What Is a Digital C-Type Print?

A digital C-type or chromogenic color print is any photographic print that has been created by a digital exposure system, as opposed to a traditional darkroom, or analog technique. A digital C-type print is developed by exposing a light-sensitive material to either LEDs or lasers, with the material then washed using methods similar to traditional photography. The C stands for chromogenic.

Digital C-Type Print Explained

In a traditional darkroom or analog setting, an enlarger projects the image of a photographic negative onto a sheet of photographic paper, while controlling focus, the intensity of the image and the amount of time it is exposed to light. An enlarger is an optical apparatus, a photographic tool that is similar to a slide projector.

The traditional darkroom process is different from a digital c-type or chromogenic print process. With digital c-type prints, the work typically done by an enlarger is instead done by a computer, with the technician controlling for the same factors: focus, intensity, and duration of light exposure. In this case, the paper is exposed using lasers or LEDs rather than with a traditional lightbulb. LED stands for light-emitting diode and is a source that gives off a light when a current flows through it, as opposed to a standard bulb.

After the image has been exposed, whether by traditional means or digitally, the next step is roughly the same. It still includes what is called a wet chemical process. The paper that contains the image is processed in a photographic developer, then put through a bleach-fix, before ultimately being washed in water to remove the processing chemicals. The image is then left to dry and can be scanned, cropped, edited and modified.

Key Takeaways

  • Digital C-type or chromogenic color print is a print that has been created digitally, as opposed to the traditional way.
  • With digital printing, the work done traditionally by an optical apparatus called an enlarger, is instead done by a computer.
  • Once the image has been projected onto a piece of paper, the paper is processed in a developer, then bleach, then washed free of the processing chemicals.

Digital C-Type Print Differs From a Giclée print

A digital C-type or chromogenic print is a traditional picture or photographic print that has been made from a digital file rather than a negative. A chromogenic print is sometimes confused with a Giclée print, but they are different. A Giclée print is made without using any chemistry or light sensitivity. This type of print combines pigment-based inks with high-quality archival-type paper that results in an inkjet print of, particularly high quality.

Digital C-Type Print Versus Inkjet Prints

Digital c-type prints differ from inkjet prints because inkjet prints use fine droplets of ink rather than light sources, such as a laser. The machines used for digital C-type prints can be significantly more expensive than inkjet printers and tend to be used in commercial settings. The longevity of digital C-type prints is also estimated to be shorter than pigment-based printing, and the number of materials that can be printed with this process is more limited.

Other terms used for digital c-type print include photo lab, digital C, laser chromogenic, digital RA-4, chemical dye, lab print, or C-print.

Real World Digital C-Type Print Example

Digital C-prints are photographic lab prints. They are produced by what is called minilabs. Common examples include the Fuji Frontier, a high-end piece of machinery that looks like a traditional computer printer but is designed to make higher-quality prints. The 7700 series can produce up to 2,360 high-resolution prints per hour and up to 620 8"X10" prints per hour. Other examples of processors with the capacity to produce high-end digital C-type prints include wide-format photo printers like the LightJet or Lambda, which use papers such as Fuji Crystal Archive or Kodak Endura.