From Mass Media to Art Works

It is told that the transfer technique was discovered reather erroreous just by some sloppy worrk within the Polaroid laboratoires. Now the idea of producing unique litle piecies of art has become quite fashionate.

Unfortunately the original polaroid films were disconintued and those occasionally being offered via eBay and similar are way to outdated. Meanwhile even Fuji has discontinued the production. Fresh Fuji material is still on the market though.

The Impossible Project does not seem to have plans for the near future for producing peel-apart films.

Image Transfer

With image transfers the principle is that either a sheet of film is exposed in a regular camera or a slide is copied onto it. Once you pull the film sheed from the cartridge it starts developing. Usually you woud wait for two minutes so that the film can fully develop the image. In this time the active cemistry on the "negative" side of the peel apart film develops the image and releases the dyes that then are transferred to the "positive" side of the film which simply sucks in all of the dyes. Once separated you thow the stinky negative part away and keep the shiny colourful image.

For the transfers you interrupt the development pre-mature as soon as the sheet is pulled of its cartridge. The positive picture remains blank white. I suggest doing that in total darkness or some darkroom. be cautios with darkromm light!

(With the original polaroid material you could have done the whole thing in daylight. With them it was just fine to wait 15 seconds and then peel them apart. However, the Fuji material keeps sensitive for light much longer than that, which will result in much darker images and false colours.)

Grab the film at its edges and ripp it off quickly but cautionsly. Then take the stinky black half of it and press it against some surface such as texture, paper, cardboard. This surface should be white for correct colours. Dark surfaces do not work well, you may use bright colours though. Wait for two minutes at least and then peel the black stuff from the surface. I use some thin ruler over which I pull the chemistry part. Doing so I press the ruler on the surface to make sure, that nothing or not much of the actualy dyes ripps of the surface. The transfer looks best - with exceptions - when most of the dyes where actually transferred.

However, you will never manage to get a perfect transfer. That is exactly the reason why thise little pieces of arts are so unique. You cannot produce exactly the same thing twice. 5 Euro Pola Transfer

Wie auch immer - unmittelbar nach dem Trennen des Films vom eigentlichen Bild drückt man die ‚Negativ’-Seite auf die Fläche, auf die das Foto übertragen werden soll. Dazu eignet sich am besten Aquarellpapier. Man kann mit allen möglichen Materialen experimentieren (Stoff etc).

You can support transferring the dyes with some roll (glas cylinder, bottle, etc) that you use to press the chemistry smoothly on the surface while waiting for these two minutes. It is not wrong to give it more time than just two minutes.

You may want to experiment with wet papers or various textures. Consider newspapers, printed photographs, pages of old books, ...

Give it a try! It is fun!



of Emulstion Transfers and Image Transfers are in my Polaroid-Gallery

Technical stuff


Polaroid Fujifilm Inces cm
669 FP 100C 3.25" x 4.25" 08,3 x 10,8
559 FP 100C45 4" x 5" 10,2 x 12,7
59 FP 100C45 4" x 5" 10,2 x 12,7
809  ./. 8" x 10" 20,3 x 25,4


Supporting Links

Die Marke Polaroid  (German, about the Polaroid brand today; not related to useful film material) 

The Impossible Project

Kathleen Carr: Polaroid Transfers (Book, en)

Sarah Wichlacz: Polaroid Transfer Tutorial (en)