How to make emulsion lifts using Fuji instant film.
Always be careful when handling chemicals. Read the health and safety instructions.
Image above: Fuji instant film emulsion lifts by Patricia Markert on mat board.
This technique floats the emulsion off the surface of a fully developed Instant Film print positive by ‘cooking’ it. The thin layer of emulsion is then applied to a receiver of paper or just about any kind of surface. Folds and wrinkles are inherent in the process.
The peel-apart Polaroid color films, such as Polacolor 669, are no longer manufactured. Fuji Film is now making films that are the same size and format as some of the Polaroid films. The Fuji films can be used in the same cameras that held the Polaroid films. The Fuji emulsions are, however, different in both appearance and chemical consistency. They also have a different ‘look’ and more saturated color when they are lifted. They are also less gelatinous making them easier to handle.
Instant-Film Emulsion Lifts can now be made using Fuji 100c film. The process for making these is pretty much the same as with the Polaroid film except that the emulsion will not readily adhere to the receiver by itself, and needs some help. The process is detailed below.
The media for the Source Images depends on the type of ‘enlarger’ that will be used. The Daylab Instant Slide Printer prints from transparencies. The Daylab Copy System Pro uses positive prints of approximately 4 x 6 inches. In both cases these can be from film or digital.
The outside of the final print is 3.35 x 4.25″ / 85 x 108 mm., but the actual image area will be 2.87 x 3.74″ / 73 x 95 mm. This is an aspect ratio of 1:1.3. This is unique among cameras, but is pretty close to the aspect ratio of a digital camera that shoots in 3:4.
If you use pictures from any other camera as a Source Image, they will have to be cropped to fit this picture format.
Produce Source Images either on Film or as Digital prints on any of the following media:
- 35mm Color Transparency Film for use in a 35mm Format Daylab Jr.
- Instant Slide Printer Medium Format Color Film 2.25 x 2.25, or –
Digital Transparency Film at 2.87 x 3.74″ [73 x 95 mm], for use in a Medium Format Daylab Instant Slide Printer
- Color Prints on 4 x 6″ paper, or –
Digital Prints on 4 x 5.2″ paper [101.6 x 132 mm] for use in a Daylab Copy System Pro
Image right: Fuji instant film emulsion lift on watercolor paper by Andrew Paul.
Source Images should be intensified in three ways, to compensate for losses in the process:
- oversaturate the colors in the print because the transfer will be less saturated
- add extra contrast because the transfer will be more ‘flat’
- Daylab Instant Slide Printer or Daylab Copy System Pro
- Electric Skillet
- 2 Photo Trays
- Hair Dryer
- Small Foam Brush
- Positive Source Image on eitherTransparency Film for use in a Daylab Instant Slide Printer
Prints on Paper for use in a Daylab Copy System Pro
- FujiFilm FP-100c peel-apart color Instant Film
- Receiving Material
Archival Printmaking Paper, such as Arches 88, Rives BFK, Crane, Stonehenge, etc. that is un-sized with a smooth surface (hot-press), 140 lb or more
Any Other Substrate such as wood, ceramics, glass, metal, etc. (optional)
- Clear Acetate or Mylar Sheet
- Gloss Gel Medium (optional)
Expose and prep
1Prepare the receiver
Tear down the paper or cut the receiver material to the appropriate size. Don’t cut printmaking paper. The rough edge from tearing is desirable. Printmaking or Watercolor paper is suitable, and an archival paper will produce the best results.
If using some other receiver such as wood, ceramics, glass, metal, etc. the color should be considered. The highlights will be the color of the receiver because the highlights of the picture are transparent.
2Make an exposure
Expose a sheet of Fuji film using a Daylab Instant Slide Printer or Daylab Copy System Pro. See the Instructions that came with either machine for more specific details. Set the Film Type = 3 for Fuji 100c, which is the setting for ASA 100. [Polaroid 669 is ASA 80, Film Type = 2]
The exposure can be modified with the exposure knob. + will darken the print, – will lighten it.
3Develop the print
Pull the film straight out of the film holder with a smooth, even gesture after the exposure is made. Do not stop part of the way through or use a jerky motion. You will not get an even print.
Wait 90 seconds for the film to fully process. Peel the negative away from the positive. Set aside the negative and save for other possible uses.
4Set and dry the print positive
Use a hair dryer for 1-2 minutes until completely dry. (It can also be left overnight to air dry).
5Trim the print
Trim to the size of the picture, eliminating all the white borders.
Cook and lift
6Cook the print
Fill an electric skillet with water. Heat the water to 160° F/ 70° C.
Immerse the print face up into the hot water. Use tongs on the edges to make sure it stays immersed. Keep the print in the hot water until white bubbles start to appear on the surface. The Emulsion should start to lift off on its own in about 3 to 5 minutes.
7Remove the print from the backing
Place a sheet of clear acetate in a tray of cold water. Transfer the print with tongs into the tray of cold water. Gently push the emulsion with your fingers until it lifts off the backing. Manoeuvre the emulsion onto the acetate sheet. Try to flatten out the wrinkles, although some feel the wrinkles are the best part! Remove the acetate with the Emulsion Lift from the tray of water.
8Transfer and glue
Remove the backing material from the water. Pick up the adhesive from the backing material using a small foam brush. Gloss Gel Medium can also be used as an alternative adhesive medium.
Apply the adhesive to the receiver material. Be careful to apply only in the image area.
Slide the Emulsion Lift onto the adhesive-coated receiver. Brayer lightly over the emulsion from the middle outwards. Be very careful not to destroy the very delicate emulsion. Clean any glue off the brayer immediately!
Remove any excess glue from beyond the image area using a paper towel.
9Dry the finished print
Allow the finished piece to air-dry overnight.
An additional layer of Gloss Gel Medium can be applied over the finished piece (optional).
Always be careful when developing and handling Instant Film materials. When the Instant Film prints are pulled apart, the developing chemicals are exposed. These chemicals are toxic and somewhat caustic. Keep away from the skin and eyes.
The thing to remember is that “Form Supports Content”. The surface of an Emulsion Lift has a delicate quality that has a three-dimensional feel and the colors in the print shift. You should look at a variety of Emulsion Lifts before you begin the process. Then you should consider how the process affects the appearance of the final image. Appropriate subject matter should be shot that will benefit from this process. Also consider using black & white source images.
There is a certain amount of translucency with these lifts. This can be used to make interesting multiple image pieces and overlays.
The ability to adhere lifts to any surface make the possibility of making photographic ‘objects’. Just do not let the receiver overpower the image.