Grant Cooke of Xpres puts Images in the picture about ChromaLuxe, the easy and visually stunning add-on sales opportunity for garment decorators
For the past three years Xpres has been selling ChromaLuxe panels in the UK for sublimation printing. Grant Cooke, product development and campaign specialist at Xpres, explains that these 1.14 mm thick aluminium panels, made in the US, are coated eight times with a polyester solution to create a durable coating that gives them some interesting properties: they are fire-resistant, rust-proof, scratch-resistant, water-resistant, bleach-resistant and lightweight.
The panels, once printed, can then be hung up for all to admire, although that is by no means the only use for them. In an industrial setting, for example, the panels work perfectly as safety signs because they won’t be destroyed by rust, abrasion or fire. Grant says they are also used for signage in buildings, as well as in retail as an alternative to point-of-sale materials, and can even be used to create customised tabletops. “If [garment decorators] are selling workwear then it could be an easy add-on – it’s really down to the creativity of the person selling it,” he comments.
Garment decorators that are already offering sublimation printing can easily start offering these panels to their clients as they already have the necessary equipment – that is, a sublimation printer and a flatbed heat press. “The panel is laid on to the heat press bed with the printed image paper facing down on top of it and then, using heavy pressure and a temperature of about 195°C, the panel and paper are pressed for between three and five minutes, depending on the panel’s size,” Grant explains. “And that’s it. The paper is removed and the image is imprinted in the panel. Because we supply the panels as small as four by six inches, garment decorators can even use an A4 printer. It’s very accessible.”
The result is a picture that is guaranteed colourfast for 100 years and exceedingly durable – ChromaLuxe has a video on its site showing a cigarette being stubbed out on a panel with no lasting effect. Even marker pen scribbles can be cleaned off as industrial cleaners do not affect the coating, Grant points out.
The price of the panels depends on the panel size, starting at £2.35 and going up to around £55. The coating is also offered on wood and MDF. Xpres offers a wide range of pre-cut panels in various sizes and shapes although garment decorators can cut the panels to match their customers’ requirements if they wish; however, Grant advises that the equipment needed to do this can be quite expensive as the cutting must be done properly to ensure the coating doesn’t chip around the edges. Individual panels can also be printed with tiled images and hung together to create large-scale displays.
Xpres currently sells 18 different panel sizes across four finishes: gloss white, matt white, gloss clear and matt clear. “Clear is like a brushed silver aluminium,” explains Grant. “We also offer a special order on a finish which is a semi-gloss, and we sell the ChromaLuxe MDF panels as well. The MDF panels are half an inch thick and either have black edges and a white face, or what we call a natural finish – like a veneer, where you get the wood grain coming through the finished image.”
For those looking to perfect their printing technique, Grant has a few words of advice: “For the best colour, make sure the panels are stored in the same room as the heat press so you don’t get a change in humidity, as that can cause issues. Use a spray duster to clean the panels to stop any imperfections, and allow the paper to dry for about 30 minutes before the panels are heat pressed.” ChromaLuxe also recommends using Endura Moisture Absorbing Fabric as this catches any excess gasses, ensuring the clarity of the picture.
ChromaLuxe coats the panels with a polyester solution using a process called curtain coating. The panels are fed on a system similar to a conveyor belt, under a vertical flow of the solution. The coating creates a polyester layer on the surface of the panel which is receptive to sublimation dyes.