What’s so hard about Dye Transfer

Back in the day of dye transfer, photography was a trade taught in the US Miitary as well as private trade schools, many of which gladly accepted GI Bill tuition payments.

Large labs, processing hundreds of prints a week, divided the work into skill layers. As someone improved they were assigned to other tasks. Prove yourself often enough and you will have made it to a secure will paid career.

jobs. skills. steps

  • load film, clean, mop
  • soup film
  • mix chemcials for lab
  • make masks/seps
  • make mats
  • manage dyes and do rollup

The last task is key to the final result: rollup. This is primarily autographic; skill of hand, eye, timing with feedback. All the previous steps come together well, or the print fails.

Most of those who fail at dye transfer do so because they lack courage. They make the task harder than it is. Not even rollup is difficult, just needing attention.

Anyone who can teach dye, can teach anyone who can learn, in about 45 hours. This assumes you can get film in and out of a camera, and in and out of chemicals.

The hardest part about dye transfer was those who sold their weekend teaching skills to timid camera counter conversationalists.

Kodak’s Frank McLaughlin used to take people through the steps over the telephone. That’s how hard it was.

Easy Step: registration

Registering film for printing (optical) isn’t a mystery. It is simple, but has changed, with increasing complexity of mechanism making easier, more certain, faster production of picture.

At first, the method was: cut-n-butt. This was the way wash-off relief (dye transfer) was done from 1936 into the 1950s. In fact the original Kodak Dye Transfer method was based upon a “slip-sheet” for matrix positioning at the printing stage. Kodak even included a blank, unsensitized sheet of matrix film in the 10×12 sheet boxes. [ ever divide 25 by 3; in tri-color separation, that 25 sheet box had an extra… used either for exposure tests, or use as a slip-sheet.

Needed: straight edge, knife, tape, loupe and good eyes.

Printers and animators had other means and methods. More about that in the “registration” posts.

printmakers have use “buttons” and “tabs” for decades. These are much more current. They are standard sized for at hand punches. The oblong slot allows easy on, as well as permitting size changes of support material.

Kodak used that oblong slot for the same reasons.

Kodak dye transfer register board.