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  1. #1
    Melisa Taylor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Tampa, Florida
    Multi Format

    Polaroid Emulsion Lifts...How To!

    Getting Started....You will need to use Polaroid 669 or 690 (depending on your camera's film size) film for this process. The colors are slightly more saturated with 690 film.

    This site http://www.rwhirled.com/landlist/landdcam-pack.htm has lots of info on the types of cameras (which you can find on ebay cheap) that take this film...you could also use a slide printer to print on 669 or 690 film. If you have a Daylab Slide Printer, you can by a 4 x 5 base and use type 59 or 559 film for this as well.

    What can I transfer the image to?
    As far as surfaces to transfer the emulsion to....just about anything works:
    -candles (may need some sealer on this for backup.)
    -bottles (plastic or glass)
    -coffee mugs
    -ceramic tiles
    -fabrics (especially nice on linen)
    -other paper, including: watercolor (i prefer the smoother hot press paper), cardboard, cardstock, linen paper, handmade paper, vellum, etc.
    -papier mache

    I think just about anything will work, use your imagination! I recently put one on a 'push light'.

    First off....take the picture or print the image onto the Polaroid film using your slide printer). You'll have to wait 8-24 hours after you take a picture before using it for emulsion lifts. The longer it has to dry, the easier it is to lift the emulsion. I recommend waiting 24 hours or more.

    What you'll need:
    -clear sticky contact paper
    -a sheet of acetate
    -An old frying pan, or wide and low pot. (I use an old electric skillet I picked up at a thrift store-i recommend getting one). Just make sure you dedicate this pan or skillet to Polaroids from now on...Don't eat out of it!
    -thermometer (unless you have that electric skillet)
    -A shallow and wide bowl, pan, tupperware or photo tray.
    -Watercolor paper (or whatever surface you choose to put your emulsion on)
    -some rubber gloves (optional)

    Here we go!
    1. Bring some water to 160 degrees F in a frying pan or electric skillet.

    2. Put some room temperature water in the shallow bowl or tupperware. This will be your cool down bath. I use tap water, some recommend distilled.

    3. Attach a piece of contact paper to the white side (back) of the picture. This will keep you from having a big gooey mess in your pan once the picture heats up. TRUST ME! Some people leave the thin white polaroid border on the picture, some cut it off before attaching the contact paper. It's all up to you!

    4. Put the picture in the pan, image side up. Try not to let the picture touch the bottom of the pan, so you don't burn it. Yes...honey...we're having Polaroids for dinner again! *giggles*

    5. Watch the picture closely. I know they say a "watch pot never cooks" but don't listen to them! When you see the whole image getting bubbles or wrinkles (after roughly a minute or two), take it out (use a fork, spatula or tongs) and transfer it to the shallow cool down bath.

    6. Be very careful, hold the image down to the bottom of the shallow bowl. Hold it by the very corners and try not to tear it. As you're holding it down with one hand, use your fingers on your other hand to start pushing the emulsion off (start at the very corner...slowly, DON'T PULL or it will tear). Keep doing this until you get the whole emulsion off of the card backing. Let the emulsion float freely (try to keep it's ends/edges from touching each other...they tend to get stuck to each other and you risk tearing when you try to separate them). Throw the card backing away. You will see some goo floating around in there...may want to throw on those rubber gloves.

    7. While your image is floating freely, put your piece of acetate in the cool down bath UNDERNEATH the picture. Make sure you have the image on the acetate *backwards* as you are using the acetate to transfer the image to the receptor surface (assuming you don't want to dunk the whole surface under the water). If you are just using watercolor paper, you can put it in the cool down bath with the floating image and apply it directly to the paper however you like! You can then play with how you want the picture to look on the paper, by shifting the picture around until you are satisfied--flat, wrinkled, crazy, however you want it!
    Once you get the picture on there, take it all out of the shallow bath, slowly and put the paper/receptor on paper towels to dry.

    It will probably take a day to dry or overnight. You may screw up your first one, so don't use your best picture first. It may work right away or it may take a few tries. I like to coat my finished product with some Krylon clear coat (matte unless you have a shiny surface).

    Last step: Do a little "I did an emulsion lift" dance!!

    other film types to use that i haven't tried yet:
    664, 54, or 554 black and white polaroid film is supposed to work. You have to have the water boiling for this film, though.

    If you want to spend the extra money for the convenience of having a kit, instead of buying or scrounging up what you need...
    Polaroid also sells an Emulsion/Image Transfer kit.

    Run along and make some Emulsion Lifts and post them in the Experimental Gallery here at APUG.org!!!

    My email is open if anyone has a question or has problems. rm(at)thisfornow.com (take out the "(at)" and replace with "@").
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails driedpalmmed.jpg  

  2. #2
    Sean's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    New Zealand
    Multi Format
    Blog Entries
    comments from the previous article system:

    By Malc Raggett - 02:19 PM, 02-01-2005 Rating: None
    I have a couple of variations on your technique Melisa (applies to Type 59 film, which I've used, probably works on the other "transferable" types as well)
    (1) I put a few drops of ammonia solution in the warm float water (making the water slightly alkali seems to soften the emulsion, whereas acid seems to harden it)
    (2) I don't find I have to wait 8-24 hours, but maybe the alkali helps, or maybe I'm just impatient!
    (3) the transfer tray is better if it is flat bottomed rather than a ridged phototray. I use a cat litter tray (the cat has to cross her legs!), which is about 300mm x 400mm (12" x 14&quot

    By Melisa Taylor - 02:10 PM, 02-25-2005 Rating: None
    Hi Malc: I discovered the other day that i can do a lift right after exposure, too. I was always under the impression that you had to wait, but apparently not.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Multi Format
    Just to add to this, since I do many Polaroid manipulations, there can be a variation that might work to get around some frustrations. If you find like I did that rubbing the emulsion off the backing resulted too often in breaking the emulsion, then try this variation:

    - Get the water to a slightly hotter than usual method (be careful, since you will not be able to put your fingers into the receptor)
    - Toss you Polaroid into the hot water in the pan/receptor, making sure it is completely submerged
    - Use a wooden stick to move the Polaroid around a bit, or just stir the hot water slightly a few times
    - Then the variation is to leave the Polaroid in the hot water, until the water cools quite a bit; when this happens, often the emulsion will simply float off the backing . . . in other words, no rubbing the emulsion off the backing. Obviously, nothing is perfect, so you might find a corner still sticking to the backing, though some people I have taught this hotter water method find it slightly easier.

    Things to consider: the hotter water has a tendency to cook out darker colour areas on 669 film, so the shadow areas of your image might be slightly lighter than if you used the hot water to cooler water method. If you get the water way too hot (like boiling), you might actually cook the emulsion and severly bubble the Polaroid.

    This hotter water variation happened to me by accident. After a slightly frustrating time destroying Polaroids, I ended up heating the tea kettle to whistling. Then I poured the steamy hot water into a baking dish, and chucked a Polaroid into it. Almost immediately at that point I got a phone call. Five minutes later, when the phone call ended, I walked back into the kitchen, to see the emulsion floating in the water, with the backing paper detatched. I let the water cool a bit more so I could get my fingers into it, retrieved and disposed the backing paper, then transferred to acetate and to my art paper.

    Another note to add to this is that you can get whiter or sometimes brighter results on your final transfer to paper by rinsing with white vinegar. Not everyone likes the smell of that, and the effect is subtle, but effective.


    Gordon Moat
    A G Studio

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    emulsion tray

    just curious.
    even if you clean the tray after you've:confused finished doing emulsion lifts, can you eat/cook out of it? what are the dangers of eating out of a pan that you've done an emulsion lift in?

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Large Format
    Hmm, I an having quite a bit of trouble with the black and white Polaroids. The paper separates but the emulsion isn't going anywhere. I will try boiling water but what I have been using is darn close to boiling!
    I am really eager to get this to work. It is my first day, and my very first (690) was a success despite a few tears. I applied it to canvas so I was able to submerge in water. The second two bubbled way too much and I was not able to separate them from the layer of clear emulsion stuff.



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