You Can't Learn Dye Transfer

Kodak E-80

The one with this cover:

Kodak E-80
Kodak E-80

Kodak supplied this for free, or upon request. And it is incomplete, at least insofar as teaching someone how to make a print is concerned. I don’t know why it became such an empty publication, but it did. There isn’t enough information in this publication to guide you to a completed print. It is the often referenced publication, but, I wonder, have any of the people directing you to E-80 used it as their course pack? Or, are they quickly spouting what everyone else posts as answer — “Kodak had a booklet that I used when I….”

Using google will find 2 sites hosting this version of the Kodak publication. Don’t bother with it if you are serious about learning the process as it was practices at its height. The publication isn’t so much wrong in error, but is by omission. Massive omission. When I was shown a printout of it, I thought there must be pages missing, since it seemed to end abruptly. After further checking, confirming the contents etc.. it was a complete printout- so I read it. Doing. No one, even if they had in date supplies, would meet with success at re-creating the lost procedures that were once the dye transfer process.

the Current State of Dye Transfer

There are no in date supplies for sale. There are, to my knowledge, less than 10 people working with current date materials. Of course, there are several working with out of date supplies. Matrix film made by Kodak, Efke, DTC. Most of these people can be found on the yahoo group hosted by Jim Browning.  If you want to browse the group, I’d suggest going to the original posts, collecting what materials will be immediately useful. Stop when you enter the 2005-06 frame. The more recent stuff is of little significance.

Current (2015) Commercial Printers

Dye Transfer International (see link) offers printing. As I understand, they have their emulsion made custom. They also have paper and dyes customized for their current procedures which are based upon exposing to laser. Bettina Haneke is the principal contact at DTI.

That Is It

No other printing services need new clients. Those people printing are printing with out dated materials, and print, essentially reprint, for existing portfolios.

James Browning (see link) may be able to print for you. I’m listing him more so you can track him down yourself. If you go to the link, you will be able to download a better set of instructions for making dye transfer than the Kodak E-80.

 Learning Dye Transfer Now

means learning a new material and supply set. It also means that you are one of a very small group having access to those new emulsions. Learning to use, now, means learning to make, or how to form buying groups.

how many prints could a printshop make, if a printshop made dyes

Some notes
in a box: 25 sheets (back in origin time, film came 10 sheets to a box. like now, again. We are back to the fifties.)
1 sheet was for standard tests. QC thingys
3 sheets per print
means 8 prints per box — but we don’t have an answer to our riddle.

Prints On Paper

as supplied, Kodak provided mordanted paper to make  10×12, 11×14, 20×24, 40 inch rolls.
the size frequently used by agencies was 11×14
the 10×12 was what I had students use. For my work, I used the 11×14 and 40 inch roll paper.

Cutting Roll Paper
I cut the roll paper into sheet sizes for prints. The problem with this was the cut edges meant dust. At that time the paper dust seemed the big problem, now, knowing better about the mordant, I wouldn’t do it. I’m lucky, good ventilation and meticulous work mode means I’ve had no side effects from the dust. At the time, I was just reducing the amount of dust introduced into the workroom, and chemistry (paper conditioner).
When I cut the paper I’d use a fresh, new razor blade, each time. Before cutting, I put a covering sheet of tissue over the cutting area. This tissue sheet was about 2 inches wide. It came in rolls of several hundred inches. This tissue sheet was held down using flat stainless rulers — two of them spaced about and inch apart. One, the left one, was what I cut along. Simpler to do than to describe. All of the tissue was scrapped with each cut. This meant a lot of waste, but it made for very clean print process… and that was my intent.

An Answer?

So, how many prints did those beloved custom shops make… making a guess based upon what I’ve gleaned from a couple of conversations — between the demise of Kodak Matrix in 1994 and 2007 the Net Name printer went through most of his paper, with  about a third of his film still stored. Five years later (’12) He had 5 boxes of film to sell. He had used it once the year prior (’11). That guess — one or two images a month! Not much of a living, even at high setup, first print and such fees. No wonder digital is where he went.

How Many
back of napkin

napkin: bought around 30 boxes — used 25 of them — makes it about 16 prints a year. Sounds like a hobby not a career. Good thing the magazines paid for words of wisdom

Production Printing- Dye Transfer

What would a production printer produce? Assuming that you work at a place with consisten daily output for clients that were demaninding, both in terms of quality, but also in terms of commitment to quantity– agencies would order 2 or three prints– not much. Not much as compared to architects or industry or …
I regularly made 20 or 25 prints for an order. So how could we do that, day in and out for multiple clients? We had print rooms setup so that we had 2 roller positions. Automatic tray rockers, and heated transfer blocks.
A general flow: Starting dry.. paper and matrix-set are dry. They have to be placed into holding/ conditioning baths. After about 6 minutes you can begin the process of dying and rolling. This is all about rhythm and directed attention — and practice. At the end of 20 minutes you have a print. Plus 5 mins and your second print is lifted, while your third has one roll down… and so it goes..
This results in a system that produces 6 prints an hour. Since we have to replenish dyes, along with other maintenance chores the real production is about 5 prints per room each hour. This productivity requires near ideal mat-sets, which is why so much attention is given their perfection. Attention including means of testing their match without resorting to production rolling. These separation of functions meant the production area had 3 separate functional spaces. Negatives; matrices; prints
Now, maybe, you understand that odd “5” print staircase .. 5 prints, 15 prints, 25 prints, as price points.

Footnote: