BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Daryl P. Parcher

Inkjet vs. Dye sub.....

I am considering taking the jump into dye sub printing. Can anybody give me the pros and cons of this consideration?? It seems that dye sub supplies are a bit hard to come by....
Any advice is welcome.


To love this question, log in above
10/23/2002 4:51:28 PM

Angela Garibay
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/13/2001
  Hi D.P. What I would like to know is what is "dye sub" to begin with. I came accross the term but have no idea what it is.. Thanks, and good luck to the both of us in finding all answers..

To love this comment, log in above
1/23/2006 5:55:59 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2004
  Googled it!

Seems dye sub is the way to go, but also from reading, it sounds pretty pricey. Probably worth it though. If you have the dough, then go for it.

To love this comment, log in above
1/23/2006 6:12:26 PM

John P. Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
Contact John
John's Gallery
  There are basically three means of producing color "copies." These include: inkjet, dye sublimation and xerographic printers. [Yes, there is a real technology called xerography - its the technical tech used in the photocopying industry since "Xerox" joined the ranks of Formica, as term of art and therefore not able to be trademarked in all cases.

Generally, photographs are printed on inkjet and dyesubs. Most of the articles you'll see about photo printers describe inkjet printers because dyesubs are much more expensive [capital cost and supplies (dye.)]

Inkjets work by spraying droplets of ink onto the photo paper. The research into inks has focused on longevity [the issue of fading] and drying time. Certain papers are formulated to assist the drying of the inks. It's this issue the we have to be concerned about and, often, we've had to wait a hour or so before we could handle a print produced on our inkjets.

Dyesubs work by applying the dyes via a heat process of some kind. Since I worked for a while for a company that made toner for photocopiers, I have a little knowledge - but, not enough to expound fully. I've seen one used in a small consulting firm for very specific projects, primarilily due to the fragility of the printer and the high cost of dyes. For more general needs, inkjets were used.

I personally don't think photos printed on dyesubs look like those produced in the wet darkroom or with higher end inkjet printers. It's like comparing a thick oil painting with a watercolor or pastel.

Dyesubs have been around for a number of years [since long before 2001.] I don't think they'll replace inkjets for home and, even, for professional photography needs. And, frankly, that's why there hard to find.

There's one other type of photo printer I'm aware of, but I'm not sure of its technical "process." It's FUJI's Pictograph. Costs around $5,000.

Stick with inkjets.

To love this comment, log in above
1/25/2006 8:48:25 AM

Phillip Corcoran   Modern dye-subs can produce excellent photo-quality prints and, contrary to your comments, can often be superior to an inkjet -- though I agree running costs can be a little higher since the solid dye cartridge lays down a full-size film of cyan, magenta, and yellow at a fixed rate regardless of the actual colours in the image --- whereas an inkjet only uses an amount of ink which varies according to each image. However, I have to say that a dye-sub printer (which I use) produces much smoother tones like a darkroom photo since there's no 'dot pattern' or half-toning as there is with an inkjet. Downside is that you can only use one brand of paper and one brand of cartridge matched to a particular model of dye-sub (because of the technology used), so you need to check availability of media before getting one. Apart from quality easily equalling that of an inkjet, they also turn out very realistic colours which closely match the original image, without any hassle of setting up printer profiles. I should know - I've used both methods and the dye-sub (which I've only recently switched to) gets a big thumbs up from me every time.

To love this comment, log in above
1/25/2006 10:52:44 AM

Angela Garibay
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/13/2001
  Thanks to both of you: John and Phill, but from the information, I will stick with inkjets and for that matter, the more traditional way.... angela

To love this comment, log in above
1/25/2006 2:12:22 PM

Stephanie Halstead
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/3/2005
  My faithful Epson R800 died.... Anyone have a suggestion about as to a new ink jet photo printer. Have seen some mixed reviews on the Epson 1400 and 1900.

To love this comment, log in above
12/10/2009 9:55:15 AM

Clayton T. Williams
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/16/2006
  Same question for me...What suggestions would anyone give for a great quality inkjet?

To love this comment, log in above
12/15/2009 3:08:47 AM

Alan N. Marcus   A little insight into dye sublimation. Dye and pigment differ. Dye is a liquid whereby pigments are solid. As to longevity, pigment wins.

How dye sub works. Matter generally exist in one of three states. These are solid, liquid, and gas. When a solid is heated it gains energy and liquefies. Apply additional heat and a liquid changes to a gaseous state. Some bizarre substances, when heated skip the liquid state. As an example, dry ice, which is frozen carbon dioxide, warms and changes directly to a gas skipping the liquid stage. Hence the name dry ice. The process of changing directly from a solid to a gas and or skipping one state is called sublimation.

In the dye sub preprocess the colored substances are a sold. These are more durable colorants. Generally three solid colors are used. Cyan - Magenta - Yellow, these are known as the subtractive primaries. These colors each block or absorb one of the light primaries which are red - green - blue. Thus the subtractive primaries are used to modulate (control) the percentage of the primaries that will be reflect off the paper print to our eye. Cyan is a red blocker. Magenta is a green blocker. Yellow is a blue blocker.

Prints are generally viewed by reflected light. We illuminate them with white light. The white light consists of red - green - blue in nearly equal proportions. The subtractive primaries, each absorb one of these primaries based on their strength as applied to the paper. Thus they control the percentage of the three primaries that will reach our eye.

The subtractive primaries should yield a black when overlapped. Due to deficiencies involving the shade of the magenta and cyan, a degraded black always results.

This is sad because black is viewed as a key color, it is needed to kick off the contrast scale of the image. The cyan - magenta - yellow system (CMY) is bolstered by the addition of a black colorant. The 4 colorant system is called CMYK. The K for key or kicker.

The dye sublimation system resembles a dot matrix except the pins are heated. The colorant is a solid in a wax carrier ribbon. A hot needle strikes the wax paper ribbon. The wax vaporizes. It changes from a solid to a gas skipping the liquid state. The colorant, now a vapor penetrates and diffuses into a porous top coating of the paper. The vapor cools and returns directly to the solid state. Since the liquid state is skipped, the process is called dye sublimation.

To love this comment, log in above
12/16/2009 7:36:34 AM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.