimation Prints
Last but certainly not least is the granddaddy of all metal prints, the HD Metal Prints using Dye Sublimation and Chromaluxe Aluminum Panels.
What does all this mean? Let’s walk you through it.
What is Dye Sublimation?
With brushed metal prints and epoxy coated prints, images are printed directly onto the metal surface. In a dye sublimation process, the image is first printed on a special sheet of paper, which is layered on top of the aluminum panel.
This then goes through a heat treating process whereby the dye sublimates onto the surface of the aluminum. This creates the highest quality, scratch resistant, and most vibrant metal prints available anywhere.
What is Chromaluxe?
Chromaluxe is a company that provides the proprietary metal print sublimation process. They don’t deal directly with consumers, but only with authorized printing services, one of which is, of course, Pictorem.
Chromaluxe is widely considered the highest quality metal print process on the planet.
Price is going to be a bit higher then other options (see pricing on their website).
Also, there is a slight limitation on the largest sizing since they use proprietary panels from Chromaluxe (biggest sizing is 60″ x 40″)
Otherwise, it’s all good!
Take a look at this video on the Chromaluxe process, including the paper printing, heat transfer, and the absolute STUNNING result by Pictorem:
Did you see the end result? It was so damn CRISP that it almost looked 3D! I’ve pulled in an image below in case you missed it:
The End Result
Think this is for you? Check out all the details and pricing options on Pictorem’s HD Metal Print Page.
The Bottom Line – Pricing
I get it, can’t make a decision without pricing, right?
We’ve pulled together a table of pricing from Pictorem, but KEEP IN MIND that they run deals all the time that could take upwards of 40% off. I highly recommend you check out there site regularly to keep up on and deals they are running. As of the writing of this article you can get 10% off just by signing up to their newsletter.
|Metal Prints from Pictorem||Price (24″×16″)|
|HD Chromaluxe (frame box)||$260.00|
|HD Chromaluxe (back frame mount)||$187.00|
|HD Chromaluxe (no mount)||$165.00|
|Epoxy Metal (back frame mount)||$182.00|
|Brushed Aluminum (back frame mount)||$155.00|
|Brushed Aluminum (no mount)||$127.00|
Of course they have size options that go both smaller and much larger than the option here, but you get the idea.
Seen enough? Check them out!
Now we move on to some runners up in this category. Can any live up to Pictorem? Not really, but we’d like to give you a well rounded view of the players in the space.
#2 – Canvas Champ – Runner Up
Coming up third on our list of metal print providers is Canvas Champ. Despite it’s name, it doesn’t just provide canvas prints, but it also provides alternatives to canvas such as metal, acrylic, and wood etched prints.
It comes up 3rd on our list because, in our opinion, it comes up a little short in both the artwork/artist/museum-quality niche of Pictorem and the Home Decor/Geek niche of Displate.
Nonetheless it’s a decent option to use at least for comparison purposes when shopping for the best price/etc.
Types of Metal Prints by Canvas Champ
Canvas Champ only offers brushed aluminum prints, either with metal finish, white finish, or glossy finish.
As mentioned above, brushed aluminum is the most basic form of metal print with the paint directly applied to the metal. It’s still weather proof and will last decades.
Canvas Champ doesn’t offer HD Metal Prints or Epoxy prints like Pictorem does.
What size is available?
Metal Prints from Canvas Champ are available in sizes up to 24″ x 39″.
That’s pretty big, and may be great for your purposes, but remember Pictorem can go up to 96″ x 60″ on brushed aluminum.
Bottom Line – Pricing
Below is the pricing for Landscape/Portrait sizings. They also have Square and Panoramic Sizing, which follow similar pricing based on surface area:
Any Advantage over Pictorem?
If you are looking for a basic metal print, you can possibly scout out some good deals on Canvas Champ. While the listed prices are comparable to other services, they do offer significant discounts on occasions such as holidays.
We’d recommend using them as a comparison after checking out the prices on other sites, but probably wouldn’t recommend them being your go-to source.
#3 – Displate – Honorable MentionDisplate is a very cool site for artists to sell there work, and to pick up really cool prints on metal. However, it is NOT a custom metal photo printing service, so you can’t upload a picture of your house, dog, family, etc., and make a print out of it.
However, it makes it onto our list because it’s a very prolific site with over 600,000 pieces of art to choose from. They are trying their hardest to completely phase out the paper poster and replace it with their steel displates (yes, steel, not aluminum).
What’s a Displate?
They’ve coined their name “Displate” to mean a specific kind of metal print, i.e.: a magnet mounted steel metal print.
Yes, “magnet mounted”. It’s a whole thing, we’ll get into it a bit more below.
If it’s not custom prints, what kind of prints to choose from?
This is where Displate digs out a big niche for itself. There’s over 600,000 prints to choose from, and they are HUGE in the gaming and comics worlds, just check out some of these displates from various popular games and comic universes:
It doesn’t stop at games and comics, they have lots of categories like:
- Anime & Mange
- and lots more…
So it’s all very cool and perfect for home decor and geeking out…
What sizes are available?
Here’s where they come up a little short in our opinion. The max size is “XL”, which equates to approx. 35″ x 25″. This can be fine, but considering Pictorem can print out custom prints up to 8 feet tall (!), its not quite as impressive. If you aren’t running art galleries, though, I suppose the 3 feet by 2 feet is good for most purposes.
What’s up with the Magnet Mounting?
All of Displates prints are made to be mounted via a magnet that is glued to your wall. May sound strange at first, but if you are using your metal prints for home decor, it may make a lot of sense.
Take a look at the breakdown of the mounting process:
A couple of things about the process:
The Good about Magnet Mounting
- It’s quite easy to swap out new displates every so often (such as for each season).
- Won’t damage a wall by hammer nails into it (although peeling the adhesive back might take a little paint with it).
The Bad about Magnet Mounting
- Magnets are stuck to the wall pretty good. The adhesive claims to be able to be removed, but its possible you’ll need to touch up with a little paint if you ever need to remove it.
- Careful when sticking to wall paper, they can’t guarantee it will work.
- Takes some extra steps if you need to stick to brick.
- It breaks up the XL into 4 quadrants. May be fine, but kind of terrible if you are trying really appreciate the artwork in detail.
All in all its a very unique way of mounting prints, and since mounting is always tricking anyway, theres nothing inherently wrong with it, it just might take some getting used to.
The Bottom Line – Pricing
Pricing is slightly different for each ‘Displate’. However it generally follows these ranges:
|Size||Dimensions||# of Pieces||Price Range|
|Medium (M)||17.7″ x 12.6″||One Piece||~$40 to $50|
|Large (L)||26.6″ x 18.9″||One Piece||~$80 to $100|
|Extra Large (XL)||35.4″ x 25.2″||Four Quadrants||~$140 to $200|
Of course there’s always discounts, promotions, etc, so make sure to visit the site to check out the current prices.
- NOT for custom metal photo prints.
- NOT for museum/archival quality prints.
- NOT for very large (over 3ft by 2ft) prints.
For any of those options, go for Pictorem.
- YES for a replacement for paper posters.
- YES for home decor and geeking out on your favorite movies, comics, etc.
That’s all we’ve got in terms of company recommendations, but let’s talk a little bit about some frequently asked questions surrounding metal prints.
Metal Prints FAQ
What are Metal Photo Prints?
Metal photo prints are photos and imagery printed on a metal surface (usually aluminum, but possible steel). They are extremely durable, long lasting, and make a great option for interior and exterior decoration and exhibition.
What types of metal prints are there?
There are three main types of metal prints, including:
- Brushed Aluminum Prints
- Epoxy Metal Prints
- HD Metal Dye Sublimation Prints
Are Metal Prints Worth it?
In our opinion, yes! Especially HD Metal Prints. They are vibrant, durable, and long lasting.
Do Metal Prints Fade?
Nope, under normal conditions metal prints will stay vibrant for decades.
How Long do Metal Prints Last?
Metal prints will last for many, many years. Some providers argue they will last for over a century. They are a common option for museums and archival institutions, and may make good choices for your families photos for posterity.
Are Metal Prints Waterproof?
Yes! Metal prints are waterproof and weatherproof, and are able to be stored outside or inside. In this way they are a big advantage over canvas prints.
How Much Do Metal Prints Cost?
It depends on the size and type of metal print. Prices can range from ~$20 to ~$2000+.