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Not-so heavy metal

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Not-so heavy metal

How do we make our video game art prints on aluminum?

Arjan Terpstra

16 Mar 2022 ⋅ 5 min read

A staggering 65 years. That's the proven durability of video game art prints on metal, if you use Cook and Becker's method and materials as detailed in this article. Meaning if you gift one of our HD prints on metal to your children, they will be grandparents by the time the image quality can no longer be guaranteed by the printer. That's some heavy metal printing! (even though the actual artwork are actually quite light-weight)

High-grade and durable art prints



How do we know this? The master printers we use at Cook and Becker use the ChromaLuxe process for art prints on metal, a certified and specialist method for high-grade and durable printing on sheets of aluminum. When this methodology was tested by the Wilhelm Research Imaging laboratory (Grinnell, Iowa), the leading authority in the field of digital printing techniques, they found the ChromaLux images had a six decade long life span in which an image printed on metal did not lose color. That's simply incredible!

Video game art prints with high color yield



And this is only one of the stunning features of ChromaLuxe printing. In terms of color yield and contrasts, the method gives you prints in a superior quality lending a depth to printed images that is difficult to put into words: people often comment "it looks like it's printed in glass" when seeing the effect for the first time, or refer to sun-drenched stained-glass windows, in an effort to find a fitting analogy for the vibrant effect a print on metal can have.





Can have, as not every print on metal yields the same durability or quality. The market today sees two types of prints on metal whereby digital imagery is transferred to aluminum sheets. The budget option, and one in use at most regular print shops is the simplest form: an aluminum sheet is fed into a standard-type color printer, where inks are directly transferred onto the metal. This yields prints that look OK when they leave the machine, but are quickly prone to discoloration and they aren't scratch-resistant. Also the initial color yield will be much less than is the case when using up-market methods that we use for our fine art prints on metal.

Premium printing techniques



By comparison, the ChromaLux method relies on heat and sublimation, whereby the inks are infused in the top layer of the aluminum and not printed on. To make that happen, our master printer prepares the aluminum, making sure the 1,5 mm thick sheet has no irregularities, and prints the art image with archival inks on a special transfer paper (if you wish to learn more about archival inks, read more in Part 3 of our Complete guide to collecting video game art).

This transfer paper is attached to the metal sheet, and fed into a large heat press, where the two are exposed to high pressure and heat (392°F/200°C) for a couple of minutes—the exact timing depends on the size of the artwork.
MetalprintStarCraft
© Jae Lykken Photography

Owner Sonny Skinner proudly poses in front of his large StarCraft "Marine vs. Hydralisk" artwork, measuring 150 cm high and 143 cm wide, that was printed on metal using the ChromaLuxe method. Used by kind permission.

During this time, the inks are gasified and mix with the molecules of the aluminum. When the art leaves the heat press, it cools very quickly (due to the properties of aluminum), "trapping" the ink molecules in the top layer of the metal. After that the transfer paper is removed, and the artwork checked for irregularities again. And we apply backing, framing or mounting option depending on the order. Cook and Becker uses Forex (a rigid PVC) as a standard backing, for it's deep black color and stable and rigid result. Plus the light weight makes it easy to hang.

Size matters



This method yields incredible results, both optically and in durability. Pricing is generally higher than is the case in giclee prints, but it is more cost-efficient than you perhaps think: as prints on metal don't require framing to be displayed on a wall, you'll save on framing costs—that can be high for prints, especially in large sizes.

And talking about sizes: the size of a print on metal is dependent on two things. The first is the size of the digital image you wish to reproduce on metal: if an image is technically flawed or has a low resolution, metal printing won't magically transform it into a full HD gem. And second: the size you want can't exceed the size of the heat press. Cook and Becker offers a maximum size of 48x96" / 122x244cm for video game art prints on metal—that's a pretty huge piece of art to leave to your children...

Cook and Becker prints on metal



The ChromaLux method can be used for most image formats (so, digital/digitized photos too), and is often offered as an option for Cook and Becker video game art prints. If it isn't, this is because not every image has the right technical properties, is too small or is deemed to look better in other printing formats. If you want to know if printing on metal is available for your favorite image, use the top navigation bar on this website to find video game art by game title, select the size of the artwork, and then click "choose product and amount" to select a finish.
CronesDetail
© Cook and Becker

Detailed shot of The Witcher 3 art print The Crones (available <a href="/en/artwork/1880/the-crones-the-witcher-3-cd-projekt-red.html">through here</a>). The top layer (gray/white) is the aluminum sheet, the bottom layer a sheet of Forex, a sturdy PVC, used as a rigid backing material.

If you wish to learn more about the material properties of the video game art prints on offer at Cook and Becker, make sure to check out our Complete guide to collecting video game art article series. Have any questions related to this topic? Please use the contact form below to ask our customer service!

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