Guest Blogger: Justin James Reed was born in Oregon in 1980. He has lived all over the United States, and currently makes Pennsylvania his home. He is an adjunct professor of photography at the Tyler School of Art, Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, and The College of New Jersey. His photographs currently focus on the suburban communities and their infrastructure that are becoming an integral part of the American experience. Recently, Reed was selected a Flash Forward 2011 “Emerging Photographer” in international competition, including the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. 

Firefly invisible ink is an incredible product, I have had an absolute blast experimenting. It is reminiscent of my first experiences with b&w chemical prints. Seeing the image form only after having gone through the process of printing, not knowing exactly what I am going to end up with, is really quite exciting. It is something that I, along with many of my colleagues, have expressed missing when creating digital inkjet prints. Part of the “magic” of photography appears to be ingrained into the very nature of this process.

Technically, I have been exploring how different kinds of modifications in Photoshop affect the image. My most pressing concern is how to make the image as bright and vivid as possible under black light. Playing around with saturation and contrast have been most effective, but I am still trying out different techniques. Experimenting with the print dialogue controls, seeing how profiles, rendering intent, etc., affect the print generally has also been part of my early process, creating a reliable work flow is a current priority.

Probably one of the most fascinating things I am finding artistically is the inability to reproduce the finished Firefly print via photography and video in order to share the results. In many ways the process lends itself to being experienced first hand, truly creating a unique object. This is very exciting to me personally, as the experiential qualities of photography seem to be potent through the Firefly medium.

When I first met with Dana at SPE last spring, my immediate reaction was of excitement at seeing something that actually felt new. Moving forward with this project, I am encouraged by the prospect of creating something that has not been realized before through this process. The fact that the development of a product like this could open up that possibility in particular is probably its most enduring quality in many ways.  Firefly is quite unique in that the application (or potential) of it is not fully realized until printing actually begins. Unlike traditional digital printing, the process itself is truly where the artistry lies. This has yielded some great results and also very encouraging feedback.

– Justin James Reed



Firefly inks are invisible in room light, but when exposed to a black light or UV light (especially at 365nm) the inks glow in full color. Firefly inks are unusual for UV inks.

Normally a white or blue ink is available. We’ve formulated cyan, lt cyan, magenta, lt magenta, yellow and white inks. We also produced our own unique Firefly Software that will convert an image so that it prints in natural color and has tools that allow you to experiment with saturation, contrast and hue.

The effect works only papers without optical brightening agents (non-OBA). If a paper has OBAs, then the paper will also glow under blacklight. Firefly paper is a dual sided acid-free fine art grade inkjet paper without a trace of optical brighteners. Actually, Firefly is our lowest cost fine art grade paper and it works well with nearly all inks. The paper will become the black…the highlights are printed from the white ink. Of course the cyan, magenta and yellow invisible inks combine to make natural color. Firefly software inverts the image to a negative so that the white Firefly ink can be used for highlights. What was black is not printed and appears black because of the non-OBA paper! Ingenious!