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Nature comes alive with revolutionary dimensional paint

Part of what makes coin art so appealing is how skilled engraving and vibrant colours bring depth and detail to even the smallest of scenes. Those visual possibilities just got even more dramatic with the Royal Canadian Mint’s introduction of dimensional paint, a stunning technique that gives images a 3D feel. Junior Product Manager Alicia Cook talks about her role in creating Dimensional Nature: Polar Bears — the world’s first coin to use this eye-catching technique.

As a Junior Product Manager, Alicia’s job is to shepherd coins from the earliest idea to collector-ready launch. When she got the assignment to develop a coin to showcase dimensional painting, her only direction was to feature Canadian wildlife. It was up to her to decide how to interpret that theme and incorporate the dimensional paint into a special coin with features collectors would appreciate.

For the inaugural dimensional paint coin, R&D provided a prototype to show how the technique worked. Alicia took that and the nature theme to a design competition by inviting three artists to submit design concepts design. When artist Tony Bianco suggested polar bears, Alicia was sure it was the winner.


The polar bear was the ideal subject for the inaugural dimensional paint coin because its dual land- and marine-based nature provided an effective way to bridge the added thickness of the new paint and the relief of classic engraving, which is highly valued by many coin collectors.

“The underwater scene was the perfect way to complement the best of the two worlds,” she says.

Tony’s final design for Dimensional Nature: Polar Bears shows an engraved bear cub at the edge of an ice floe. The dimensional paint forms a boundary between this silvery world above and the colourful one below in which the mother bear and a second cub swim in the deep Arctic waters.

The “dimensional” effect of the paint technique is produced by applying paint in meticulous layers that create an impression of depth. Tony positioned the swimming cub so one of its paws was behind the mother, further emphasizing the 3D illusion. Rising air bubbles add to the realism of the image, making it seem as though you’re looking through actual water.


The final result was everything Alicia and Tony had hoped for. In fact, Tony was so pleased with it that he reimagined his digital coin art into a full-sized painting of the swimming cub. And Alicia can’t wait to see how new coins might adapt this technology. With a multitude of colour options beyond the icy blue used on this coin, the design possibilities are endless.

“I always try to come up with something special that tells an interesting and meaningful Canadian story,” she says. “Something we haven’t done yet that collectors will love.”

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