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Aqueous vs. Dye Sub Metal: Round 1 – Resolution and Detail


A short series comparing aqueous metal prints and dye sublimation metal prints. This week – how aqueous is inherently more resolute than dye sublimation.

In case you hadn’t heard, we recently released a new product called Allure Photo Panels for aqueous inks. These thick aluminum sheets can be printed using your standard aqueous inkjet printer (such as an Epson 9900, 11880, etc.).

Following the release of this revolutionary product, we’ve received many questions asking how aqueous metal printing compares to dye sublimation transfer to metal.

Our answers to these questions have created so much customer excitement about this new process, we have decided to address these questions with a “shoot-out” series of sorts, where we take an objective look at different aspects of metal printing including: detail and resolution (today’s subject), white point, print permanence, color gamut, color consistency, and more.

So let’s kick off this series by comparing how direct-to-surface printing with Allure compares to the dye sublimation process in terms of resolution and detail.

Aqueous Vs. Dye Sublimation: Resolution and Detail Showdown

Printing direct-to-surface is inherently more resolute than dye sublimation. With direct printing, each printer dot is laid onto the media which forms an image.

Maximum dots per inch (DPI) depends on the printer, up to 2880 dpi.

With dye sublimation, ink is laid on the transfer paper first. Then the paper is put in a heat press with the metal, where the ink transforms into a gas and is transferred to the metal. This process reduces the resolution to an approximate equivalent of 360 dpi.

“Most of today’s inkjet printers are capable of well above 720 dpi even as high as 5600 dpi. These super high resolutions are not needed for dye sublimation as you should never print above 1440 dpi and 95% of the time you will only need to use a maximum of 720dpi. Any subtleties you may gain using one of the higher dpi settings will be lost when the ink turns into a gas for the sublimation process.” – Sawgrass Technologies (p. 13)

Resolution And Detail Examples

Here are some examples, comparing the resolution and detail between aqueous and dye sublimation media.

As you can see, the prints on Allure aqueous are much sharper and clearer than the dye sublimation transfer prints. Areas of very fine detail such as the text on a wine label and a woman’s eyelashes can be clearly seen.

For photographers, these visual improvements can make a huge difference. Now you can offer metal prints with the print quality of a smooth fine art paper. 

Up Next

Check out Round 2 of this series, in which we compare interesting findings on white point and contrast.


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