Finished TransferOne of the first alternative processes I learned, and one of the easiest so far, the Polaroid Transfer is an all-time photo-demo favorite. This semester, I noticed there aren’t too many good tutorials for making Polaroid Transfers, and it’s definitely the kind of process which gets easier with a few basic tips. So I collaborated with one of my students, Rachel Abbot, to document this year’s demonstration.

Polaroid transfers have a unique visual style that is a little ghostly, a little impressionistic, and often very moody. Needless to say, it’s a fun way to spice up found slides and staged photos. With a few readily-available supplies, we can make a whole bunch of transfer prints.

Equipment Daylab Slide Printer or old Polaroid camera, hair dryer, Polaroid 669 or 559 film, hot press watercolor paper, brayer or roller, 8×10 tray. Optional - rubber gloves and white vinegar.

Polaroid Camera

**This is an old Polaroid Land Camera that takes old pack film, the kind of film that you have to peel apart. Cameras like this will only cost you $5+ on Ebay or at a secondhand shop.**

.

Procedure

  1. Expose the slide film, it can be a little overexposed. Using a red/warming filter when shooting can improve the image as red dyes tend to get lost in the transfer process. Obviously if you are shooting with a Polaroid camera you will skip this step.
  2. Soak watercolor paper (Arches hot-press 140-pound watercolor paper works well) in warm water briefly until it is soft (at least 1 minute.) Remove from water and let it drain. Place on a flat surface and pat dry (do not rub.) A squeege also works very well.

    Soaking Watercolor Paper Squeegeing the Watercolor Paper

  3. Insert slide and start the Polaroid development process in the Daylab slide printer. It is also possible to shoot straight from the Polaroid camera - the film will stay ladent until it is pulled. With either the camera or daylab pull the film through the rollers using a straight, smooth motion to distribute the developer evenly; don’t stop halfway! After about 12-15 seconds, pull the two sides of the Polaroid sandwich apart quickly.


    Loading a Slide into the Daylab Peeling the Polaroid Apart

  4. Place the “negative” Polaroid sheet face down on the prepared damp paper. Roll the brayer on the back of the negative pressing firmly, be careful not to let the negative slide around on the paper. It helps to keep the paper warm, a hair dryer works well.

    Rolling the Brayer on the Back of the Negative

  5. After about 2 minutes, (experiment - time depends on paper and room temperature) slowly pull the negative from the paper. If the image starts to peel or lift excessively, try starting from another corner.

    Finished Transfer

  6. Polaroid chemistry is very basic, it is advisable but optional, to neutralize it. Soak the transfer in a weak acid, such as a vinegar. This also intensifies the colors. Use a solution of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water. Soak the print for no more than 60 seconds with some agitation. Then wash in running water for 4 minutes and allow to air-dry.

Other Links
Polaroid Image Transfers–Book, Holly Dupre
Image Transfer @ Polaroid.com
AlternativePhotography.com : the polaroid image transfer process
Polaroid image transfer (1), Silverprint
Flickr: Photos tagged with polaroidtransfer

**Photographs by Rachel Abbott, Tutorial by Sarah Wichlacz


41 Responses to “Polaroid Transfer Tutorial”  

  1. 1 K-milo

    Really nice tutorial. It’s a shame you can’t make bigger transfers since i love that effect…

  2. 2 Jobu

    Note bene: The originator of this technique, a Danish artist, makes her living selling such prints to passers-by on Prince between Crosby and Broadway in New York, NY.

  3. 3 paul

    Ah, but you can make bigger transfers if you use larger film products. I think Type 55 (4×5) is also used for this.

  4. 4 sarah

    Paul is right you CAN make larger Polaroid transfers - the Daylab 120 has an number of different bases available. Enlarger head designed for use with any of the four interchangeable bases: 3 ¼ x 4 ¼ in., 4 x 5 in., 8 x 10 in., and SX-70 (Time-Zero.) My photo professor (at the University of Idaho back in ‘99,) Al Wildey, made very large Polaroid transfers. I believe he used a color enlarger and 8×10 in. Polaroid sheet film.

    Thanks for the interest.

  5. 5 Creative TECHniques Editor

    Good job, Sarah! I’m looking for someone to do a Polaroid emulsion transfer project for our new magazine–would you be interested?

  6. 6 Megan Garcia

    K-Milo, You can also use an 8×10 view camera with a polaroid back to make large, “live” transfers. This is something that I specialize in. And… If you want to go really big there are three 20×24 polaroid camera available for rental, and one is in NY!
    Here is the info:

    John Reuter, director
    Polaroid 20×24 Studio
    588 Broadway, Suite 805
    New York, NY 10012
    Tel: 212-925-1403
    Fax: 212-925-2239

    PS Creative TECHniques Editor, I am always interested in creative polaroid projects, so please contact me if I can be of assistance!

  7. 7 mary chatham

    Any ideas on getting repair work done on Polaroids-I have a couple of different ones that need some help-can’t find anyplace in NYC

  8. 8 Jon

    Hi Sarah–

    I am interested in printmaking and yesterday I saw someone selling editioned prints at a street fair. The prints looks unusual to me, and I asked the artist if any plates were used. He was busy w/ a customer and quickly mentioned no transfer plates were used and something about a Polaroid wash or Polaroid transfer (a technique that with which I’m unfamiliar).

    Most of the prints were in editions of 100, and I’m wondering if the process you discuss is the same Polaroid transfer method this artist used. In other words, is there a Polaroid transfer method that would allow someone to yield multiple prints of the same image?

    Thank you in advance for your assistance,
    Jon

  9. 9 Hayley

    I was at that street fair! Maybe I saw you Jon
    Anyway I really loved those pictures. Especially the one with the girl lying on the ground listening to records. I wish I could have bought one. I’m definitely going to try this when I get the chance. Nice tutorial!
    -Hayley

  10. 10 Pinar

    It was great to do polaroid transfer.
    I’ve bought my new Copy System and I try to do transfers and emulsions with fuji films, but it doesn’t work…

    Im looking forward a tutorial in a book, website, etcc,, about emulsions with polaroid, but I cant find nothing…

    ?I have to do it with Polaroid films?
    thanks a lot for this totorial.
    and I hope you can help me with this question.
    Manuel
    webpinar@hotmail.com
    Spain.

  11. 11 Megan

    I know that there is a way to do this process with black and white negatives as well as color slides, but will it work with color negatives?

  12. 12 Judy

    Thank you for this information. Can anyone recommend the Polaroid Land camera
    that will work with the process that does not use the day lab. Am I correct that the
    film used is Polaroid 669? Someone told me they will discontinue making that film
    soon??
    I have 2 photos taken by the lady in Soho. I want to be her in my next life.

    Thanks

  13. 13 George Bin Laden

    good work!! but it sucks!!

  14. 14 d.r.

    I had been doing polaroid transfers for a while, and when I tried the newer edition of the 669 film, I found that it comes out a lot more green. Does anyone else have this problem? Thanks!

  15. 15 Marcella

    I have the same problem with the film having a greenish cast to it. I’m using the 690 film, which is what they had at B & H and told me it would produce the same effect. Does anyone know a technique to take the green out? Maybe some kind of filter? Thanks!

  16. 16 Amanda.l.brown@hotmail.com

    hi anyone in Rhode Island wanting a photo partner?

  17. 17 mylittleguitar

    coool
    its very nice yeah
    lets do it

  18. 18 Fombou

    Kyle Interviews Polaroid Transfer Artist, Soho New York City

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aV79k-H1ZG4

  19. 19 Fombou

    w w w .youtube.com/watch?v=aV79k-H1ZG4

    Kyle Interviews Polaroid Transfer Artist, Soho New York City

  20. 20 Laura

    I have a Land Camera 340 and a 250 (along with 3 others) that work well for this project.

    I also have a Zip Camera. Will this work for transfers or would a Square Shooter be better?

  21. 21 Laura

    I was told that this process can be done multiple times with the same negative. Is this true? Wouldn’t the ink run out?

  22. 22 Arthur

    Hello,
    Great work. Anyone in NYC that does this image transfer. Would love to meet up and discuss the process. Have tried at home but just not working.

    Thanks

  23. 23 12catcrazy

    Arthur, there is a woman named Norma Brown Hill (you can google her) who lives on Long Island you teaches wonderful Polaroid transfer workshops. I took two of them and it was money well-spent.

    There are also 2 very good books on the subject: Photographer’s Guide To Poloroid Transfer by Christopher Grey, and Poloroid Transfers by Kathleen Carr. Both books are available on Amazon.com.

    Part of the trick of getting Poloroid Transfers to look really good is your choice in original photo. You don’t want alot of background and you want some good contrast in the shots. Unless you’re going to be working on the larger scale Poloroid film (which is very expensive, as is the Daylab extra stuff you need to work with it), remember that the picture is going to be small and lots of detail will get lost.

    Also, part of the excitement of Poloroid tranfer is the unexpected final results. No two transfers are ever going to look exactly the same. Adjusting your timing will also make a difference in the in the final colors of the print. You can make 2 pictures from the same piece of film - a transfer and an emulsion lift - development time will affect the colors in each one. Let the picture develop for less time for optimal colors in the transfer print, and develop for longer time for optimal color in the emulsion lift.

    Check out Daylab.com for more info - I think that they have a tutorial on their site.

  24. 24 Adriane

    I just got a Daylab machine that reproduces prints onto Polaroid film. I did a number of transfers yesterday and have posted one of them on my blog: http://onesundayafternoon.blogspot.com/2007/09/green-copper-postcards.html

    This is such a fun (and easy!) technique…

    Cheers,
    Adriane

  25. 25 Michelle

    Hi Everyone,
    A couple of comments,
    First the green tends to come from older film, check the expiry date on the film when you get the green and bring it back the seond pack back for exchange if its not open. Most places will give you one half of a new package. This film does not fly off the shelf and sits for a very long time and expires. Its good to get to know the people in the store you deal with and let them know you will be ordering 669 film on a regular basis and to keep it fresh.

    Also I wanted to comment on the emulsion prossess which can be just as fun and the transfer process. I have had lots of time to play with it and experimented with surfaces I could put emulsions on. They work best on rough surfaces but i think I would be willing to experiment with using an adhesive with the process.

    One tip is flipping the picture upside down and although its seems fragile they are alot more durable then they seems. Be gentle with the removal but don’t be fussing all day it will come off in a very short time.

    If they stick and bunch up rewet and you can try again.

    Have fun putting them on candles, ornaments, metal, wood, and any surface you are creative enough to try.

  26. 26 Asterid

    Hey,

    great tutorial. polaroid transfers are lots of fun. Better do them quick guys. Polaroid is no longer making any polaroid films. Talk about a dying art. so sad! well, it was fun while it lasted and i’m sorry to see it go.

  27. 27 Taylor

    Hey.

    I’ve been using a 210 camera and 669 film, but I’ve been trying to get the same effect with 667 film, but the negatives haven’t developed very well. Is there a way to do transfers with 667?

    Thanks!

  28. 28 veronique

    thanks guys, you have just inspired me for my final year project

  29. 29 Baldi

    Hi. Thank you for your tutorial. I made my first Polaroid Transfer just with your help :) Polaroid transfers are alive! B.

  30. 30 Hope @ Polaroid Factory

    Hi, just doing some browsing for my Polaroid site. Amazing the amount of information on the web. Looking for something else, but interesting page. Take care.

  1. 1 MAKE: Blog
  2. 2 Secrets of Digital Imaging » HOW TO - Polaroid transfers
  3. 3 bellascribe » Vacations
  4. 4 Litratista.org » Polaroid Transfer Tutorial
  5. 5 photography : polaroid transfer « crookedsquare
  6. 6 the calm before the stork » in memoriam
  7. 7 girlprinter - The Goodbye Polaroid Party
  8. 8 UPOP » Polaroid
  9. 9 Polaroid Photo Transfers - fun for the whole fam! « Right On Canvas…photos, art, & more
  10. 10 Busy week | tooting of thine own horn «
  11. 11 Polaroid Transfers - AutoPhotog : Photo Enthusiasts/Pros Forum


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