from the group: Dye Sublimation

Dye Sublimation Prints

Also known as dye sub, Dye Diffusion Thermal Transfer (D2T2)

Common use: 1995-Present

Process of the Technology

Dye compounds are thermally diffused from one medium to another directed by an electric signal translated from a digital image file. A thermal array comprised of a dense grid of resistors applies variable heat and pressure to a ribbon containing yellow, magenta and cyan dyes, transferring them in the form of an image to the passing substrate below. The dye sub printer applies a final overcoat of clear polymer or wax to stabilize and protect the image.

Places Dye Sub Prints are Found

ID photos, photobooth photos, commercial kiosk printers, mini-labs, consumer desktop printers, customizable products such as ceramics, plastics and textiles.


Some D2T2 prints can be identified as such by pairing a manufacturers backprint, which signifies the manufacturer of the material, with a knowledge of what materials were being produced by that company; in some cases the print material is even signified in the backprint. The reverse side of dye sub prints may also have a postcard split back.


Print Size

D2T2 prints are typically 8x10 inches or smaller, however printers producing 11x17 inch prints have been manufactured.

D2T2 prints usually appear as 4" x 6" color snapshots.
D2T2 prints usually appear as 4" x 6" color snapshots. (click to enlarge)


Two Perforated Borders/Rough Edges

Many small consumer D2T2 printers produce 4" x 6" prints that initially have white borders on the two four inch edges. These white borders are separated from the final image area by perforations, and may be removed by the operator after printing. However, due to these perforations the removal of the borders produces rough edges on the two shorter sides.



D2T2 prints exhibit a subtle iridescence, most readily observed when a point light source is reflected off a print’s surface.


Banding and Dust Defects

To the naked eye, D2T2 prints exhibit a smooth, continuous tonal quality similar to that of an analog (pre-digital) photograph, but moderate magnification reveals soft traces of the grid-like or linear pattern of the thermal array instrinsic to the dye sub process. D2T2 prints are produced using a heat element to transfer dye from subtractive colored portions of a ribbon separated into yellow, magenta, and cyan; the different colored dyes are applied one at a time to the receiving paper. This operation produces a soft banding throughout the image that is visible with moderate magnification. The process also produces microscopic dots in the final image, a defect caused by the imbedding of dust particles.

100x Magnification

100x Magnification