Dye Transfer Emulsion Making

“How do I get started in dye transfer?”

The first question asked by the new member of a tech talk group. They have every reason to think the existing members have the answer. The correct answer; one which is useful. We ask for directions, thinking the farmer will answer knowingly, taking care to provide accurate instruction.

“How do I get to Baskiqs farm from here?

A: “Well, I wouldn’t start from here, if I were going.”

Which brings us to an example from our world. Can you fix out a sheet of ready available film as a support for a new coating of a dye transfer emulsion? The small, but loud response, from the large online dye forum is: No. You must strip the emulsion off; then re-sub it. Another correspondent claims that Arista Ortho film never clears of color, even after the anti-halation dye is fixed and washed out — there remains a stain.

Reason: the base retains color which will interfere with exposure. — dye transfer is exposed thru the base of film, unlike most processes. This is so that the tanned, hardened image remains on the film after being ‘washed off’ in hot water. Of course old matrix film carries fog, both visible and gel-fog – that stuff that means the matrix film is hardening differentially across its surface, just from storage, maybe pressure of being stored in a stack.

Can we test this for ourself? Sure. Fix out two pieces of film. Look -> that’s what I did.

fixed out matrix film v. ortho film base color

The Arista Ortho fixed as clear as Kodak Matrix film [4150]. Does it hold dye as the Forum formula holds? Will it stain? Can you simply put any piece of fixed out film into a dye bath to dye it? Will it dye permanently? If it did, wouldn’t that be a kick in the head to all those dye mordant kits that have been sold over the years — well, that were sold years ago, when people made slide shows.

I know the answer; have done the test — [results later ]

You need a base, an emulsion, and a way of coating it onto the base. With that, you have what you could have bought 40 years ago. You still won’t be able to make an imbibition print, however, you are several steps closer. Just make certain someone doesn’t trip you on your way.

Some good places for directions:

—Jim Browning’s manual:


—David Doubley’s archive of references:


–Getting a handle on the process:

first: http://www.daviddoubley.com/Documents/Dye%20Transfer%20Process_CMiller/Dye%20Transfer%20C%20Miller%201978.pdf

–then, for the equipment notes, suggestions:


AND , with caution, these videos:


the caution is his method isn’t readily understood by the novice.

for emulsion making, wayback information:

thelightfarm :http://www.thelightfarm.com/Map/ContributingEditors/SterlingWood/Plates_and_Films.pdf

—Lastly, a commercial printer:

Bettina Haneke http://bettinahaneke.com/en/

Art is, at base, a do it yourself life, suited to those driven to try something.

reminder, the process was first devised in the 40s at a time when little of our current basic materials or fundamental knowledge had been put into place. Kodak’s version of the process didn’t stabilize for nearly 15 years.