The most beautiful color dye-sub output we have seen so far is from the Kodak dye sublimation color printer, current model is Kodak DS 8650.

Do any of the other dye sub printers surpass the Kodak? And is color laser getting good enough to Peccary Head, mayan arqueologycompete with dye sub? We test all these printers and bring you the results in full color.

On the left, a dye sub print from Kodak. On the right, a laser print from an Apple laser, but circa 1995. Closeup of color laser of that era shows problems of an unfulfilled technology at that early time period.

Today dye sub has maintained its lead in quality, due to the continuous tone and attractive finish. 300 dpi in dye sub equals 1440 dpi on ink jet. Dye sub has dropped in price a bit, but not as dramatically as price drops (and quality jumps) of color laser and ink jet.

I thank the National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku), Osaka, Japan, for the Kodak dye sub printer for use while I was a Visiting Professor in Japan in 1996. As a consultant in digital imaging they asked what equipment would be best, and I indicated Kodak dye sub. They bought two right away.

If you don't have $8,000+ for a Kodak dye sub, you can get an Alps dye sub for about $500.

Peccary Head tetrapodal dishThis object is a peccary head, used as the support of a tetrapodal dish. To see the royal tomb of Calakmul where this was excavated by the project of Dr William Folan, go to, and do a search for Calakmul.

As recently as four years ago color laser technology was at its beginning. Color was poor and it took forever to print a single page. Today color lasers are as quick as a black-and-white, and the 600 dpi color equals that of 740 dpi ink jet. The new generation of color laser can go to 1200 dpi, though 600 is plenty for even demanding art jobs.

Close-up snapshot of a dye sub image. Color and definition are outstanding. The brand name of Kodak is generally considered a leader, and it was Kodak that I recommended at that time. The museum also had a Seiko dye sub, though it was outfitted for thermal wax transfer mode, which is a bit more economical, and a bit less luxurious.

Dye sub sample. Close-upThe current Kodak model dye sub printer is their DS 8650, which we whole heartedly recommend as a good quality product.

Kodak dye sub on the left and Seiko wax transfer on the right. Both are outstanding. Kodak (at that time) were about $5 for media and material; wax transfer was perhaps $3 per print, letter size.

The most fantastically impressive quality is the Fuji Pictography, tabloid size and better than you can get out of most professional darkrooms.

All the images here were scanned from 4x5" transparencies on a Kodak photo CD workstation, which tended to make things a bit yellow.

Wax transfer, Seiko, is good quality, but if you have a wax transfer and a dye sub held in your hand then you can notice that the dye sublimation technique is clearly superior. I would imaging that in dye sub mode that the Seiko would have produced dye sub just as well as the Kodak, and that Kodak wax transfer would also be not as fancy as Kodak dye sub.

Kodad dye sub
Close up view of Kodak dye sub quality, and this was 4 years ago. Dye sub technology, however, has not changed that much, since the market forces are focusing research and development in the ink jet and color laser sectors.

Kodak Dye sub
Image is from the Carlos Pellicer Regional Museum of Anthropology, Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico. This is a ceramic effigy, possibly an incense burner or a sacred container. It pictures one of the long-snouted deities.

Kodad Dye Sub
Close up view of a large tubular ceramic effigy vessel discovered by INAH excavations at Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico.

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Last updated March 23, 1999.