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Dye sublimation printers (also known as "Dye Diffusion Thermal Transfer Printers") are known for their high quality photographic output. As the technology continues to be improved, dye sublimation printers are bringing cost-effective high quality digital printing into the mainstream. Consumers can even purchase a desktop dye sublimation printer for under $900.

How Do Dye Sublimation Printers Work?

Dye sublimation printing starts with films that contain dyes. This will either be a single 4-layered film with cyan, magenta, yellow, and gray pigments or 4 separate films for each color. Because the films contain the pigments, they will appear red, blue, green, and gray.

During the printing process, the films are placed on the paper and heated up by the print head. This will cause the pigments to leave the film and enter into the paper where it cools re-solidifies. This is the "sublimation" part. Sublimation means to heat something and turn it into a vapor, then to form it back into a solid. Because the pigments go from solid, to gas, and back to solid, there is little mess compared to ink.

What Makes A Dye-Sub Printer So Good?

There are two factors that contribute to the quality of dye sub printers. The first is continuous tone, and the other is un-dithered color.

The color produced by a dye-sub is the result of the mixing of pigments to get the actual color. This is in contrast to most other printing methods which use a tight group of colored dots which, when seen by the human eye from a distance, appear to be a color (a process known as "dithering"). Under magnification, the dots are clearly different colors, and when seen close up with the naked eye the picture appears grainy. Because only one color needs to be printed (instead of up to four), a dye sub can place more dots on a paper. It takes a 1200 dpi printer to get the resolution a 300 dpi dye-sub printer is capable of.

Another difference that helps is that because the color sublimes on the paper instead of being laid down as little dots, the edges of each pixel are blurred. This gives the impression of blending for a more natural appearance. Dots from an inkjet leave large white gaps in between pixels, giving the impression of a grain.

Since longevity is something we all want from our photographs, it's also comforting to know that because dyes sublimate into the paper instead of just being painted onto its surface, dye sub prints tend to resist fading and are often colorfast. Using special dyes and papers allow them to last even longer.


The Definition : Giclee, commonly pronounced "zhee-clay," is an invented term for the process of making fine art prints from a digital source using inkjet printing. The word Giclee is from the French verb gicler meaning "to squirt, to spray", was created by Jack Duganne, a printmaker working in the field, to represent any inkjet based digital print used as fine art. The intent of that name was to distinguish commonly known industrial "Iris proofs" from the type of fine art prints artists were producing on those same types of printers. The term, originally applied to fine art prints created on Iris printers in a process invented in the early 1990s but has since come to mean any high quality inkjet print.
Giclees can be printed on any number of media, from canvas to watercolor paper to vinyl, to transparent acetates. Giclees are superior to traditional lithography in nearly every way. The colors are brighter, last longer, and are so high-resolution that they are virtually 'continuous tone', rather than tiny dots. The range, or "gamut" of color for giclees is far beyond that of lithography, and details are crisper. Since giclee printers can use media in rolls, large print sizes are available, limited only by the length and width of the roll.
Lithography uses tiny dots of four colors--cyan, magenta, yellow and black--to fool the eye into seeing various hues and shades. Colors are "created" by printing different size dots of these four colors. Giclees use inkjet technology, but far more sophisticated than your desktop printer. The process employs six colors--light cyan, cyan, light magenta, magenta, yellow and black--of lightfast (fade resistant,) pigmented inks and finer, more numerous, replaceable printheads resulting in a wider color gamut, and the ability to use various media to print on. The ink is sprayed onto the page, actually mixing the color on the page to create truer shades and hues.
The Term : "Giclee print" is an elevation in printmaking technology where images are generated from high resolution digital scans and printed with archival quality inks onto various substrates including canvas, fine art, and photo-base paper. The giclee printing process provides better color accuracy than other means of reproduction.
The Process : Giclee prints are created typically using professional 8-12 Color inkjet printers. These modern technology printers are capable of producing incredibly detailed prints for both the fine art and photographic markets. Giclee prints are sometimes mistakenly referred to as Iris prints, which are 4-Color inkjet prints from a printer pioneered in the late 1970s by Iris Graphics.
Artists tend to use these types of "Giclee" printing processes to make limited edition high end reproductions of their original two dimensional artwork, photographs, or computer generated art. Giclee style prints are much more expensive on a more "per print" basis than the traditional 4-color offset lithography process original used to make such reproductions. But since the artist does not need pay for, market, and store large print runs, and since the artist can print and sell each print individually to match demand, "Giclee" can be an economical alternative when producing limited print editions. Giclee style printing has the added advantage of allowing the artist to control every aspect of the image, its color, the material printed on, and allows the artist to own and operate the printer itself. Because of this, Giclee style prints can technically be called "prints", i.e. an image where the artist has a hand in actual production.
The Advantages : Giclee prints are advantageous to artists who do not find it feasible to mass produce their work, but want to reproduce their art as needed, or on-demand. Archived files will not deteriorate in quality as negatives and film inherently do. Another tremendous advantage of giclee printing is that digital images can be reproduced to almost any size and onto various media, giving the artist the ability to customize prints for a specific client.
The Quality : The quality of the giclee print rivals traditional silver-halide and gelatin printing processes and is commonly found in museums, art galleries, and photographic galleries.
Please note that it takes 2-3 weeks for print orders to be filled and
8 weeks canvas pieces to be completed.
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