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Dye Sublimation Printing: The Facts

What exactly is Dye Sublimation Printing? Glad you asked! Dye Sublimation is a printing technique that utilizes heat to transfer dye onto a variety of materials. In our case we print on aluminum (not glass!) The result is a hyper realistic fine art photography print.

The Process:

Sublimation is defined as heating something and turning it into vapor without entering the liquid stage. The dye sublimation process lends itself to photography naturally because it yields much higher quality results visually. This is due to the use of a thermal transfer where the high temperature results in dye being vaporized and imbued onto the surface of the aluminum. The molecular bonding process begins which will adhere the dye to the surface and create a permanent transfer. When the dyes return to their solid form they appear glossy, bright and inviting. Since the dye is bonded with the aluminum it also makes the print less susceptible to distortion or color fading. This process is how our Dye Subs get that bright, backlit effect that makes them stand out amongst other fine art prints.

Making It Our Own:

Here at Blink Gallery we offer various printing methods but our aluminum prints continue to be the most popular! We offer a variety of sizes, finishes and compositions to make a truly unique offering to our clients. We also offer a “Hand Brushed Aluminum Print”. The coating on these prints is applied by hand and therefore each piece is truly one of a kind and no two are identical. More on those in a future blog post!

The History:

The origins of Dye Sublimation printing lead back to the 1950s in France, and to a French researcher named Noel De Plasse. De Plasse concluded that dye does in fact sublimate and he could manipulate it for printing while working for a textile company named Lainière de Roubaix. De Plasse continued to develop the process and eventually founded a new company titled Sublistatis SA to commercialize the technique. Its US origins began in the 1970s at the Jet Propulsion lab in Pasadena, CA. Here a team led by Wes Hoekstra invented the first printer that could handle the complex dye sublimation printing process. Hoekstra is commonly referred to as the “Father” of the computer image sublimation process due to his valuable contributions to the field.

An Aluminum Dye Sub print installed in a home.

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Featured Photo: Soul Alley

Fine Art, Photography, Newport Art, Local Artist, Unique Home Goods, Locally-made, Newport Gifts, Travel Art, Handmade

Soul Alley

As I searched for the first photo to be featured as a part of our featured photo blog series, a customer muttered under their breath, “It must not look like that anymore.” When I turned to see what he was referring to, I saw him gazing up at the canvas print in the window of an image taken by Sandy in Antigua. Sadly, he’s probably right. After the series of devastating hurricanes that brutally attacked our world in September, the reality conveyed in the photo may likely be much different today. When I saw Sandy later that day, I asked him to tell me the story of how that photo was created.

On a trip in 2004 in the island capital of St. John, Sandy wandered around with his camera looking for moments to create art. Alive with the excitement of novelty, freshness, and freedom he was feeling at the time, he was searching for a moment that felt like, “a little piece of that town was sucked out and captured in an image”. As he walked down High Street, he found what I’d like to call half of a moment. 

The technical side of him said all of the colors, visuals, and angles were perfect, and the text brought along a voice that created the separate, but remarkable depth he was actively seeking. That other side though, the artistic, creative, feeling-inducing side said it needed something more, something to make this photo a full story, a full moment. “Intuitively, I knew I needed a person,” explained Sandy. 

The rainy street, brightly colored buildings and thought-provoking street signs at the intersection of Soul Alley and High Street provided the set up for a distinct moment in time. He sat for over a half an hour with the camera set on manual, focused on the street sign, hoping and wishing that the right person would come along and he would be able to capture that composition. When someone finally arrived, he almost missed them as they were walking from an unexpected direction. But there he was, in all his glory, the quintessential Antiguan strolling along through the wet streets without shoes and ostensibly carefree. His arms are swinging along his sides and you can practically hear him whistling. It couldn’t have been more fitting.

Looking at this seemingly happy individual we’re reminded that “soul” is this intangible sensation we don’t quite know, but has a heavenly context associated with happiness. The idea of Soul Alley conjoined with the sign that reads High Street and the arrow pointing up was everything this photographer had been hoping for. What Sandy seemed to appreciate most about it, aside from the fusion of technicality and authenticity combined to create a feeling, was the use of text. “As this parallel verbal reality in photography, text allows for endless contemplation,” he said, “it gives a second impact, the exact amount of contextual information necessary.” This photo is an important part of his culturally insightful collection of images involving text. 

That customer’s observation is likely correct, Antigua was battered by the recent storms. As we contemplate our changing global landscape and the awe-inspiring nature of the weather, perhaps we can see new value in this idealistic moment Sandy caught on camera years ago.

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