For those who still long for a tangible connection with film photographs, Polaroid transfers can transform ordinary photos into Impressionist masterpieces. With a Daylab slide printer or old Polaroid Land camera, you can easily turn your favorite old slide images into framable pieces of art.

The process is fairly simple: Polaroid negatives are rubbed (transferred) onto textured watercolor paper (or other materials, if you’re so inspired). The resulting ethereal images appear to be antiques from their weathered appearance. And because the look is almost ghostly, even unintentional “mistakes” may become your favorites.

Polaroid announced it would stop manufacturing film in April 2008, but Fuji makes a comparable film called Fuji FP-100C.

Project Steps

For the Daylab, find a slide.

If using a slide, insert it into the Daylab to create a print. If using a Polaroid, skip this step.

Prep the paper.

Soak watercolor paper in warm water until it’s soft, around 1 minute. Remove it from the water and pat it dry.

Make your Polaroid.

If using a Daylab, expose the Polaroid film; if using a Polaroid camera, take your shot. The image stays latent until it’s pulled. Pull the processing tab on the film, pulling the film through the rollers with one smooth motion. After 15 seconds of developing, pull apart the 2 sides of the Polaroid film.

Reveal your image and optional wash.

Pull away the negative and set it facedown on your wet paper. Careful not to let it slide, firmly roll the brayer on the back. Wait about 2 minutes. You need heat from the developing negative to warm the paper, so a hair dryer may help. Slowly lift the negative off the paper by a corner.

Polaroid chemistry is basic (alkaline), so it helps to stabilize the image if you soak the transfer in a weak acid. Try 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water, for no more than 1 minute, with some agitation. Then rinse in running water for 4 minutes and allow to air-dry.


This project first appeared in CRAFT Volume 08, pages 122-123.