Understanding Sublimation Finishes for Aluminium


Traditionally used within the textile industry, the process of sublimation was invented in the late 1950s. The process has the unique ability to accurately recreate intricate designs by transferring dyes or inks into a fabric's fibres to create material masterpieces for a wide range of textile products.

Today, the same process is used to transfer pattens and images into powder coated aluminium. First developed in Italy over 30 years ago, aluminium sublimation or "photo imaging" is now a common finish within the architectural and design industry - although many still do not understand the exact process or how durable the finish can be.

It is important to note that sublimation is not printing. Just like with fabric, the sublimation dyes used to create the pattens or images on the aluminium penetrate the full depth of the powder coated surface, meaning the inks will never smudge or rub off.

Sublimation for Aluminium in Australia

DECO Australia introduced the aluminium sublimation technology to Australia in 2004 with their leading timber-look finish DecoWood. Initially, the finish was used on aluminium window and door profiles to create durable and low-maintenance alternative to traditional timber frames. Now, Super Durable™ DecoWood® along with DECO's other sublimation finishes DecoVouge and DecoArt offer concrete, weathered steel, and natural stone as well as custom images and photographs. Each finish is available across a wide range of building products like cladding, battens, panelling, decking, floorboards, splashbacks and more.

What is Sublimation?

Sublimation is a process whereby a substance changes from a solid state into a gas, without going through a liquid phase. The process involves carefully controlled conditions of heat and pressure, resulting in the direct transfer of a printed image into a powder-coated aluminium surface.

A Step-by-Step Look at the Sublimation Process

The sublimation process involves several steps to produce a quality sublimated aluminium product. There are a lot of variables that are considered in the process and DECO Australia work to the highest quality standards outlined by Qualicoat and Qualideco, the international quality standards for powder coating and sublimation.

Step 1: Pre-treatment

The first step is a quality pre-treatment process. Aluminium profiles undergo a thorough cleaning and etching process through a series of acid and water tanks before they are coated. This process not only ensures the removal of impurities but also creates a conversion coating on the aluminium surface that offers excellent corrosion protection. Proper drying of the aluminium is vital to maintain the integrity of the remaining steps.

Step 2: Powder Coating

Next comes the application of a powder coat 'base coat' using an electrostatic process. Different types of powder are used based on the intended application. For exterior use, Class 2 'Super Durable' sublimation powders are used. This step not only provides a foundation for the sublimation process but also contributes to the durability and longevity of the final product.

Step 3: Quality Checks

Before moving forward, DECO conducts thorough quality checks to ensure the powder's quality. These checks are outlined by Qualicoat as part of the international standard for powder coating. Parameters such as coating thickness, gloss, cure, adhesion, and visual appeal are thoroughly examined.

Step 4: Film Application

Once the surface passes the quality controls, the aluminium substrates are wrapped with a film that has the sublimation inks printed in the desired pattern. This film is available in a range of designs including timber, concrete, rust, and more.
To facilitate a smooth and direct contact between the film and the aluminium surface, the film is vacuum sealed around the powder-coated metal.

Step 5: Baking

The wrapped aluminium profiles are placed into an oven at a temperature of 200°C, where the sublimation inks on the film are infused into the powder coating. Upon re-solidification, these gases become an integral part of the powder coating, creating a vibrant and lasting image.

Step 6: Film Removal and Quality Assurance

After baking, the film is gently removed, revealing the sublimated surface. A final round of quality checks ensures that the products meet the highest standards before they are packaged and dispatched.

Benefits of Sublimated Aluminium


Aluminium stands as a non-combustible material, a classification upheld by the guidelines of the National Construction Code. Sublimated finishes align with the standards set forth by AS 1530.1 and AS 1530.3, which are widely recognized fire safety standards. Aluminium also possesses a high thermal conductivity, which means it can effectively dissipate heat.

Additionally, when exposed to high temperatures, aluminium forms a thin and protective oxide layer on its surface, which acts as a barrier against further heat and potential ignition sources.


With global concerns about deforestation and limited timber resources, sublimated aluminium emerges as a sustainable alternative which does not involve logging and release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the environment. Sublimated aluminium can also be recycled at the end of it's life. Recent advancements in lower-carbon aluminium also present more sustainable solutions.

Low Maintenance

Sublimation finishes offer a maintenance-free timber alternative that doesn't compromise on durability. The authentic wood-like finishes are achieved without the continuous upkeep associated with natural wood.

Super Durable

DECO uses super durable 'Class 2' powders across our sublimation finishes, which are 50% more durable than standard powder coating and will never peel or rub off. DECO is a Qualicoat approved applicator, meaning our finishes adhere to the international standard for quality assurance in powder coating.

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