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Thursday, 09 October 2008


This is an amazing opportunity. I am proud that I was on the band wangon within half an hour of the post going up. I am willing to bet I was not the first and I know I won't be the last.

You glorious bastard! This is coming out of my 5D mk 2 fund. I hope you can live with that.

I'm a little concerned tho. For some reason I really like taking photos of ferns. It is quite possible this could ruin that for me.

Extremely cool.

I'm in for one print. I'm very curious to see what such a print will look like in-the-flesh. Hopefully it won't spoil me too badly.

I'm in, and I posted a link over on APUG.org.

Wow. Ctein, I can't thank you enough for agreeing to do this, especially at this price. Even disregarding the work involved, I assume this will use up a fair amount of your remaining materials. I really can't wait to get the prints and see them for myself.

To everyone reading this, you should know that while the post above includes a brief description of how Ctein goes about producing a dye transfer print, the full, gory, glorious and fascinating story can be found here: http://ctein.com/dyetrans.htm

Best regards,

I know about Ctein's art very well. I just got one of his inkjet prints and it's stunning. I'm very impressed and bought these dye transfers today in a minute.


What a great treat.



[Editor's note: Just so people know, Ken is a world-renowned photojournalist who took perhaps the most famous picture of the Gulf War. --MJ]

Wow! I am so in! I just bought one Competing Ferns.

Thanks for presenting this great offer.

Thanks so much, I look forward to the arrival of the prints!

"Before the latest pigment inkjet prints on the best papers, they had the best longevity of any viable color print process."

Not according to Wilhelm's "The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs", now available for free download (I believe) from:


Dye transfer was good only against typical Type C prints of its day but display life of the latter progressed, notably with Fujicolor Crystal Archive. Also, still before pigment inkjet was UltraStable which blew everything away (I did this for a few years but it was a demanding process and expensive) which had an aesthetic all of its own. None of this is to detract from Ctein's Kodak Dye Transfer efforts (which I haven't seen but have seen other exemplars of the medium, notably Eliot Porter's work) but just to correct some overly enthusiastic claims.

Stephen Best
Macquarie Editions

Augh...I just blew my photo budget on the Taryn Simon book and Eyes Over Africa by Michael Poliza (and some SLR stuff)...

Darn you Mike Johnston and Ctein. Can you, just once, do something to INCREASE my bank account?

Dear Stephen,

On display, dye transfer and Ilfochrome had similar display rates (although dye transfer faded primarily in the yellow, which was not as quickly visible to human viewers). Indeed, by the end of the millenium, RA-4 papers had well exceeded both.


in terms of dark keeping, which is at least as important when considering long-lived prints, dye transfers beat the pants off of everything except pigment prints (which have basically been unavailable for most of the past 50 years, except to do-it-yourselfers). The museum-standard storage life at room temperature for a dye is 300 years.

Nice thing about dyes is that we have 50-70 year data to help confirm that. Maybe some 'gotcha' will jump out of the shadows at 150 years, who knows? But unlike newer media (inlcuding RA-4 papers) which only have accelerated projections to go by, in the case of dye transfer we've got real-world data of substantial duration to back up the projections.

For maximum, proven stability, on or off display, go with traditional (not digital) pigment prints, no question!

pax / Ctein

I'd have bought both if the Aussie dollar hadn't tanked so hard against the $US in the last couple of weeks! One will have to do :)

IMO, Dye Transfer prints are neither as sharp or as archival as the current crop of pigment inkjet prints. Also, they have a serious deficiency in the yellow spectrum.

Dear Bill,

Dye transfers are not as sharp as ANY other kind of print. That's always been true-- there's some lateral dye diffusion in the receiving paper when the transfer's made, so they have a slightly soft acutance. Not so much poor resolution as rounded edges. Exactly the opposite of Ilfochrome.

People who like the edge qualities of Ilfochrome usually hate those of dye transfer and vice versa.

Not as archival? As I explained, that depends on how you've defined archival. They'll still beat the pants off of most, if not all, digital prints, in dark keeping. And unlike digital prints, they've got a proven track record.

You're just plain wrong on the 'yellow spectrum deficiency' business. I've never heard anyone assert that before. Perhaps you've confused it with the very reddish chromogenic yellow, which just plain sucks. But the dye transfer yellow has exceptionally good color purity; it's one of the medium's outstanding characteristics. It is, though, the least permanent of the dyes.

Where dye transfer's color is weak is in the cool part of the spectrum. The dye transfer cyan is a bit too blue. As Frank McLauglin once put it, don't ever try to make a nice dye transfer print of Navajo squash blossom jewelery. You'll go nuts trying to balance the neutrals and blues at the same time.

pax / Ctein

Thanks so much, Ctein, for this wonderful opportunity.

Just wondering if Ctein is doing anything to keep this art alive like teaching it to someone etc.

All this talk of Ctein's master printmaking skills prompted me to go back into the TOP archives to find Mike's profile of Ctein in July, 2006:
"Who the Heck is... CTEIN?"

The more I learn about Ctein, the more I think the cost of these prints is a rare but worthwhile bargain.

Perhaps the current materials for making Dyes are better than those I had in the '50s and '60s. But I always had problems getting a pure yellow (I worked with 3-color sep negatives made either from Kodachrome tranies or direct in the camera on Super-XX film) plus masking.
I quit making Dyes when Cibachrome became available (although I had a semi-relapse for a while with Kodak Ektaflex).
I consider Dye Transfer an important but obsolete chapter in color printing. Digital color printing is better in every respect, (if I never have to make another highlight mask it will be too soon).
If archival is really wanted, shoot film and make B&W separation negatives.


For some reason, when I purchased the "Ginger" via PayPal, it didn't offer me the opportunity to include the shipping. Want me to send you the $10 in the mail or what?


Dear Manish,

I get a handful of such requests a year. I gently turned them down, because there is no reasonable way for students to acquire supplies. So I feel like I'd be teaching people a process that they then couldn't do on their own, and that does not seem fair.

The first time someone comes to me and says, "I would like to learn dye transfer and I have (or am going to make) all the necessary supplies," I will happily teach them. It wouldn't be an expensive course; it actually doesn't take all that long to learn the techniques (mastering them is another matter entirely). Absent that, what's the point?

~ pax \ Ctein
[ please excuse any word salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital restorations http://photo-repair.com

Dear Frank,

It would have made the ordering process more complicated for the overwhelming majority of customers, so I left the shipping part to be handled manually.

Just make a separate PayPal payment to my account (same as my regular e-mail address: ctein (at) pobox.com) for the necessary $15 or $25, depending on where you live outside of the US, and that does it.

If you want to stick a note in the message box to the effect that that's for shipping on your order, fine. I'll correlate orders by purchaser name, anyway, so that's not really necessary, but then you also have a memo for your purposes.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ please excuse any word salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital restorations http://photo-repair.com

Dear Bill,

This is an unnecessary discussion. As Mike and I both pointed out in the other thread, it's not a matter of either/or and this is most definitely not a call for an argument or debate about the relative merits of the two. It's just a simple print offering. If you like it, great. If you don't, pass it by.

Your problems getting a pure yellow had nothing to do with the inherent quality of yellow in dye transfer. I don't have any problems getting a pure yellow.

Black-and-white separation negatives? We're just talking about color prints here, not preserving original images for the ages.

I'm glad you're thrilled with digital. I am also thrilled with digital. My biggest gripe about the success of this print offering is that it's going to delay me working on my digital portfolio, yet again! I am really champing at the bit to finish that up. (Yes, I know, I suffer so.) Can we leave it at that? Let's go have a more productive conversation... about something else!

~ pax \ Ctein
[ please excuse any word salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital restorations http://photo-repair.com

What a great offer, Kudos to you.
I have put a link on my own blog, good luck

thank god payday is on the 15th!

Dear Ctein

Back in the 60s a friend and I were into dyes. Even with the proper Kodak separation film, a balanced set of separations were a real killer to get. I even made an automatic tray rocker to process the three 4x5 sheets at the same time.

The is nothing as exiting as watching a full color print come to life in full room light as you roll cyan, magenta & yellow matrix film!

All the best,

Well now I feel like an ass. I didn't postpone my order because I was going to give at least one of the two as an xmas gift. Now that I've seen them I've determined that, while they are definitely gift worthy, I am not, however, going to give them up. Not a chance.

Off to order a frame. (You don't have an american frame affiliate thingy, do you? If you haven't played with american frames' custom frame making thingy you really should. Way too cool.)

I just received my dye transfer prints today. Absolutely tremendous colour tonality, depth, subtlety.

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