Polaroid instant peel-apart manipulation

Writer / Erik Wiklund

Erik Wiklund shows us how to transfer Polaroids onto glass.

Always be careful when handling chemicals. Read the health and safety instructions.

The Original Photograph

The original picture was shot on slide film, which I think is the best way to go as you have unlimited chances to try to get it right. The picture was then printed onto Polaroid Type 667 using a Daylab II Pro. I found that pictures with a broad range of tones seem to work best, and that overly dark images are harder to manipulate.


The Glass

It is important to start with clean glass, clean glass will help the Polaroid negative adhere better and help cut down on air bubbles which would destroy and degrade parts of the image. I use a thin pane of glass from an 8×10 picture frame, cleaned before each use with Windex.

The process

1Expose your photo either with a slide printer or directly with a camera, pull it and let it develop fully at room temperature (1 minute). Peel the photo from the negative taking care not to damage the negative. Remove the paper “frame” that was attached to the photo and discard it. Trim off the pull tab and the paper tab which has the excess developer on it so you are left with just the negative.

2Without letting it dry, or removing any of the developer chemicals from the surface of the negative, place it face down on the glass you have prepared. With a roller, press the negative to the glass taking care to squeeze out any air bubbles that form between the negative and the glass.

3These air bubbles left between the glass and the negative will cause degradation of the final image like the black spots seen in this picture [stairway].

4The image should sit at room temperature undisturbed for at least two minutes before starting to manipulate. After two minutes manipulation is possible but for best results you should wait longer as the pigments in the negative will soften and become much easier to play with. Manipulating the negative too soon will cause the pigment swirls to be very sharp and of high contrast like in this image [car][man_walking] after more time passes (half an hour to 45 minutes) the manipulation will look softer and more painterly as seen in this image [daisies]. The dark areas of the negative (light areas of the finished photo) are the easiest to manipulate and will be able to be manipulated first, while the light areas (dark parts of the finished photo) require you to press harder on them with your manipulation tool to soften. Also if you wait longer (one to two hours) the light colored areas will naturally become softer.

5The manipulation process can span for days, the longer you wait the softer and more free-flowing the pigments become [abstract]. Eventually after several days the negative will dry to the glass.

6When are happy with your photo, simply scan the negative through the pane of glass and invert the colors with an image editing program like Adobe Photoshop.

7If you want color, you can print the photo on matte photo paper and watercolor over the top of it.

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