The gray surface that resembles aluminum is aluminum. A BayPhoto print is made right on the aluminum. No paper. When a Metal print arrives from BayPhoto it's carefully wrapped in plastic and taped print side down to cardboard. The metal print is well protected. On the back there is a 3/4" thick foam matt (dark) with the mounting plate (hole and bumpers) attached to that. This image has my print upside down: the nail hole goes up.. Tomorrow I sink one more nail into my classroom wall, and I hang the print. No frame. No glass. No matting. Simple. Clean.