Thermal dye transfer (TDT) imaging has established itself as the state- of-the-art process for high quality, continuous tone, nonimpact printing. Imaging quality from this process rivals conventional silver halide photography and exceeds other nonimpact printing technologies. Because this output appears to be virtually indistinguishable from photographic prints, there has been an expectation that all the quality attributes of silver halide photography are embodied in a TDT print. However, there are many significant differences that affect output quality between these two technologies. These differences are primarily in color gamut, print artifacts, Dmin, grain/sharpness, and image stability. The range of colors reproducible by a color, hard copy device, known as its color gamut, is dictated primarily by the image- forming dyes used by the device. The size and shape of a device's gamut is controlled by the spectral density distributions of these image forming dyes, the Dmin of the receiver base, the Dmax of each dye, the amount of light scatter, and the spectral distribution of the viewing illuminant. The spectral density distributions of dyes also have an impact on illuminant sensitivity, which is a predictor of how much the color balance of a print will change with a change in illuminant. By determining and then using characteristic curves for various image- forming dyes, we have been able to calculate and compare the color gamuts and illuminant sensitivity of TDT imaging with other technologies (color monitor and silver halide photography, for example). The differences we have found can have a significant impact on output quality, depending upon the application. Compared to conventional photography, thermal dye transfer prints have traditionally had inferior light stability and resistance to damage from fingerprints. In addition, thermal dye transfer prints have been aggressively attacked by plasticized polyvinyl chloride sheets and folders commonly found in office and home environments. We will describe a major advance in thermal dye transfer imaging technology that greatly improves the image stability position of thermal dye transfer images. This advance is derived from the addition of a thin protective layer onto the final print. To add to customer convenience, the protective layer is integrated into the dye donor ribbon as a 4th patch. The protective layer is laminated to the final print using the thermal print head. TDT print artifacts may also influence the quality of TDT output. These defects can include print head streaks, dust and dirt spots, printer banding, and donor ribbon wrinkling. The origin of these defects will be described.