DIY Polaroid Emulsion Transfer on Watercolor Paper

DIY Polaroid Emulsion Transfer on Watercolor Paper

Equipped with Impossible Project instant film and a Polaroid SX-70 Camera, capturing nostalgia is not finished without the emulsion lift transfer on watercolor paper. This process is done by ripping the Polaroid apart, wiping the glue off the back, heating the Polaroid in hot water to remove the emulsion & transferring to watercolor paper carefully with brushes. The technique that I have used has evolved over the past year to achieve desired results. Here is what I do….but first lets list the ingredients.

1) Polaroid that has been properly exposed

2) Scissors

3) Two or three different soft paint brushes

4) Knife

5) Watercolor paper

6) Microwavable safe bowl for polaroid

7) Large enough container to fit 8.5x 11 watercolor paper.

8) Three small soft paint brushes of diverse size

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Take the  knife and flip the Polaroid over, from right to left remove the top white border.  This top part is full of glue and if not removed will be a pain in the ass later to remove the emulsion.

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The rest of the white tape around the Polaroid can be removed by hand is quite easy.

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 Now flip the Polaroid over and remove the two black strips on the left and right side.  After the two black strips are removed carefully strip apart the black backing of the Polaroid.

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Now that the black backing & border is removed, the white base needs to be gently rinsed off.

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Run cool water at a very slow pace and check temperature before inserting Polaroid underneath running water.  After everything is clear, slowly massage the backing off until you only see the emulsion and no white backing. Note that the edges where glue is  will be more difficult to remove.  When done correctly the image will look translucent. Make sure you do this carefully and do not damage the delicate emulsion.

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Take the newly cleaned Polaroid and place it face up on the table.  If not you run the risk of ruining your entire project,  for it will stick to anything.  Take your bowl with a half cup of water or so  and microwave it for one minute.

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Place the Polaroid in the hot water emulsion side down and let it set for about three minutes.  Be very careful with the image because the hot temperatures make the emulsion rather unstable & weak.

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After the Polaroid has been heated up properly, you may start to try to lift up the plastic laminate off top of the emulsion. There are certain parts that tend to stick, like the top where there is a bit of glue holding it the Polaroid together.  Make sure your brushstrokes are slim and you are very gentle.

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If done properly you will have a clean laminate that you now throw away.

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Make sure that the image is face up by using a brush and water movement to manipulate the Polaroid emulsion.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether the Polaroid is upside down after a lot of movement in the water.

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The easiest way to transfer the delicate Polaroid is by lifting the end of the paintbrush underneath the bottom  the emulsion and carefully releasing into the cold water bowl.

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Gently wiggle the emulsion into the cool water, releasing the brush. The cool water will stabilize the Polaroid emulsion.

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Gently manipulate the water and brush the edges so the polaroid lays sort of flat.

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Take your watercolor paper and rinse water on both sides of it.  Then slip the paper underneath the polaroid.  You can use water movements and small brush strokes to align it on the paper.  This step takes a bit of practice, but be patient.

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When your polaroid emulsion is centered on the watercolor paper, press two fingers over the top and release out of the water.  Depending on how the water moves when the polaroid is releases, you will see wrinkles that mimics the water.  You can start to experiment on different ways to pull the emulsion out for different effects.

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Gently brush the edges and smooth out the polaroid. It is very important to brush out water pockets and flatten the emulsion as much as possible.  Let the polaroid dry on a clean surface.

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Polaroid emulsion lifts are very fun and you can even experiment with double exposures, diptics, and much more. Here are a few examples of what I have been doing the past year or so with polaroid emulsion lift transfers.

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