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This page is dedicated to the topic of polaroid art. I took an evening class on the topic a few years back and have been experimenting with the techniques ever since. Looking around on the web, I was having a hard time finding sites with adequate information about techniques, problems, experiences, examples, etc. There are several sites that offer information on one of the techniques in detail or examples of artist's work, but I am hoping to put together one central area that can be used as starting point for people hoping to learn about the different techniques and provide useful information about the equipment and processes required to perform these exciting techniques.


Have you experimented with these techniques?
Post your results in my gallery! (Just click the "Upload File" link in the upper right).



There are three main techniques talked about when the subject of polaroid art comes up.
  1. Image Transfers
  2. Emulsion Lifts
  3. SX-70 Manipulation
This page will give you an overview of each technique, how to do it, examples of my work, and links to other resources on the web that can help you with it. If you are just trying to get started and have questions, please contact me! I would be happy to help you out in any way that I can.




Image Transfers
Image Transfers are a method that involves partially exposing the polaroid film, peeling it apart prior to full exposure, and placing the wet negative onto another surface. This process allows you to transfer the image onto paper, glass, metal, wood, plastic, etc. Here is an example of a image before an image transfer and the same picture once transferred to watercolor paper.
To perform an image transfer, you will either need a polaroid camera to take the picture and immediately pull it apart and perform the transfer (not ideal) or you will need a way to transfer existing images onto polaroid film. There are a few ways to do the second method. My approach requires a Daylab machine. I use digital cameras to take all my images so the daylab machines that duplicate from 35mm slides weren't an option. I purchased a Daylab CopySystem Pro.
The Daylab CopySystem Pro allows you to create a polaroid print from any 4x6 print. I've found I can print reasonable quality 4x6 images off my HP printer and this provides a simple way for me to create the polaroids.


Image before transfer Image after transfer
Before Transfer After Transfer
The Process
The Image Transfer process is very simple to do but quite difficult to master to the point where one can get consistent results. Recommendations vary on timing, but the general process is:
  1. Create the polaroid print (either using a polaroid camera or using the Daylab)
  2. Immediately after you have exposed the film, start a timer for 30 seconds
  3. During the 30 second time period, cut the top off the polaroid packet open so you'll be able to pull apart the positive and negative.
  4. When the timer expires, slowly pull apart the positive and negative in a careful but consistent manner. Keep an eye on the negative expecially so that none of the chemical goo pulls off. The negative is the darker side, it is critical that none of the "goo" comes off as that is what you will use to perform the transfer.
  5. After you've pulled apart the positive and negative, apply the negative to your receptor medium. I recommend medium-weight water color paper that has been soaked in ~140 degree water for at least a few minutes to soften it up.
  6. Once you have put the negative on the receptor medium, use a roller to roll the negative onto the receptor to ensure its made good contact. Exercise care while rolling so that no chemical residue comes out of the side of the negative as this will result in a mess on the receptor medium.
  7. After rolling it onto the receptor, apply pressure evenly to the negative. I recommend a brick or several books. Something that is at least a few pounds that will keep the negative in constant contact with the medium.
  8. Leave the weight on the negative for 3-5 minutes, then slowly pull the negative off the receptor. I recommend starting at one corner and pull slowly but steadily. Do your best to ensure no chemical residue is pulled off the receptor medium. While this "pull" sometimes results in an artistic look where portions of the transfer are very light or missing entirely, it generally results in poor images.
Additional Resources




Emulsion Lift
Emulsion Lifts are a method that involves soaking the top layer (or emulsion) off of an exposed polaroid print and placing the emulsion onto another surface. The emulsion itself is almost like a thick piece of saran wrap that is semi-transparent and can be placed on nearly any surface. I have put an example of an emulsion transfer onto watercolor paper below.
To perform an emulsion lift, you will need a fully exposed polaroid print. You can do this by taking a picture with a polaroid camera or you can use a Daylab machine to transfer an existing print onto polaroid film. I use digital cameras to take all my images so the daylab machines that duplicate from 35mm slides weren't an option. I purchased a Daylab CopySystem Pro.
The Daylab CopySystem Pro allows you to create a polaroid print from any 4x6 print. I've found I can print reasonable quality 4x6 images off my HP printer and this provides a simple way for me to create the polaroids.


Emulsion Lift


Emulsion Lift on Paper
The Process
The emulsion lift process is pretty straight forward, but requires some setup. You'll need two 13x9 pans of water or similar sized tupperware containers. One pan will need water that is about 140 degrees. I recommend using an electric frying pan. I picked one up at a thrift shop for less than 5 dollars. The other pan will need to have cold or luke warm water in it. Some people recommend putting sticky parchment paper on the back of the polaroid print to protect the print, I've found this to be optional but you'll want to experiment. Lastly, you may want a clear report cover to act as a temporary receptor for the emulsion. To perform the lift:
  1. If desired, place the sticky parchment paper on the back of the polaroid print and trim the edges so the back of the print is fully protected.
  2. Place the fully exposed polaroid print into the 140 degree water
  3. Place your clear report cover or final receptor into the cool water
  4. Keep a close eye on the emulsion in the warm water, you want to wait until you see bubbles appear on the print and the edges of the emulsion start to lift from the print
  5. When the emulsion is quite loose on the print, pull the print out and place it into the cool water with the clear temporary receptor
  6. Working from the edges of the print, use your thumbs to slowly push the emulsion off the print, it should be fairly easy to slowly push off. Don't worry if you need to roll the emulsion back onto itself, once you are done you can unroll it
  7. As you are rolling off the emulsion, slowly transfer the emulsion onto the clear receptor.
  8. Once the emulsion is completely off the print, it will be floating free in the cool water on the clear receptor
  9. Working under the water with your fingers, manipulate the emulsion to lay it flat on the clear receptor
  10. Once you have it laid out on the receptor, submerge your final medium (glass, watercolor paper, etc) in the water and transfer the emulsion to the final receptor
Additional Resources




SX-70 Manipulation
Will add content soon!


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