The dye transfer process is the photographic printing process used to produce the highest quality photographic prints to be submitted to printers for reproduction. Dye transfer prints are valued by advertising agencies for their highly saturated colors and ease of retouching. Photographers, museums, art galleries and collectors also value dye prints for the archival qualities. Dye transfer uses cyan, magenta, and yellow dyes to reproduce a color image. Photographic masking is used extensively for color correction, tone compression, and detail enhancement. The masks are projected with the original transparency to make continuous-tone separation negatives. Shallow-reliefgelatin positive-image matrices are made by exposure from light projected through the separation negatives. The matrices carry the dyes to the paper base for printing. The techniques used to produce the masks and separation negatives are so difficult, expensive, and imprecise that the future of the process is in jeopardy. Manufacturers of electronic color prepress systems and color separation labs would like to take over the market now served by the dye transfer labs. Existing computer graphics technology, however, cannot offer the same quality and capabilities. Electronic color scanners exist to simplify the photographic methods of masking and color separation. Electronic color scanning techniques techniques have reduced the time to produce color separations for printers from eight hours to thirty minutes. The amount of film used to make separations has been greatly reduced also. Analysis of electronic color scanning techniques could result in a similar savings of time and materials for dye transfer labs. Use of scanners to produce continuous-tone separation negatives for dye transfer would open a new market for scanner manufacturers and color separation labs. A less expensive method of producing dye transfer prints could allow a greater profit margin for the dye transfer labs and make the process more affordable for photographers. An experiment was conducted to determine if acceptable first -roll dye prints could be made from continuous-tone separations produced with a scanner. Comparison of the time and amount of materials required by the conventional photographic and scanner methods were made. Four judges with dye transfer process expertise determined that no significant differences of quality existed between a group of dye transfer prints produced by a conventional color separation method and a group produced by an electronic color scanning method. The hypothesis that separation negatives produced by electronic scanning will provide acceptable dye transfer prints that require minimal use of the printing controls, with greater consistency, than separation negatives produced by conventional photographic techniques for dye transfer prints was proved correct.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Color photography--Printing processes--Dye transfer; Scanning systems--Technique--Analysis; Imaging systems--Analysis

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Print Media (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Media Sciences (CIAS)


Tim Callahan

Advisor/Committee Member

Joseph Noga


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes