CONTINUED FROM THE BLOG POST, “The Legend of Dye Transfer Printing, Interrupted 1”
Darkroom Photography Magazine and Dye Transfer
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The now defunct Darkroom Photography Magazine, published Philip Hyde’s “Virginia Creeper, Northern Sierra Nevada, California” on the cover of the March/April 1980 issue. “Virginia Creeper” made more magazine covers than any other Philip Hyde photograph, but Darkroom Photography Magazine also ran an in-depth feature article with the cover photograph. Merry Selk Blodgett of Darkroom Photography Magazine interviewed Philip Hyde about his dye transfer printing process. See the blog post, “Philip Hyde At Home In The Wilds 1.”
The article titled, “At Home In the Wilds” by Merry Selk Blodgett included a sidebar about dye transfer printing that makes a good introduction to the rest of the article, which will appear in a future blog post. Below is an excerpt from the Darkroom Photography Magazine sidebar:
What Dye Transfer Is All About
The color printing process Philip Hyde uses, dye transfer, is one of the finest (and most difficult) techniques currently available for producing a photographic color print. Color quality and tonality are excellent, the final image is relatively immune to degradation over time, and the process offers a degree of control over contrast and color unmatched by other techniques. To make a dye transfer print from one of his 4X5 transparencies, Philip Hyde first makes three black and white separation negatives by contact printing the transparency onto panchromatic sheet film. One separation is made with a blue filter over the light source, another with a red filter and the third with a green filter. Together these three separations comprise a complete “record” of the original color image.
The three separate matrices, one for each color are eventually dunked in their respective color dyes and then rolled carefully onto the paper using a positive register of rectangular-shaped pins that fit precisely into rectangular holes punched into the matrices for a perfect alignment of the three separate color versions of the final single print. Here is Philip Hyde’s complete statement of the process from start to finish as written in his “Images of the Southwest” Dye Transfer Portfolio Introduction:
The following is Dad’s description of his dye transfer printing process from his dye transfer portfolio packaged by Lumina, Palo Alto, California in 1982 called, “Images of the Southwest: Twelve Original Photographic Prints by Philip Hyde.” The plan was to print 50 portfolios but only 31 were made, which still was a huge production considering it adds up to 612 handmade prints.
A Brief Description of the Dye Transfer Color Print Process by Philip Hyde
The prints in this portfolio were made from 4X5 Ektachrome original transparencies by the dye transfer process.
To begin, a set of three separation negatives are made from the original by contact printing onto a black and white film. Exposed to red, green, and blue light respectively then processed and dried, these three negatives record and translate the color information from the original into silver negative densities.
Film positives are then made from the separations, enlarging them to the finished print size on a special matrix film capable of absorbing and transporting dyes in the precise degree required for the differing portion of the final print. These matrix print films correspond to plates used for printing reproductions in the ink process.
After processing and drying, the three matrices are immersed in their respective dye solutions: cyan, magenta and yellow. The printing paper which is coated with a non-silver-sensitive emulsion to absorb dye, is mordanted then sqeegeed into position on the register printing board. Each matrix in succession is then removed from its dye bath, rinses, then placed on the register pins of the board and rolled into contact with the printing paper, remaining in contact for 3 to 6 minutes depending on dye color. It is then stripped off, washed in warm water and returned to its dye bath to repeat the cycle. When the third matrix has been rolled and removed, the full-color image is revealed on the printing paper, which is then dried, trimmed, and mounted, as in the Portfolio.
This portfolio is issued in a limited edition of 60 copies, of which 50 are for sale. Copyright Philip Hyde 1982.
All of the prints in this portfolio were made by Philip Hyde in his darkroom, to exacting standards for color, quality, and longevity. They are dry-mounted to acid-free, 100% rag Museum Board, and overlaid with cut-out mats of the same Museum Board attached with acid-free tape. 100% acid-free rag paper interleaves are used to protect the print surfaces. With proper care, the prints should last a long time, but as with most materials made by man or nature, they should not be subjected to direct sunlight, or high intensity fluorescent lighting.
A future blog post will describe the interesting and challenging process of trial and error, with good help from expert friends, through which Philip Hyde learned dye transfer printing. Also in a future blog post the Darkroom Photography Magazine Interview about Philip Hyde’s printing processes and his life living in the northern Sierra Nevada and travels to photograph mountain scenes and southwestern desert landscapes, see the blog post, “Philip Hyde At Home In the Wilds 1.”