Types of Sheet Metal Typically Used in Metal Wall Art

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by Eric Waddington

In our studio we are constantly testing, experimenting, and incorporating new materials into our artwork. Although some includes components of acrylic, wood, canvas, and other materials, our specialty has historically been metal. Aluminum is our most common substrate for metal art, however we have also incorporated some combination of the following materials in certain pieces:

  • 316 Stainless Steel
  • 6062-T6 Aluminum
  • 5052-H32 Aluminum
  • C220 Cosmetic Bronze
  • 24oz Cosmetic Copper Mild Steel

Aluminum vs. Steel - Which is Better for Metal Art?
With aluminum we generally use industrial or aerospace-grade aluminum sheet, which is very durable and weather-resistant even without a clear coat. We also like it for a more artistic reason - the metal has more of a white undertone (rather than the grays and blues more common in steel) which comes through much more vibrantly when a grind pattern is applied. The contrast is more effective and the reflectivity is more brilliant. To the untrained eye the differences may be small, but in the world of fine metal art it is very reasonable to have an opinion on the matter! That being said, there are other traits that steel has which aluminum does not - steel can produce very beautiful, rich colors when it is super-heated using a handheld torch. Aluminum does not have these same properties, so in any of our heat-tinted designs we will use steel over aluminum, or copper for a different look entirely. Due to some inexpensive, mass-produced products that use aluminum (soda cans, foil, siding, etc) it can have a bit of a negative (or less-prestigious) connotation with it when compared to steel, however automobile-grade and aerospace-grade aluminums are exceptionally high quality and are, in most cases, preferred over steel applications.

Copper, Bronze & Brass Used in Artwork
Copper and bronze are very beautiful metals, and are extremely important for certain designs. They have a very classy, upscale appearance which, when used properly, have a way of fusing the old world with new contemporary style. In addition to their natural state, they also produce magnificent coloring when torched or super-heated, like steel does. Also, for classical, earth-tones, western, or rustic style artwork and decor, different types and finishes of bronze, copper and brass are typically more relevant than a crisp aluminum or steel.

Directory of Metals

Samples of the Types & Grades of Metal Commonly Used in Wall Art
Below are some samples or swatches of various types of metals that are typically used to create metal artwork. We have personally used most of these in different grades and finishes for various projects. Really the best way to determine what type of metal to use in your artwork is to get a variety of samples and just experiment. Different materials will react different to bends, grinds, torches, cuts, paints, acid treatments, etc - so if you truly are an artist at heart or just want to know more about the inner-workings of fine metal art, just take a stack of sheet metal to your garage and start experimenting! Of course you will want to be somewhat conservative, keeping in mind some fo the steps we take to keep our processes "Green" or eco-friendly when making metal art. See more metal information at MetalPass.com.

Aluminum: Durable, Weather-resistant Metal

Bead-Blasted Stainless Steel: Matte, Textured Surface

Brass: Copper/Zinc Alloy

Bronze: Nice Warm Coloring

Copper: Raw, Patina & Torched/Heat-tints

Dark Bronze: Earth-tones, Brown Coloring

Nickel: Ferro-Magnetic, Silvery-Shiny Metallic Element

Stainless Steel: Sleek, Pure Metal & Torched/Heat-Tints

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