Your imagination is the limit

In the competitive market we live in today, every business should be looking for new ways to maintain and grow their business. It helps if new projects are aligned with your core business and, even better, if they can be targeted at an existing customer base. Retaining or growing business with an existing customer is always much easier and more successful than entering completely new markets.

The ChromaLuxe and Unisub range of products provide one great way of doing this; and one with nice margins and ease of use.

Universal Woods produce ChromaLuxe which is a range of dye sublimation coated panels. They are available on aluminium sheets, MDF panels and hardboard. Images, photos and graphics can be easily transferred to the panels. The result is super high quality images on a very durable tough surface which is scratch, fire and moisture resistant.

Unisub is essentially a very similar product, also from Universal Woods, but aimed firmly at the gift market with items such as clocks, trays, plaques, coasters and table mats, key rings and luggage tags. Basically smaller sizes that only need an A4 or A3 printer and similar sized heat press.

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Production of both ChromaLuxe and Unisub products requires a dye sublimation printer (with inks and paper, of course) and a flat bed heat press. A basic system capable of printing up to A3 will leave change from €2,000. A full size system capable of printing up to 1.2m x 2.4m can cost over €50,000. But a Midi sized system capable of printing up to 75x110cm will cost a more modest €15,000. Such a system is great for printing large panels but can also produce tiny items like dog tags! Remember that because it is a dye sublimation process, the printer and press can also be used for printing on textiles. With typical sales pricing the Return on Investment can often be only a few months with a very modest print production of 3 or 4 prints per week.

But what is the market for these products? Well, we always say that “your imagination is the limit”. Photo prints is the obvious and main use, but we now see more and more creative adaptations. One of our largest clients is making only table tops, predominantly for the café and bar market – it’s a great promotional tool. Another huge client specializes in whiteboard for hospitals, schools and corporate use. Whiteboard pens can be used on ALL our products without creating any damage. Should someone accidentally use a permanent marker (we’ve all seen it happen!) it can be quickly cleaFeatured imagened off with some acetone or similar cleaning product. Even better, it does not leave any shadow mark.

Other potential uses are Indoor signage – you could use our clear aluminium as an alternative to anodized plates. Other uses are for Serial number plates for equipment, machinery plates, Advertising A-boards etc.

So now look at your customer base and think about what could be done. Some great examples – Spas, hotels, golf clubs (tee off boards, membership bag tags), sports clubs, football clubs (famous clubs could have a range of gift items), corporate wall décor and signage, manufacturing (safety panels). Museums love the product as it can be touched by kids and cleaned easily.

The list is endless.

Let’s have a quick look at the photo market. For many years all our photos were taken on film and then produced as prints using a chemical process. As we know digital photography has now replaced film almost totally. But photo prints from our digital images made with photo chemicals are still very popular and provide a very high quality result. Photo labs offering online prints at 10×15 cm and 13×18 cm sizes still do huge business. At the high end, large format prints are often made with the chemical process and then mounted on Dibond or behind acrylic.

However, at the same time over the last 15 years, we see a lot of inkjet printing onto art papers, canvas, banners etc. The quality has improved dramatically over the years, but in terms of quality photo chemical based papers are still the benchmark.

Where does dye-sublimation fit into this? First of all do not get confused with those little dye-sub printers used in many photo kiosks that produce 10×15 cm prints using RGB/CMY coloured films. Real Dye-sublimation is the process where prints are made onto a paper using special sublimation inks. The ink is then transferred to a coated material in aFeatured image heat press using high pressure and high heat. The substrate can be a textile or a hard substrate like ChromaLuxe and Unisub. Hard substrates include aluminium, MDF, hardboard and FRP.

So how does a ChromaLuxe print compare with our benchmark of silver based photo paper going through a chemical process. In terms of colour gamut (the range of colours that can be printed), a ChromaLuxe print very closely matches the photo paper and is much better than prints from an inkjet flatbed printer. As the inks are infused into a multi-layer coating on the ChromaLuxe, there is an impression of 3 dimensions and the colours truly ‘pop’. But a very big advantage is that the surface is incredibly durable – tough and long lasting. Firstly, with a surface rather like glass, it is extremely scratch resistant unlike papers and it can even be cleaned with powerful industrial cleaners. Secondly, testing by the Rochester Institute of Technology has shown that it has over twice the print life of the very best photo paper when exposed to Xenon Arc light fade tests.

So as I said earlier, your imagination is the limit! With sublimation you can open up new profitable markets which can help you compete and grow a profitable business in these difficult times.


Featured imageCharles Henniker-Heaton has over 30 years experience in the imaging industry, first at Durst and then at Fujifilm as a senior manager involved in retail photo, chemicals and since 2006 as European Marketing Manager for large format printing. He joined ChromaLuxe EMEA in 2014 in charge of European Business Development for large format.

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In the press! Be short, but original!

There’s nothing more exciting than seeing your name or your products in a magazine. The rapidly flipping through the pages of the edition that has just arrived, the nervously scanning for mistakes (in the e-mail address, phone number you provided…), the sigh of relief when you discover none, the knowledge that many people will read about you. It could be an addiction.

Bringing out your product or brand is important. As a (small) company you could spend fortunes being in all different magazines. The problem is: even if you are willing to spend it on advertising, how many people will you reach? No promises can be made. The sales person who sells you the ad will shout that his magazine is sold to 15000 people and will be read, held, fluttered and fumbled by up to 40000, can’t really promise you that all those who touch the magazine will also see your ad and read it. A ‘percentage’ will.

Advertising of course isn’t all about immediate sales: you can’t expect of everyone who sees your ad to act upon it. There are however some things to think about when you’re considering to advertise.

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ChromaLuxe is a brand and a product with many different opportunities when it comes to external communication. We want to talk to the end user about the panels, so that they will know of the product and decide they want it in their living room. We also talk to professionals to convince to offer our products to those end users. Different target audiences, different media.

Let’s concentrate on talking to the general public, the end user. Let’s say you’re selling ChromaLuxe panels: Try for looking at other opportunities than the regu!ar full-page ad. Look in the magazine for the short news facts: the pages with the small news items are the pages that are read most in a magazine. It’s short, it’s fast and it’s refreshing and quite often the possibility to announce a discount or give away 10 free panels.

Both options are interesting:

  • If you give a discount, people either order a panel from your website or call you with a specific code. This tells you know how many people decided to make use of the offer and where they saw you. A discount needs to be interesting though: for 5% no one will start up their computer. Also always mention net prices instead of percentages. This will appeal more to your audience.
  • When you give away free panels, you can limit the offer to 5 or 10 panels, only keep in mind that your readership must at least think they can win. I don’t know if many people will start up their computers for 1 or 2 panels, so make the offer enticing. You’ll also need to pay for sending the panels to the winner, so take that in to account. Another pro: If you have the contestants send an e-mail, you build up a nice database at the same time.

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If you want to try one of these options, you’ll need to talk to the editorial staff of the magazine. Sending them a panel with one of their pictures will show them the product and quality in advance and you might even get more out of it than a small article. For the magazine this is interesting as well: they have something to offer to their customers and have something to fill the gaps. Everyone wins!

One more tip! When you want to go for traditional advertising, always ask for the possibility to get an editorial. That doesn’t necessarily needs to be a complete article on your company, but it can be a mention in an article about design or new trends or a short article on a page – right – as mentioned above. It’s all about getting noticed!


Featured imageCarolyn Krekels is jr Marketing Manager at Universal Woods EMEA, in Schelle, Belgium. She has been taking care of the EMEA marketing for the Universal Woods products for 9 years so far, first working for the EMEA distribution partner of Universal Woods. In 2012 she joined the Universal Woods EMEA team. In Carolyn’s posts, she will give you insight in the marketing actions organised by Universal Woods EMEA and can give you useful hands-on tips on how to bring your product to the market. Contact her via carolynk@chromaluxe.com

Different countries? Different cultures!

Can you imagine that you come in a country for the first time without decently informing you on beforehand about the habits of that country?
Well, I had that experience with a colleague with whom I visited Japan.
When visiting a company in Japan it is very common that you have to take off your shoes at the entrance and change them for slippers that are mostly open at the front.
If this habit would have been known I am sure that you never visit a company in Japan without first checking the status of your socks.

Wikipedia is a very good source to learn about specifics of a country, this is what we call culture. It also gives you good information about demographics, food and e.g. the tip system.

In Japan for instance they are not used receiving tips, you just pay what is on the bill. You can imagine how surprised the taxi driver was when he received a tip of 20% from my US colleague who assumed that the tip system was the same as in the US.

Two nice examples showing you how important is it to inform you as good as possible about the culture and habits of the country you are visiting.

Our company is in the fortunate position that our products are popular all over the world. The pleasant consequence of this is that it’s necessary to travel to many countries and continents to support existing customers and to appoint new customers in countries where our products are not yet available.

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Eating with chopsticks in Japan.

From our EMEA entity, located in Belgium, we are looking after Europe, Middle-East, Africa and a part of Asia. This geographically area is very extensive and the culture not just varies from continent to continent but also from country to country and sometimes we even have to deal with different cultures in the same country. No need to say that this makes it all very challenging and requires a very careful preparation before starting the travel to another place.

What exactly is culture?

Let me first say that I want to share some experiences about national cultures and not about corporate cultures although that also can make your professional life interesting.
All of you who work in a company will have to deal with a company culture.

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Training in South-Korea.

There are many definitions of culture. I feel that the below descriptions explain best what I want to share with you in this blog.

“Culture is the learned and shared behavior of a community of interacting human beings”

“Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another.”

Charracteristics of culture:

  1. culture is learned (behavior, language)
  2. culture is shared by a group of people
  3. culture is cumulative
  4. cultures change
  5. culture is dynamic
  6. culture is ideational
  7. culture is diverse
  8. culture gives us a range of permissible behavior patterns

The above will give you some idea what culture is and why it is “especially” in business so important to take this into account when visiting countries and people.

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Meeting in Nairobi, enjoying a local beer.

When you are in sales and have to sell your products in other geographical areas to people who don’t share your standards, values and culture, it is an absolute must that you inform yourself before you go there. There are many sources where you can find information how to approach people and how to behave in a culture that is different from yours.

Some derivatives of culture are the way you present yourself, how you dress, how you hand over your business card, what are the eating habits, do you need to bring presents or do you have to avoid this, who serves the drinks and to whom first and many other seemingly unimportant things but all of these can make the difference between succeeding or not succeeding!

Just keep in mind that also you want to be treated in the way you are used to and feel most comfortable with. This is the same for those who you visit.

I have the privilege to regularly travel to other parts of the world and always prepare myself seriously and in a way that reduces the chance coming in unforeseen situations. This is very much appreciated by your interlocutor(s) and shows them that they are taken serious.

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Many of you spend their holidays abroad. Although apparently less important than going on a business trip, I recommend that you also deepen yourself in the habits and culture of the country you are visiting.
By spending some time in doing this you will have fun whilst preparing your travel, you will feel much more comfortable and will face less unexpected surprises.

I wish you all a great, relaxing and sunny summer period, wherever you may go!


Erik WiegmFeatured imagean’s career in the Sign and Engraving industry started over 30 years ago. With experience in signage and personalization for many years, in 2005 Erik got involved in sublimation. In 2011 Universal Woods established its own affiliate in Belgium of which Erik became Managing Director. Together with a dedicated team he successfully worked on further expanding the Unisub brand in the EMEA region and bringing ChromaLuxe to the market.
You can contact Erik at erikw@chromaluxe.com.

Brussels – A Love Story

Bruxelles, or Brussels, grew up from a small village called originally Broeck-zele. Literally translated this is a “Village on a brook”. A brook being a small river. Now it is a large city which is the capital of Europe. A new photo exh

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ibition celebrates this with a show entitled Brussels – A Love Story. The theme is a series of photographs taken by people living in Brussels who love their chosen home city.

My local camera club where I live in Brussels is called ‘Viewfinders’. It’s been running for many years. In a cosmopolitan city like Brussels we have over 120 members from at least 12 different countries, possibly more. The club meets monthly with well known guest speakers, photo challenges and competitions, and portfolio reviews.

When the members saw some sample prints, the super gloss and how robust they were, it became a simple decision to use ChromaLuxe for the exhibition.

Every other year we organize an annual exhibition of member’s work and this year it is taking place during the whole of May in the famous Halles St Gery in the city centre – this was an old fruit and vegetable market that has now been converted to a bar and restaurant with a gallery in the vaults.

Featured image20 members will be exhibiting 40 prints that thisyear, for the first time, will all be printed on ChromaLuxe. The prints have been produced at top Belgian professional lab, Labo JJ Micheli.

In the past the prints have been made on photo or inkjet paper and then either framed or mounted on Forex. Although the prints were low cost, the extra cost of mounting and framing was substantial. Hanging the prints was also a problem as we had to rely on a wire suspension system that restricted the weight of the frames. This special building does not allow any nails or screws to be hammered into the wall.

When the members saw some sample pFeatured imagerints, the super gloss and how robust they were, it became a simple decision to use ChromaLuxe for the exhibition. Now the exhibition is up and started, they were really impressed by the overall consistency an quality of the images. At the end of the show, they can be safely taken away to display at home and many will probably be sold and find new homes!

Most readers pFeatured imagerobably won’t have the chance to visit the exhibition unless they happen to be visiting Brussels during May – but if you can I strongly recommend it. 40 stunning images on the theme of why I love Brussels – you will be amazed.

The ‘vernissage’ on 8th May attracted over 200 visitors with a superb response to the ChromaLuxe prints. The spot lighting in the vaults really made the prints ‘pop”!

www.viewfinders.be

www.labojjmicheli.be

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Featured imageCharles Henniker-Heaton has over 30 years experience in the imaging industry, first at Durst and then at Fujifilm as a senior manager involved in retail photo, chemicals and since 2006 as European Marketing Manager for large format printing. He joined ChromaLuxe EMEA in 2014 in charge of European Business Development for large format.

Get out! Get to know the market!

After a full day of proofreading the Unisub-part of our new EMEA catalogue, I really feel the urge to talk about this brand a bit more. Not because I want to tell you about the different products we offer, but because I strongly believe that there’s a whole extra dimension lying between the lines of this catalogue.

Unisub is the brand that represents our gift items and products for personalization. A whole different market maybe than sister brand ChromaLuxe, but just as sexy if you look into it.

When considering Unisub, I could talk to you about our 10 different luggage tags, our ornaments in all shapes and sizes or about our streamline awards, a range you really should have a look at, as the quality is superb and the opportunities for using them countless.

However, I want you to look at the range from a different perspective. Of course you can be sublimating at a gift shop and offer your regulars or the accidental visitor the opportunity to have their grandchildren sublimated on a coaster as a Mothers’ Day present.

That same installation though, the desktop printer and press for small format sublimation, can take you a lot further. Here are three ideas you might have never considered.

  • Add new business: the world has digitalized over the last decade. MyFeatured image grandparents house was full of framed black and white pictures, my mother has her printed pictures lying on her living room table in an album and me personally, I store the pictures I take on my computer or smartphone. Photographers experience the same, but for them this is their income – they sell less frames, less albums, less prints. How to make money in these changing times?  Try getting more out of the studiowork, is the answer any sublimation specialist can help them with. Selling large format wall décor is great, but it’s not the only thing they can do! Help them think about coasters, a memory game, a serving tray or a puzzle, all with unique images. By all means, they must keep on selling the large format, but while they’re at it, why not show their customer the other possibilities? Help them, show them the options!
  • Think about the hospitality market and think with an open Featured imagemind: hotels, cocktail bars, restaurants, wellness centers. They all –or at least the up-market ones- want to stand out and attract returning customers. All of the groups mentioned above can use a full Unisub kit, to add the details to make their package complete. Let’s visit a wellness center: when coming in, the receptionist who’s greeting us, is wearing a name badge, so we’d know her name, the key to my locker has a sublimated key ring, I can store my valuables in a keepsake box, the doors have signs so I know where to get my massage, there is a sublimated menu on the table for lunch and my cocktail is brought to me on a serving tray, again with the center’s corporate identity. There are so many possibilities a manager might not have thought about, but that can make a difference. Help them, show them the options!
  • Do you like sports? I play amateur tennis and that’s about it. When Featured imageyou’re running a sublimation company though, make sure to get to know all the sports associations and clubs in your not too close neighborhood, and make sure they know you! The larger clubs and clubhouses can be helped in the same way as the hospitality target audience under my point 2, but also the smaller clubs now and then organize championships. Your father-in-law’s sailing club might be bored of the good old trophies and prefer an award with a picture of the winner, but they might not realize it yet. That’s were you come in: Help them, show them the options!

These are a few suggestions of where our Unisub brand can take you. Of course there are a lot more.

In other to realize this however, the first step is to do some outward marketing: don’t stay in your studio and wait for these potential customers to knock on your door, because they might never find you.

Get out, sell yourself, your service and your products. It will take some energy, but it will be worth your efforts! Good luck!


Featured imageCarolyn Krekels is jr Marketing Manager at Universal Woods EMEA, in Schelle, Belgium. She has been taking care of the EMEA marketing for the Universal Woods products for 9 years so far, first working for the EMEA distribution partner of Universal Woods. In 2012 she joined the Universal Woods EMEA team. In Carolyn’s posts, she will give you insight in the marketing actions organised by Universal Woods EMEA and can give you useful hands-on tips on how to bring your product to the market. Contact her via carolynk@chromaluxe.com

Guestblogger Hans Duijghuisen: a Dutch photographer in Love

In Januari 2014 I became a member of the Belgian Association for Professional Photographers. After a visit tFeatured imageo Universal Woods EMEA and Chromaluxe in Schelle, Belgium where we got to see the Chromaluxe® panels for the first time I immediately fell in love with this great way of showing and selling my photographs.

I contacted Carolyn from Universal Woods to get to know more about this lovely product and as we decided to print several portrait photographs of pregnancy and newborn photography in High gloss Chromaluxe® panels. We immediately went large: all images are 100×100 cm or 100×150 cm. These photographs are currently in an exposition on the maternity ward of a hospital in the center of the Netherlands. We also ordered some panels to show in our store and studio. This all together created a lot of interest from our customers towards this new and exciting product. They specially love the nearly 3D effect the photographs get when sublimated on Chromaluxe® panels. We also are very fond of Featured imagethe durability of the product.

They specially love the nearly 3D effect the photographs get when sublimated on Chromaluxe® panels.

I started selling these great Chromaluxe® panels at the end of 2014. My customers just love the quality of this product and several panels have been sold already. It’s really a high end product that upgrades my possibilities to stand out in quality in the very competitive Dutch market.

People seem to think that now photography is digital, it has to be cheap.

People seem to think that now photography is digital, it has to be cheap. Using the Chromaluxe® panels to finish my portraits I can show them that there is more to photography than just pushing the shutter release. It’s all a process of creativity and using the best possible materials to finish these portraitsFeatured image.

Because it is truly a high end product it can be sold for a fair price so we can make a normal margin on it. Not like canvas that you can buy at any place for low prices and NO margin at all. We have to run a business….

We sell the panels including an aluminium frame so we ad value to it. You can make the panels look great in any environment by finishing these panels with a perfect frame!

I thank Universal Woods EMEA for all their support in making our exposition possible and showing us how to work with Chromaluxe®

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Hans DuijghuFeatured imageisen is a professional photographer since 1991, with a specialty in portrait and wedding-photography.

Hans won the 1st prize in portrait photography while he did his exam for all-round professional photographer in 1994. In 1997 he won the 1st prize as being the best FotoPlus store in the Netherlands. In 1998 he became a licentiate of Dutch Institute of Professional Photography and in 1999 he became Associate of Dutch Institute of Professional Photography. Since 1993 he is an official gild photographer.

In May 2008 we received the warm shower of the Dutch television consumer program TROS RADAR. This is one of the highest consumer awards in the Netherlands. Two weeks later we even got the warmest shower for the television season 2007/2008. He gives seminars to professional photographers in the Netherlands and abroad: May 2010 in Estonia, Januari 2014 in Belgium as a panel member.

Photography or Art?

Is photography art? This is a hot discussion in many online forums and has been a subject of debate since photography was invented. There are many iconic photographs and beautiful studies of the human form, landscapes, cityscapes and abstract images that are without doubt of high artistic value. There is also the question of when does a photograph become a ‘painting’? My personal view is when it is manipulated so far in Photoshop or similar software that it ceasesFeatured image to look like a photo and looks more like a painting. However, would you agree? Fine Art images can come from several sources:

  • An original photograph without manipulation
  • A photograph that has been manipulated into an artistic image
  • Digital art created/drawn entirely in the computer
  • Original paintings or drawings

To make a print, the image needs to be digital. No problem for the first three. For original art works there are companies that provide some really top class digitization of paintings and drawings by highly specialist photography or by high end scanning. Cruse scanners can scan originals up to 2 m x 3 m. The results are brilliant – the lighting can either be adjusted to give a flat image and colours, or to show every brushstroke, so much so that, when they are printed, people touch the print to feel the brush stroke!  Digitising and printing original artwork opens up whole new markets and new revenue streams for artists. Limited edition prints allow them to sell to clients who may not be able to afford an original. Sometimes artists will embellish a printed image, for exaFeatured imagemple by addition of pearlescent or metallic paint, and add further to its value as a semi-original! The UK based Fine Art Trade Guild offers guidance on giclee printing, print life, framing and also guidelines on publishing limited editions. We are pleased to see more and more photographers and artists choosing ChromaLuxe HD Metal aluminium panels for exhibiting their work in high end galleries and fine art shows. We also saw print prices ranging from €1000 – €6000 at the recent Affordable Art Fair and Accessible Art Fair. Photograph or Art? – In the end the choice is yours; we all see images in different ways and we decide what we like or do not like, whatever the critics might say.

Some of the artists and photographers using ChromaLuxe can be found in the Gallery section of our web site at http://www.chromaluxe-square.com/gallery.htm

This selection is being added to on a regular basis.

For example:

Charline Lancel – whose op-art style images are created entirely in Photoshop.

Alain Trellu – who takes amazing photos of his native Brussels and then adds a new dimension.

Colin Prior – Scottish photographer who specializes in amazing panoramas and has long been a respected figure in the fine art market.

Benoit Pay – human studies reflected in marble.

Nic Gaunt – English photographer based in Hong Kong – famous for his unusual style.


Featured imageCharles Henniker-Heaton has over 30 years experience in the imaging industry, first at Durst and then at Fujifilm as a senior manager involved in retail photo, chemicals and since 2006 as European Marketing Manager for large format printing. He joined ChromaLuxe EMEA in 2014 in charge of European Business Development for large format.