Notes on emulson lifts

I’ve got a big update post on my Patreon so if you want to support my creative efforts, you can get an in depth look what I’ve been up to there. However, I wanted to put something out there for educational purposes in regards to something I’ve started to dabble in regarding emulsion lifts.

Analog Things’ video is a great starting point for learning how to do these creative projects. He also has done big 8x10 Polaroid lifts which are astounding.

A couple of notes from my experience with my first lift:

  • The water should be “almost hot”: It shouldn’t be scalding but the warmer the water, the easier/faster the emulsion will lift off.

  • You can brush off developer once you’ve submerged the photo. In my first attempt, almost all of the developer stuck to the back of the emulsion (which is opposite of what you want to happen). However, the hot water will loosen the emulsion and you can brush it away- I’m sure this leaves scratches on the emulsion but it’s pretty much the only option at that point.

  • I was never able to get that ghostly backing piece (that you see at about 9:15 in the video)… I’m not sure if Polaroid color film might have a slightly different composition. At any rate, it didn’t seem to make too much of a difference in my final results.

  • Be extremely patient. It seems like once the emulsion is lifted from the Polaroid frame, it almost has a mind of its own and you'll probably slosh the water around too much trying to fiddle with it. Go slowly and once you have it mostly flat, slide in the piece of paper. Lifting the emulsion out of the water with your fingers is a generally bad idea as it'll curl up right away and you'll basically have to start over. However, the good news is that so long as the emulsion stays wet you can continue to manipulate it. I wound up using the back of the Polaroid I'd destroyed to press the emulsion flat against the paper while it was still under water and then pulling the whole thing out. I then use my brush to adjust the borders and smooth out some of the wrinkles.