How-to: Polaroid Emulsion Lift

Have you ever wanted to transform your old (or new) Polaroids? Maybe you’re like me and love the idea of re-purposing such beautiful photography mediums. Well, now you can.

With such a fancy name, the process might seem complicated, but don’t worry, it’s a lot simpler than it seems. Emulsion lifts are simply a photography technique where the emulsion layers of a photograph (the photographic part of the film) are separated from its clear, front panel. By separating these two parts of a photograph, a picture can be reattached to a completely different surface i.e. paper, plastic, wood, glass, etc.


  1. Using scissors or an X-Acto knife, cut the frame off of your image (the white part surrounding the Polaroid).
  2. Keep the square photo, and drown the image into a bowl of hot water. Let it soak for about 1 minute. Note: Lukewarm water will not work. Hot water is necessary for this process.
  3. Begin to peel the image away from the clear layer. If these 2 parts don’t separate, let the image remain in the hot water for another 30 seconds or so.
  4. Discard of the white material that the image comes off of.
  5. Place the image into the hot water again for 1 or 2 minutes – foggy/milky side down – and lightly rub a paintbrush over the image to remove any remaining material off of the image.
  6. Pick a new surface for the image to go on. Place this underneath the image in the water.
  7. Using a paintbrush or your fingers, position the image on top of its new surface.
  8. Remove the image and its new surface from the water. Note: You can still move the image around or flatten it after it has been taken out of the water.
  9. Let the emulsion lift dry for about 24 hours. Now you have a Polaroid Emulsion Lift!

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