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Aluminum Fine Art Prints - Today's Medium for Fine Art Masterpieces

Updated on September 19, 2014
"Palm Tree Sunset" by Dietmar Scherf (Beaches & Palm Trees Series).
"Palm Tree Sunset" by Dietmar Scherf (Beaches & Palm Trees Series). | Source

A true Masterpiece of Fine Art

As most of us are used to seeing artworks on canvas and paper, it is truly a breathtaking experience to encounter a rare aluminum fine art print for the first time. In a sense it's almost cinematic, especially when it's a phenomenal image that appeals to one or the other emotion in us. And when it is a larger artwork with dimensions of e.g. 30" x 40" or even a 36" x 48" or of similar size the visual impact is just so different than anything we've seen in art before.

The smooth surface, the depth in color and the rich look have an aura of sophistication and such a piece will appeal to the various emotions of a viewer. Aluminum art prints are ideal for art photographs of lush landscapes, romantic sunsets or even provocative contemporary art. An artwork on this medium will fit into virtually any space where a contemporary touch of style is desired. Aluminum art prints look great in offices as well as in that awesome beach house and the luxurious penthouse on Fifth Avenue.

In addition to the masterpiece effect, one of the greatest advantages of aluminum art prints are their durability, that they're lightweight and water resistant. Canvas artworks in comparison are quite fragile and sensitive in many regards as e.g. the canvas can easily rip as we know the popular story of Steve Wynn's minor accident poking a small hole into his $150+ million Picasso. The same is true for artworks on paper unless they're framed and handled very carefully when moved to a different location. And with artworks on canvas and paper there's the risk of fading if exposed to direct sunlight which makes placement of such artworks a delicate procedure. The risk of fading is sharply reduced or virtually eliminated with artworks on aluminum.

Differences in Aluminum Art Prints

Aside from the artist's skill to create a stunning image, the proper aluminum art print will make the artist's artwork a true masterpiece. Important components to create this art masterpiece are the right choice of an art print manufacturer, the printing and manufacturing process as well as the type of aluminum used. And yes, there are quite a few differences in all of these components and each one must be carefully chosen.

While smaller fine art printers may do just as well of a job than a large art printing company, the artist or publisher of fine art will be best served with a printer who has the newest most up-to-date equipment. Needless to say that your regular office supply shop from the major chains, etc. doesn't offer aluminum prints as of yet. Since the process of producing fine art prints on aluminum is fairly new as it has just become "perfected" to the highest standard in the summer of 2013, the equipment with fine art printers should be virtually new.

But then there's the difference in the process how an aluminum print is produced. There are basically two methods: one process is to print the artwork on a transfer paper and then apply it to the aluminum sheet, and the other method is to print directly onto the aluminum sheet. In our research we found that the second process of directly printing onto the aluminum sheet produces really phenomenal results.

Now it is also important that the printer uses a white base coat for the printing process so that whites are really white and that the aluminum grain doesn't shine through in the artwork. For some artworks it might be fine to have the aluminum shine through and turning whites into the aluminum grain, but for the general purpose of aluminum fine art prints that is not a desired effect. With the white base coat the rich colors of the image will be brought alive and make the art print the desired masterpiece.

Another consideration will be the finish of the aluminum art print. While some printers still offer a matte finish which might be appropriate for some artworks, we think that in general and especially for art photographs the smooth glossy mirror-like finish is the better choice. In artworks it's often about the vibrancy of the colors and these are better reproduced with a glossy finish.

For the artist or art publisher naturally pricing will be of great interest. And so far, pricing has been all over the map so to speak. Some art printers are charging twice and even triple the price of the lower cost manufacturers. The pricing issue may severely affect the final retail price of an artwork. Of course the quality of the final "product"/artwork is key and for a Limited Edition no artist should be stingy as this would be saving money in the wrong place. But this doesn't mean to waste unnecessary funds either. So researching art printers and to check out their samples as well as communicating with the printers will bring about the proper balance between quality and price. It's also important where the art printer is located as shipping costs of a large artwork can quickly add up and could be a major part of the overall cost of the finished aluminum artwork.

"The Desert #1" by Dietmar Scherf
"The Desert #1" by Dietmar Scherf | Source

How to hang Aluminum Fine Art Prints

Usually, aluminum fine art prints will come with some sort of frame attached to the back of the artwork so that the artwork is ready for hanging when purchased. This type of frame is called a float mount as it is invisible when looking at the artwork from the front. Such a hidden frame will set the artwork off the wall by approx. 1/2" to 1" depending on the frame used. There is usually a hanging wire or hooks attached to the frame to secure the aluminum artwork on the wall.

LED lights around the hidden frame are a nice little touch to enhance the artwork for a backlit effect with luxurious ambiance. So there's no need to have the artwork framed. But as with most media for artworks, the aluminum fine art print can also be framed in a traditional way. Framing is not necessary, but depending on taste and the decorative requirements for a space, some art connoisseurs may opt for framing. We e.g. like the aluminum fine art prints without a frame as it seems that the artwork is floating on the wall.

"Cobra" by Dietmar Scherf (Parking Lot Series).
"Cobra" by Dietmar Scherf (Parking Lot Series). | Source
"Hole in the Wall - Green" by Dietmar Scherf
"Hole in the Wall - Green" by Dietmar Scherf | Source

One tiny drawback with glossy-finish Aluminum Fine Art Prints

As we live in an imperfect world the fact remains that nothing really is absolutely perfect. The only tiny drawback with aluminum fine art prints might be that the glossy finish is reflective like a dimmed mirror when hit directly by a light source. Therefore, proper placement has to be well thought through, but a good eye or a qualified interior designer should be able to figure that out quite easily.

And while in regular handling the aluminum fine art print won't bend as the quality aluminum fine art print is produced on a strong 1/16" thick sheet of aluminum, the artwork can still be damaged (dented) when there's abuse of the artwork or if it is hit by a hard heavy or sharp object like a hammer or similar. When transporting the artwork it is also highly recommended to always carefully box the artwork flat and to stabilize it with e.g. extra cardboard or styrofoam sheets.

"Desert Sunset #2" by Dietmar Scherf
"Desert Sunset #2" by Dietmar Scherf | Source

Additional benefits of Aluminum Fine Art Prints vs. Canvas, Paper and Acrylic

We've already mentioned some of the great advantages of aluminum fine art prints vs. e.g. canvas and paper prints in Part 1 of this article. Although this aspect is depending on the artist and his/her work, another advantage of aluminum art prints is pricing. An aluminum art print is frequently less expensive than a canvas art print. For example, the production cost of an acrylic print is approx. 50% more than of an aluminum fine art print.

The light weight of aluminum art prints is one great benefit as it is really easy to move such an artwork from one area to another or from one location to another. Sure, aluminum fine art prints cannot be rolled up like a paper print or a rolled canvas, which for high quality artworks isn't recommended anyway. But while acrylic art prints and fine art on stretched or framed canvas can be extremely heavy, especially for larger artworks, even a larger aluminum art print can be carried without too much effort by only one person or by the lady of the house.

The durability of aluminum fine art prints is superior to any other medium. As mentioned above, artworks on canvas and paper can easily rip or fade if frequently exposed to direct sunlight. Acrylic is heavy and depending on the manufacturing process of acrylic art prints these may not be suitable for rooms with moisture like bathrooms or pool houses. With acrylic artworks scratches can be difficult to fix.

Although the aluminum fine art print with a glossy finish is not really scratch resistant either, but due to the artwork's protective coating they're less prone to scratches than e.g. an acrylic glass artwork (Note: when we're talking about acrylic glass artworks we're not talking about the acrylic paint but instead about the medium of acrylic which is a type of plexiglass).

Again, the colors on the glossy aluminum with the white base coat are very rich with phenomenal depth which simply can't be reproduced on canvas. Depending on the printing and manufacturing process only high quality thick acrylic may come close and perhaps somewhat match the image reproduction of an aluminum art print. Due to the structure of the fabric a canvas art print will always have some sort of a dull effect when compared to an aluminum art print. And once a paper art print is framed and behind the glass, then here too the depth in color is usually lost.

And let's not forget that you can clean an aluminum fine art print with a moist cloth or even a glass cleaner just like acrylic. You can't use a wet cloth or a glass cleaner on a canvas as it would certainly ruin the canvas artwork.

"Atmospheric" by Dietmar Scherf (Planets & The Universe Series)
"Atmospheric" by Dietmar Scherf (Planets & The Universe Series) | Source

The Death of Canvas and Paper?

Just with paper books we don't expect the production of fine art prints on canvas or paper to cease any time soon. But it's a fair guess that more and more artists will experiment with the new aluminum medium. It makes a lot of sense to produce Limited Editions and open editions on aluminum. Consumers and art collectors will have to get used to aluminum art prints as these are still very rare, because in this type of high quality that we're talking about this is a very new medium in fine art.

So far, mostly due to the lack of knowledge and again because this medium is so new, only a few artists have ventured into offering their Limited Editions on aluminum on a broad scale. The top selling art photographers still use acrylic for their artworks which has been around for a long time. Still, even artworks on acrylic are rarely found in homes and only affluent art buyers can afford them. And for artworks on acrylic, most art photographers are charging extremely high prices. Therefore, as wonderful as aluminum fine art prints are it may take a while until we start seeing them more often in offices and our neighbor's homes.

One important Tip on purchasing Aluminum Fine Art Prints

If aside from a purely decorative aspect an art buyer is also interested in the investment criteria, then like with every artwork it's best to purchase Limited Edition aluminum fine art prints from either an established artist or even better (less costly) from a strong emerging artist. The prices for artworks by emerging artists are often only a fraction of the well-known established artists. Artworks by well selected artists will most likely appreciate significantly in value over time. Bottom line though, the art buyer must like the artwork as they will hang that precious piece in their surroundings and therefore encounter it for the most part on a daily basis.

Right now is a great time for art buyers and art collectors to venture into purchasing Limited Edition fine art prints on aluminum as the medium is new and there are only a few artists that offer their Limited Editions on aluminum. As repeatedly mentioned these artworks are rare and therefore with select artists these artworks have the potential to increase in value quite a bit over time.

And don't go for Limited Editions with an issue of many hundreds or even a 1,000 for an image. Instead, go for the eclectic kind where the Limited Edition size is maybe only 10, 25 or max. 50. If you can find an Artist Proof on aluminum that's truly a very rare gem and it's well worth it to spend a few bucks extra for the AP vs. the regular Limited Edition.

"Room with a View" by Dietmar Scherf (Beaches & Palm Trees Series)
"Room with a View" by Dietmar Scherf (Beaches & Palm Trees Series) | Source

© 2014 Dietmar Scherf

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