Dye Sublimation Printers

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by PatB, Jan 7, 2022.

  1. Hi All,

    I have always had issues with Ink jet printers due to infrequent use (clogged heads mainly); not printing daily but more like once a week or every other week.

    I use a Canon Selphy CP1300 printer for editing work (shoot selection) & printing odd personal snapshots but I have never been entirely happy with the quality (colours of the print mainly); however, I do appreciate the hassle-free nature of sublimation technology. I should probably mention that I have tried custom profiles for the Selphy which improved things a bit. I have also set up some PS actions to adjust the colours & contrast prior to printing but it is still less than optimal.

    Has anyone had a chance to compare/use the Selphy and a more professional dye sublimation printer such as DNP DS620 for example? Leaving aside the obvious difference between size of prints between the two, the output, printing speed etc. Would the print quality be improved going from the little Canon?

    Many thanks!

  2. Can't help answering your question but looking forward to reading peoples experiences.
    I just wanted to comment that the Selphy saved me from ink-jet-clogged-head-waste insanity. Not only is it consistent in quality, it is reliable, simple, small and also fairly economical.
    PatB likes this.
  3. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    Zero issues with clogging on my Epson P800. I can go months and months without printing, fire it up, no clogging.
    PatB likes this.
  4. i have a Selphy 4x6 printer, which I use mainly for refrigerator photos. Before that I had a Kodak 8x12 dye-sub (thermal transfer) printer which saw a lot or use before being discontinued. You are totally dependent on the manufacturer for supplies. You can get better color by creating custom profiles with X-Rite tools and Photoshop (and Lightroom), but mostly they're good enough out of the box. A good inkjet, like my Pixma Pro-10, is more flexible in that regard as well as for supplies. The Pro-10 head is user-replaceable, but no need so far, even with weeks of disuse. It dutifully empties cartridges with self-cleaning cycles.
    PatB likes this.
  5. I can echo Andrew's comment. I had my Epson P800 out of service for over a year during a household move. I fired it back up recently and did a nozzle check. There was one color which was showing some skipping so I ran a cleaning cycle. The one nozzle still showed skipping but much less. I ran one more cleaning cycle and all nozzles were 100% good.
    PatB likes this.
  6. Ditto

    And also contemplating a bigger dye-sub here, but for event use.
    PatB likes this.
  7. Hi, I've never used a Selphy, but at one time had done trials with just about all the 8x10" capable pro-grade units (prior to the current DNP models). Those units are capable of very-high quality color, but... a high-quality ICC profile is the key.

    I would hazard a guess that a better ICC profile is what you really need for your Selphy. But how to get it is the question. Ed suggests to make your own. But really good dye sub profiles are not that easy to make. (I've made hundreds of them, and in fact, I used to make the "competition" prints for a particular little-known printer company back when the PMA used to show results of "printer shoot-outs.") The main problem is that the results on one end of the print head can be affected by the tones printed prior to it. What I used to do was to make 4 sets of the profile targets, each rotated 90 degrees. So every test patch has 4 different readings that are more or less "averaged" together. Profiles made from the averaged data can be very good. But if you don't do this, the profile may give some odd (unfavorable) results.

    I would say that the pro-grade dye sub printers are not for everyone. There are some comments in the thread linked below:

    Any Experience with Mitsubishi CP-M1 Dye Sublimation Printer
    PatB likes this.
  8. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    The real 'problem' with some dye subs and profiling is consistency from print to print due to the heating technology etc. You can't profile a moving target. You can print a lot of the same targets over time, examine the dE differences and average the measurements (correctly with inspection of outliers) and get a closer average profile. But they are unlike modern ink jets which are incredibly consistent in output behvaior. Not only over time but from the same make/model (at least Epson's are).
    Jochen and PatB like this.
  9. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    I've profiled a nubmber of dye subs for output on tile, seemed to work pretty well with the ideal targets.
    PatB likes this.
  10. Thanks for your thoughts and signposting to the other thread. Certainly a few things to consider.
  11. It's an annoying problem, the ink waste is incredible from my Epson R2400 when it gets clogged and I click "Clean" a few times and still doesn't clean. So the other night I thought I'd try something different. I got a syringe and sucked up a small amount of Isopropyl alcohol and squirted some on the opening of the offending cartridge (where the ink exits the cartridge), more or less flooding it with alcohol, and also on the nipple in the printer that the cartridge plugs onto. I re-attached the cartridge and printed the seventh test pattern and the problem was instantly fixed, finally ... the idea was extremely effective. I'll be trying it for future blockages to see if it works every time.
    PatB likes this.
  12. I do have an Epson 1500 printer with a dedicated b&w carbon ink set for matte printing (so no paper hardener residue) and ink waste tank to minimize waste pad saturation and, like you said, when it gets clogged I sometimes need to run 2-3 consecutive cleaning cycles (I allow a few hours between each one if it does not immediately clear) and I have probably printed more test prints (due to clogging mainly) in the printers lifetime than I have of actual end prints. Canon's Selphy on the other hand is a quick and full proof process, without any ink and media waste, but less satisfactory in terms of colours.

    The comments regarding sub-dye printer profiling are certainly worth trying. I am not surprised that both technologies have their quirks when you want to achieve truly optimal results, yet the experience with Selphy has been far less frustrating.

    I also need to get hold of test prints from a DNP printer to compare directly against the Selphy, which I am trying to obtain at the moment. Glossy 4x6 (so like for like) prints.
  13. If you don't need archival prints, you can avoid clogging/cleaning issues by using dye-based inks. I printed with several Canon dye-ink printers for years with no problems at all.
  14. A desirable feature of dye-sub (more correctly, thermal transfer) prints is a high-gloss finish, rivaling or exceeding that of traditional ferrotype prints. They also withstand handling well.
  15. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    An actual Dye Sublimation process is yes, thermal and Sublimation. A process whereby the transition of a substance (dye) directly from a solid-state to a gas state.
    I fondly remember my Kodak XL-7700 dye sub from the early 90s and still have the prints. Stored in a box, they still look great.
    Used, cost me $10K in 1993 dollars.
  16. Yeah, I vaguely remember those. I don't remember the exact model but in the early 90s we put another cut sheet model in about a thousand of our studios. I was the lab QC manager at the time, only indirectly involved with the studio division. But we had a full-time QC inspector checking all the photo equipment coming through our in-house camera shop (long story, but it took the blame off the camera shop when a studio received non-working equipment). There was some variability in the output, especially when replacing print heads, so we had to come up with a way to quantify the output characteristics so that the repair techs knew what to shoot for. Basically we gave them a test image which they would print, measure with a densitometer, and then modify some print head voltage value according to the results.

    At a later time we converted to all Sony UPD-70 machines (that's one I DO remember the model). All these machines were SLOW (relative to the modern machines), taking something like 3 minutes to print an 8x10". Plus a handful of seconds to transmit the image over a SCSI. And the incessant troubleshooting by phone related to use of "terminators" and some DIP switch settings on each machine (in a busy studio we could daisy chain the printers, requiring different DIP switch settings, remove a terminator, etc.).

    This brings back memories about a lot of headaches. But at the time 3-minute color prints were something of a minor miracle. We used 'em to print 6-up proof sheets from our portrait sessions. The "real" portraits were shot on film, but there was a simultaneous, under flash, video grab that was used for the proofs. Most people probably don't remember this, but in the good old days it was not unusual to find that the "best" shots had someone in the middle of a blink. So these simultaneous flash grabs meant that the customer KNEW they would have good expressions before leaving the studio. So no more disappointment when they came back a week or two later to pick up their prints. Back in a time when they WANTED prints.
  17. If someone told me that they had a "thermal transfer" printer, first thing I'd ask is for a clarification - I'd think they were talking about those "wax crayon-type" printers. So I think it's probably better to say either the full term, "thermal dye transfer," or just plain dye-sub; everyone in the industry will know what you mean (I think).

    Regarding the high-gloss, in the portrait business this is not generally seen as specifically desirable. Not really as undesirable either. It's just about the only surface finish. Now, some of the makers have used a technology where they dither the overcoat layer, and this can make a really nice appearance. The now-defunct Sony UP DR80 printer did a beautiful job of this. But I would not personally use such function for long-term prints.
  18. Dye subllimation implies that a solid dye is vaporized while in contact with the substrate, without passing through a liquid state, condensing in that substrate. Dye transfer occurs when a solid dye is liquified in the transfer process. The latter process offers many more alternatives, and is probably the mechanism for these printers.
  19. Probably yes, I think.

    In the Kodak world they liked to use the term "thermal dye transfer," although "dye sub" was common slang. In the Sony world, sales literature commonly referred to "Sony's dye sublimation technology."

    My printer won its class the first year I made the DIMA shoot-out prints; they gave me one of the award plaques where DIMA clearly says "DYE SUBLIMATION" as part of the category (I'm blacking out the specifics, for no good reason).

    Anyway, people can call it what they wish, but anyone in the industry will immediately understand what you mean if you say "dye sub."
  20. Sublimation is a well-defined physical process, regardless of what marketing folks think. The relatively low spread of dots in so-called dye-sub prints suggests thermal transfer. Furthermore the pigment itself must be vaporized in dye sublimation, whereas is must only be dissolved or suspended in a molten incipient in thermal transfer.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2022

Share This Page