Wilhelm Imaging Research Tests Durability of Metal Photo Prints

Printing firms and photo labs that use dye-sublimation printing to produce “metal photo prints” for professional photographers and home decor should be aware that all pre-coated metal panels may not be equally durable.

According to Henry Wilhelm, Director of Research at Wilhelm Imaging Research (WIR), “Very complex interactions take place between sublimation inks and the ink-receptive polymer coatings of dye sublimation prints.” He said some interactions occur during the short, high-heat image transfer step involved in making metal photo prints. Other interactions occur very gradually over time, during the long-term display and storage of the prints.

“What a metal photo print looks like when it emerges from the heat press tells you nothing at all about how long it will last,” said Wilhelm. He notes that “Sublimation on metal photo panels is a new and rapidly advancing technology, and all aluminum panels — frequently referred to in the marketplace as ‘metal prints’ — are by no means the same. If your lab is using untested products, both you and your customers are flying blind.”

WIR is widely recognized as the world’s leading independent print permanence testing laboratory.

ChromaLuxe Panels Pass Tests with Flying Colors

One of the first companies to promote sublimation printing on high-quality metal photo panels was ChomaLuxe. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company supplies high-quality blank metal, wood, and other rigid substrates for applications that require superb image quality and durability.

Comprehensive, multi-factor print permanence tests at Wilhelm Imaging Research have confirmed the durability of ChromaLuxe sublimatable aluminum photo panels.

ChromaLuxe aluminum sublimation photo panels achieved a WIR Display Permanence Rating of 65 years when printed with Epson UltraChrome DS inks. The WIR Display Permanence Rating is 64 years when printed with Sawgrass Sublijet-HD Pro Photo XF inks.

Although the 4-color Epson and 8-color Sawgrass inks have different dye formulations, and distinctly different individual ink fade patterns, both brands of inks proved to be well matched to the latest ChromaLuxe sublimation coating formulations.


ChromaLuxe photo panels (“metal prints”) are available in sizes up to 4 x 8 feet. The photo panels can be used for all types of photography.

What makes the WIR Display Permanence Ratings for ChromaLuxe panels most impressive is the fact that the prints can be safely displayed without being laminated, displayed behind glass or acrylic, or face-mounted to acrylic sheets.

ChromaLuxe prints have unprecedented resistance to surface abrasion, high humidity, atmospheric ozone, and contact with water.

Wilhelm Imaging Research found that unframed, displayed prints made with the latest generation of ChromaLuxe aluminum photo panels are far more stable and longer lasting than Kodak Endura or other current silver-halide papers, including silver-halide prints framed under UV-absorbing acrylic or glass or when face-mounted to UV-absorbing acrylic.

About Dye Sublimation

Dye-sublimation printing is an attractive process for creating durable photographs because it uses heat to infuse the inks directly into a specialized coating on the surface of metal panels, tabletops, or wood.

ChromaLuxe has committed substantial R&D resources to constantly improve the image quality, permanence, Dmax, and printing consistency of sublimatable photo panels.

“Genuine ChromaLuxe prints now offer photographers an unmatched combination of display permanence, physical surface durability, and color brilliance,” said Kristina Lowe, director of marketing for ChromaLuxe.

You can see ChromaLuxe photo and art panels at the PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo, October 27-29, 2016 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. The PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo is the largest photography and imaging show in North America. It is attended by over 21,000 professional photographers, photography enthusiasts, videographers, students and educators from around the world.