The liquid emulsion process

The liquid emulsion process is a photographic process where you can apply the process to a surface of your own choice. Explained by Lloyd Godman.

Writer / Lloyd Godman

Always be careful when handling chemicals. Read the health and safety instructions.
This is a silver-based sensitizer for applying on any surface, exposing by an enlarger, and processing in conventional chemistry. It is virtually the same emulsion found on ordinary photographic paper, but in a liquid form and can allow the emulsion to be coated on a wide range of surfaces.

Speed and Contrast When freshly-made, liquid light is relatively slow and lacks full contrast. As it ages, it becomes faster and more contrasty. You can obtain maximum speed and contrast at any stages by adding a small quantity of working developer to the emulsion, as described below.

The emulsion can leave black stains on working surfaces and needs to cleaned up immediately.

1Safe Light
Use a dark yellow, light amber or red safelight while coating but when emulsion is drying and for storage total darkness is recommended.
At room temperature, liquid light is a solid gel and before use the bottle must be soaked in a container of hot water until it becomes a liquid at about 110 Deg F. It is not necessary to melt the entire contents if only a portion is to be used as the mixture is of a similar consistency throughout and in fact shaking the bottle will cause bubbles to form which can effect the application of the emulsion. Use containers and tools made only from plastic, rubber, enamel, stainless steel or glass. (Other metals such as plain steel or brass may contaminate the emulsion. Temperature and humidity in the darkroom should be moderate.

2Increasing density and sensitivity
A small, precisely-measured amount of paper developer added to liquid light just before use will give maximum speed and contrast. Add exactly one part of working developer to 10 parts of liquid light. Example: Add 15ml of dektol, Neutol or equivalent diluted 1-2 (Not stock or concentrated solution) to 150ml of liquid light. Mix well, an coat this mixture during the same day. (Once coated and dried, material can be stored of an indefinite period).

3Applying liquid emulsion
Use a brush, small sponge or a nap type paint applicator, by using a paint roller, spray gun, or by flowing on the emulsion and draining off the excess. At the same time, coat a few pieces of paper or file cards with the same mixture to serve as test strips to calculate the correct exposure. Like paint, too thin a coating of liquid light will show streaks and brush stokes. If an even coating is required, two thin coats will cover better than one and the second can be applied after the first has become tacky or dried. As you are applying the solution, remember to keep the emulsion warm in a water bath as it will begin to set again if it becomes cool.

4Exposure the liquid light print
Liquid light can be exposed once it is dry by using an enlarger, contact printing, or by a slide projector. Liquid light is slower than normal enlargement papers and requires a longer exposure time. Suggested exposure for an 8×10 from a 35mm neg enlarged full frame is about 40sec @ f5.6. If using an enlarger for large works, you will need to reduce the amount of light projected on to the surface,and this can be done by tapping a piece of black stiff card over the front lens with a hole 1/8 inch diameter cut in the middle to act as a diaphragm that limits light out put and sharpens the image.

5Processing liquid emulsion – development
For preparations on paper, develop like a normal print in a tray, or for other surfaces paint the developer on with a brush or sponge. A developer like Dektol or Neutol should be used diluted 1 part with 2 parts water. It is important that while the temperature of the developer is warm it is not above 70 deg F or 21 deg C. to avoid melting of the emulsion. For large surfaces where the developer must be applied to a portion of the print at a time, even out the development by first wetting the emulsion with cool water.

6Fixing a liquid emulsion print
Do not rinse with water or use a stop bath after developing. Use two consecutive identical hardening fixer baths. The first acts as a short stop; immerse for a few seconds to neutralize the developer. Next place in the second bath for 10 min or more until the chalky white pigment disappears, leaving the highlights completely transparent. (The second fixer should always be new and some agitation should be used).

Wash in the normal manner for at least 10 min in running water.

Learn more about Liquid emulsion and Silver gelatins
Silver Gelatin: A User’s Guide to Liquid Photographic Emulsions

Silver Gelatin: A User’s Guide to Liquid Photographic Emulsions

by Martin Reed, Sarah Jones

A practical art book illustrating the use of liquid photographic emulsion.

The Handmade Silver Gelatin Emulsion Print: Creating Your Own Liquid Emulsions for Black & White Paper

The Handmade Silver Gelatin Emulsion Print: Creating Your Own Liquid Emulsions for Black & White Paper

by Denise Ross

A cookbook of simple, basic recipes for making black and white printing paper and paper negatives.

26 thoughts on “The liquid emulsion process”

  1. Hello there. How do you print from digital images if you do not want to make contact prints? can you make negatives for the enlarger? Had any of you good experience of using a projector and what kind? Thank you for your help!

  2. I’m still waiting for somebody to answer my questions on liquid light emulsion that posted over a year ago …. IS ANYONE OUT THERE ?

  3. It would be nice if the person that writes the article answers the questions of people who took the time to read it.

  4. I am an AP Art teacher and heard about printing with Liquid Light on watercolor paper. I don’t know anything about developing it. I want to print on heavy watercolor paper. I know you need a negative image, 150 watt flood light. Beside Liquid Light photo emulsion what other chemicals do I need to develop the picture. Any help would be appreciated.

  5. heIlo I’m wondering how to work with liquid light on metal…Does the metal have to be treated first ?…and after the printing process can I use marshall photo paints? and…what kind of coating to protect it ?
    Thank you Scott T

  6. I recently used some Liquid light emulsion that has been sitting in my fridge for over 3 years. I have had good success with it before, but this time, every time I tried the emulsion kept washing off. What is the most likely reason: old emulsion? wash bath too warm? I used an acid stop bath? not enough fixing time? There are a lot of variables to change and I am wondering which is the most likely culprit. The contrast seems okay, so I didn’t think the age of the emulsion was the problem. Any ideas?

  7. I am planning to print onto cotton fabric which will need to be machine washable. Do you think this will work, and are there any extra fixatives i can use to help preserve the print?

    Many thanks in advance

    p.s @ Olivia did you get any answers to using on wool?

  8. i have made liquid light emulsion print before with success and wood, metal and canvas but have some troubles recently.

    when i put the metal and wood in the fixer, it turns black!!! any idea of what it could be?

  9. I’m trying to print on wool or some type of unwoven fabric and was wondering if this process would be the best for my project. Any extra insights or suggestions?

  10. I’m very much interested in using the liquid emulsion, and would like to know if you have a distributor in Chile, or I have to buy it by mail.
    I have read about the prices, but I want to know about covering capacity, that is square metres by litre.
    Thanks you very much

  11. i am trying to print with black magic on double glazed panels but not having much success as is difficult to warm the glass and then after printing i am left with black… can anyone help?

  12. I would like to use liquid emulsion on tooling leather. Any suggestions on which brands are the best for this application? After the print is dry it will be moistened slightly so the leather can be manipulated.

  13. I use liquid light on glass and it works well, but I use subbing solution from Silerprint as the ‘key’. Clean glass really well using washing soda then coat with subbing solution as directed. All this can be done in the light, the coat on liquid light in safe light conditions.

  14. You can actually achieve ‘satisfactory’ results on glass, but you’ll need to pre-coat with a polyurethane matt varnish, this will aid with the bonding process.

  15. la femme, liquid emulsion doesn’t work on glass. If you use it on really slick surfaces it will slide off

  16. Hello

    I am thinking of buying some SE1 Liquid Emulsion from Silverprint and wanted to know if you can recommend any hardening/fixing agents to use with this emulsion?

    This will be my first go at Liquid Emulsion, so any advice is recomended.

    Many thanks


  17. I was thinking of doing liquid emulsions on the glass part of the lightbulb. Would that be considered dangerous? Would I electrocute myself during the developing process? I wouldn’t think so because it is not plugged into anything. What would be the safest way possible to execute this? Thanks in advance!

  18. im looking for how to do liquid light on metal sheets for an ap art project is there anything that needs to be done different for the metal??

  19. I want to make a large mural by casting a photo on a
    sheet. I have not used liquid light before and
    need to know how much to purchase and spacific steps.
    Can you help?

  20. I am looking to use liquid emultion on big surface (wall) .How do you fixe and rinse ?Just by brushing the fixer or the water on the wall? And how long will it last ?
    thank you for any fee back

  21. When using liquid light on paper, does the paper need to be coated with a gelatin first? After you coat the paper with liquid light and it dries, do you need to press/flatten the paper?

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