Doing That Dye Transfer Thing

the lazy way

Dye transfer was once the easy way. Then, it became the elite way; now, it is that hallowed way, the queens way, the way of only the enlightened. Really it has always been just another way. A way that I followed, since it was the first way I was shown. In some ways it was my lazy way.

as ez as 123

you only need a matrix(film), dyes, and a blank(paper). If you have ever colored eggs, you have discovered how easy dyeing is. That colored egg isn’t much of beginning, yet it is a demonstration of the basic principles and illustration of the problems. Dyes move freely, stain almost anything, aren’t precise, nor will they stay put. Much like water colors or, hey, any other suspended colorant.

You can still find Kodak dyes, maybe some paper, rarely film. The film will be age fogged, to frilled. The paper will be fine, or moldy. The dyes will be ready to use, unless they were ruined by bad practice. But you don’t need the kodak paper, nor dyes. Those two items, along with the other chemicals are replaced by published formulas.

it will never see commercial daylight, again.

the death of dyeing

What Kodak made for dye printers (aka: imbibtion, wash-off relief, dye transfer) was all those controls, directions, and chemicals, in short, the supplies and instruction. In these days, Kodak is, essentially no-more. Dye Transfer, as practiced today is being done with out of date materials- some (maybe 3) are using matrix film made in a one run resurection attempt. Their is no lab open to the public. Well, there is one place that we hear is open to the public. There are 3 other labs that cater to private clients. The handful of photographers with strong gallery sales.

Why did it die — lack of interest, or lack of ability? It died the way of most commercial items, it was replaced. What was needed wasn’t what You think was needed. What it provided wasn’t what You think was being provided.

the manual labor

dye transfer is an assembly process — it requires hand skill. It is a hand job. Most people who become photographers have little skill with the fine muscles, hence, they push buttons, etc. The best printers I have known had other autographic skill, and that extra bit of imagination to see what the next problem will be, avoiding it with the best dance move.

you can dye

  • you can make, or alter to have the blank (paper)
  • you can make, or find to have the dye
  • you can make, or alter to have mechanicals to roll prints
  • The gotcha is the matrix– but you can make this, and with some luck, I will be able to show you how you can “alter” to make the matrix film.

For now, back to the lab iGor– we have bones to grind…..

These days, dye transfer is a brag board topic. People who never made a print, now, make pretend friends pretending they know how. They are the drooleys.

Actually, there have always been those who made this a brag process; happy to claim it as a friend, even buy it a drink in a bar — just not dedicated to method. They could have gotten there in days, not years. Now, those few who have learned the process this century have made a monks vow: Do it quietly.