Prints on infused aluminum
Infused aluminum prints begin life as a sheet of aluminum coated with a “transfer solution,” upon which a digital image is directly printed. Next, the printed sheet is exposed to extreme heat, a process that facilitates the infusion of the dye into the aluminum, giving the final print an almost magical luminescence. When removed from heat, the cooling transfer solution effectively seals the print in a protective coating, adding longevity and scratch-resistance. The finished prints are light and relatively low-maintenance. They can get “dings” if bumped, but aside from that they are super easy to clean, even with an abrasive cleaning fluid like Windex.
Prints on metallic fine art paper
For images with a lot of pop, I tend to prefer metallic paper to traditional glossy looks. Most images with sparkle, big contrast, rich colors, or presented in black/white look exceptional. Because so many of the best metallic papers are made to be used with broad-palette modern ink (vs dye), images can be be crafted using a bigger color gamut than is otherwise possible with dye-based prints. Today's high-end ink typically has a longer lifespan than dye: if properly cared for, ink-based images on archival papers should retain their vibrancy for well over 100 years. In my studio I frequently work with several metallic papers, including but not limited to those offered by Breathing Color, Moab, and Epson.
Prints on non-metallic fine art papers (pearl, matte, exhibition fiber, watercolor, etc etc)
As much as I love all things metallic, there are times where metallic paper does not necessarily offer the best look for a given image. Setting, lighting, client preferences, and other qualities of a given image may not be aligned with what metallic paper does best. In those cases I will typically recommend a high-end archival glossy, luster or matte paper from Hahnemülle or Epson.
Acrylic is generally used as a protective layer for fine art images and can add an almost 3D level of depth.
For framed prints, Acrylic can offer a safe alternative to traditional glass (glazing). Certain fine art papers allow for acrylic to be face-mounted (read: directly glued) to a print, adding a unique and deep dimensionality, especially to images printed on metallic paper. This is a painstaking, expensive, time-consuming process but the sheer elegance is hard to match. Also, face-mounted fine art prints very flexible in that they work equally well on framed and unframed prints.
Acrylic can be used with benefit on aluminum prints, though there is an issue that prevents me from recommending this approach: poor adhesion. Face-mounting just does not seem to work with aluminum surfaces in the same way it does with specific brands of metallic paper. I've seen it done, but only by mounting acrylic with stainless steel bolts in each corner of the art. To me this an introduces unnecessary distraction to the vibe of an image. Where the acrylic look is desired, I will nearly always recommend the facemount approach vs puncturing a beautiful expanse of landscape.