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Printmaker and photographer Rick Rosenzweig shares his metal printing workflow with Breathing Color’s Allure Photo Panels.

My name is Rick Rosenzweig, and as the owner and operator of a small professional photo printing service, I wanted to expand my product offering to include the new and trendy capability of printing directly onto metal.

In terms of my background, I started printing on professional inkjet and dye sub printers when they first arrived on the market to support my hobby as a landscape photography enthusiast.

Rick Rosenzweig

“Yosemite, CA” by Rick Rosenzweig

I wanted to switch away from the traditional darkroom wet chemistry approach to a completely automated digital workflow.

As inkjet printing technology evolved, so did my skill and love for the craft of digital printmaking. My hobby turned into a profession when I started selling my prints in a local art gallery.

At first, I was producing prints to showcase and sell my own work. This quickly evolved into producing prints for other professional artists and photographers that were looking to reproduce larger format giclee prints of their work as well, primarily water color, oil painting artists and professional photographers.

As such, I needed to find a reliable and professional substrate that I could rely on for professional quality work. I researched and began trials with various Breathing Color products.

Rick Rosenzweig

“Babcock State Park, WV, Fall 2014” by Rick Rosenzweig

The majority of requests I got from my customers were for canvas. I tried many different brands and ultimately landed on Breathing Color Lyve Canvas.

I loved it, but not the time or added expense of coating the product with varnish. By the way, their Glamour 2 varnish is amazing. I wound up switching to their new breakthrough Crystalline Canvas which doesn’t require any varnish at all.

Yes, I sell canvas “unvarnished” prints on Crystalline all the time without hesitation and have yet to have single complaint or return.

As such, when I first heard about this new rigid substrate, I immediately began researching metal printing.

I had been buying metal prints from a well-known photo lab, one of the premier metal print offering services available online, to sell in the art gallery.

Rick Rosenzweig

“Smoky Mountain Sunrise, Winter 2012” by Rick Rosenzweig

Problem is, they are costly and I had a number of problems with orders I had placed with them. I also had a number of clients that saw my prints and asked if I could print their photos on metal as well.

The short answer was no and I didn’t want to resell their prints with very low margin. If my customers didn’t like the final output, I would be out the money and I didn’t need this worry or frustration either.

Enter Allure. I began rolling through blogs and posts online in various forums to learn what I could about any and all experiences printing on metal.

Based on my prior experience with Breathing Color and their products, I knew I had to give this substrate a closer look.

Unpacking & Loading into Printer

The Allure Photo Panels arrived in a very carefully packed and reinforced cardboard box, with each panel covered with a peel away protective coating.

metal printing workflow packaging

Once removed, the perfectly smooth surface looks quite similar to any professional coated matte paper. The corners are rounded and smooth, and the sides had no jagged edges.

I carefully handled the material with my bare hands, holding the material on its sides to avoid any transfer of oil from my fingerprints, inspecting the surface with scrutiny to understand what I was about to put through my professional Epson P800 17” printer.

metal printing workflow allure photo panels

Note: I also have a Canon 44” wide format printer but this printer does not have a straight paper path capable of supporting the .045” thickness.

Without hesitation and excited to try my first print, it was time to see how the product would load. Will there be a jam? Will the surface of this coated material get damaged or perhaps even damage my printer?

I am happy to report that I had no problems at all and have done a dozen prints since with no problems either.

Prior to working with this rigid substrate, I had not used my printers straight through paper path before.

metal printing workflow allure aqueous metal

I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of the setup process and Epson’s on screen instructions which made this quite easy for me.

Print Workflow and Output Quality

I typically print from a 3rd party RIP program to ensure proper color accuracy and consistency.

In this case, because the substrate is so new, my vendor didn’t have ICC profiles available for Allure.

allure aqueous metal printing workflow set up

As such, I opted to print directly from Photoshop using the standard Epson driver software. Props to Justin in Breathing Color support for his excellent support and patience in helping me resolve this concern.

allure aqueous metal printing printing

He sent me a profile for my printer / paper combination. I wound up producing a custom profile with ColorMunki as well. The results were almost identical.

As my first print began exiting the printer, I was immediately impressed with the print quality. Unlike other metal print services, that rely on dye sub technology, I was delighted to see the higher resolution and quality as expected from my inkjet printer.

In a side by side comparison of my prints with the well-known photo lab’s print, there is no comparison. Allure through Inkjet, had a wider gamut (broader and deeper color depth) and was much sharper (higher pixel resolution).

metal printing workflow allure print

That alone was worth the investment. Now I could differentiate my work by controlling the printing process and produce a higher quality print from home that was superior to other professional services.

Print Protection & Trimming

Now it was time to protect and trim the print. I was surprised to see how quickly the ink dried.

Prior to printing, I was curious about this and concerned the ink might easily smudge. It did not. I still opted to give the print 20 minutes to dry before laminating.

On subsequent runs, I tried going directly from printer to lamination with little to no wait and also experienced no issues, although I wouldn’t recommend this.

I purchased the recommended DryTac JetMounter 26 roll laminator which was recommended in the Allure Quick Start Guide.

metal printing workflow drytac jetmounter 26

In case you’re interested, I purchased it from Artgrafix.net for $895 (free shipping, no tax). I ordered the laminate film from MyBinding.com where I also purchased a DryTac 12” Dust Removal System and pads (50 sheets), a must have for any professional inkjet printer.

metal printing workflow drytac dust removal system

You can see videos on YouTube that demonstrate various roll laminating techniques and the use of this dust removal roller. After the print was allowed to dry, one pass with the roller to remove any particles of dust and then you’re ready to laminate.

The setup and use of the laminator was very straightforward. I had no prior experience using a cold roll laminator so took some time to watch a few videos on YouTube to familiarize myself with the process.

Super easy and quick learning curve. The only catch with lamination is ensuring your print surface is dust free. I learned that many pro services will use tac cloths as opposed to the roller system I purchased.

The problem with tac cloths is that they are essentially that, sticky/tacky cloths with may smudge your print and always leave your hands sticky after use creating the possibility of transferring some of that stickiness to your print.

metal printing workflow metal panels

I am now very proficient at laminating and very comfortable with the process. As my first metal print exited the laminator, I was thrilled to see the snappy contrast and glossy finish.

I laid the image next to the well-known photo lab’s print and could barely recognize the difference. I knew immediately, I had made the right decision and began thinking about the possibilities of up-selling my customers into metal prints!

Now it was time to trim the print. I had anticipated that the most difficult part of this process would be trimming the print using metal shear.

I decided to order the recommended Baileigh Industrial 40” wide 3-in-1 shear from Magnumtools.com.

If you go down this path, I high recommend reaching out to Sean Green. He was super helpful, responsive and a pleasure to deal with.

In fact, the Baileigh was on back order for 60 days so he helped find me an alternative from Woodward Fab. Its an identical machine – both are manufactured overseas and then private labeled and resold here in the States.

As such, its the exact same machine but with a different label on it. The only thing to be concerned about is the weight of this machine.

My 40” is nearly 600 pounds! I’m still waiting on a few friends to help me carry this beast up 2 flights to my print studio. It will take 4 of us to move it.

metal printing workflow baileigh industrial shear

I had no prior experience using a metal shear and while the setup process was pretty straightforward, I burned through a couple pieces of artwork learning how to get it finely tuned and adjusted properly.

I called back Sean who in turn referred me over to a tech at Woodward Fab that walked me through a few steps to get in finely tuned.

The tech at Woodward Fab was super easy to get a hold of, picking up the phone right away when I called.

Since the final adjustment, I’ve made over 100 cuts on the machine without any additional adjustments nor do I anticipate I will need to adjust it further given its only use will be for trimming these metal prints.

You will typically find these machines in motorcycle and car shops where they are used to bend and shape metal body parts for custom builds.

Conclusion

My first impression of the Allure photo panel is nothing less than spectacular.

metal printing workflow final allure product

The recommended laminator and shear were easy to setup and learn to use and my total workflow from print to protection and trimming can be done in under 15 minutes per print (most of which is printing time).

I highly recommend this product to anyone who is looking to expand their product offering into the metal print realm.

Good luck and have fun!


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Rick Rosenzweig is a landscape photography enthusiast and the owner and operator of a small professional photo printing service called Ashburn Photos.