An in-depth article by Kerry Kirkpatrick of Kirkpatrick & Co. Specialty Printing on the processes for emulating polaroid emulsion to a variety of surfaces such as wood, metal, and more.
What is a Polaroid Emulsion?
Polaroid Emulsion Transfers commonly referred to as Emulsion Lifts, is an image transfer process where the instant image is removed from a Polaroid photo. The positive layer must be removed from the negative layer by cutting the borders from a polaroid.
After the positive layer is separated, it is introduced to a bath of warm water. Once the image is free of the film, it will float in the water ready for transfer. While the image is still wet it can be transferred to multiple surfaces like paper, glass, and wood. As you can see, this image transfer process can be very tedious and difficult to perform. However, if successfully transferred, the effects can be quite rewarding. Below is a tutorial video that shows the effect of the emulsion lift.
How can I emulate a Polaroid Emulsion?
Now that you are familiar with Polaroid emulsions, I can tell you about a much easier transfer process that can give similar effects. Using DASS Transfer Film, inkjet prints can be transferred to a variety of surfaces including but not limited to wood, metal, canvas, tile, and unique papers.
Using the super sauce transfer method, the inkjet print is liquified which creates a film that can be stretched, manipulated and torn in areas. Besides this transfer process creating polaroid emulsion like effects, it has some extra qualities as well.
If the super sauce mixture is made from a gloss concentrate, additional effects can include a glossy surface compared to the matte finish of polaroid emulsion lifts. Also, super sauce tends to create bubbles in the transfer that can either be popped and flattened or left to harden. Occasionally, areas of the print that begin to bubble can pop and leave small gaps or chunks missing which can be a great effect based upon the project you are creating. Similar to emulsion lifts, the super sauce transfers can be stretched at the edges and even torn to give a rugged effect to a piece.
If you have Polaroid images and do not want to risk damaging them during the emulsion lift process, this is the perfect reason to try the super sauce transfer. What you will need to have is a 300 DPI scan of your Polaroid images. Using a photo editing tool, there are two ways to get your image ready for printing.
The first and easiest way is to crop the borders away from the image. If you have a more advanced photo editing program like Photoshop, it is best to use the polygonal lasso tool and select your image and cut and paste it into a new document. The benefit to this is that it gives you more control if your image was scanned crooked. Once you have your image cropped it should be ready to send it to print.
To print on the DASS Transfer Film you will need an inkjet printer that can recognize the film while it is in the tray. Some older inkjet models might not be able to recognize the film since it is see-through. If you have a printer that will work for this, you can order the DASS Transfer Film from DASS Art.
It is sold in a roll or packs of 100 at 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 14 inches. If you don’t have access to a printer or do not want to buy the transfer film in bulk, you can order prints from Kirkpatrick & Co. Specialty Printing. Their pricing is fair and affordable and they are knowledgeable in fine art and printing. Keep in mind, if you want your image transfer to be archival, you will need to be sure that you are using archival inks and substrates. Substrates are any surface that images can be printed or transferred onto.
How the Transfer Works
1. Line the print up to the surface and tape the film face down.
2. Flip the film back and apply a layer of Super Sauce.
3. Flip the film back down onto the super sauce coated surface.
4. After approximately 3 minutes you can peel the film away.
More detailed directions on how to make Super Sauce and how to complete the transfer can be found here. There are many ways to perform an image transfer. If you are looking for inspiration check out the Kirkpatrick & Co. Specialty Printing Instagram.
Read next: 5 of the BEST Polaroid Cameras of All Time
Special thanks to Kerry Kirkpatrick for this original tutorial on polaroid emulations.