Polaroid image transfers

Polaroid image transfers

The Polaroid image transfer is another popular fine art photographic technique. After exposing the image onto instant film, the film is dragged into different shapes during development. The negative contains dye and is rolled onto paper or other interesting surfaces, creating an image that forms part of the material. Each image is a one-off, and can be manipulated and hand-colored. Many artists have experimented with the technique, including contemporary artists Jack Perno and Kathleen Carr, who has written a number of books on the subject.

A simulated Polaroid transfer consists of two distinct images. The first, a photographic image, is often distorted and rendered with the negative's rough edges. For the second, you need a textured image to use as a background surface. For this, it's a good idea to scan a few examples of fine art paper or cloth, or anything that might make a good backdrop.

The great thing about Polaroid image transfers is that you can make something out of almost anything, from portrait to still lifehere, a vase with roses, captured in late afternoon light, makes an appropriate subject.

It's a good idea to buy sample packs of fine art inkjet paper and scan sheets with interesting textures, such as this one.

  1. With both the photograph and the scanned background texture files open, drag the Photograph layer into the texture file's window. Be sure you can see the edges of the textureif necessary, resize the picture with the Crop tool, holding down the Shift key to maintain the correct proportions.

  2. To make it appear as if the image were printed on the background texture, change the Picture layer's blending mode to Multiply, and reduce its opacity a little.

  3. To recreate the rough frame around the image, I prefer to paint black directly onto the picture layer. Select the Brush tool (B), choose one of the preset brushes from the Dry Media Set, adjust its size to match the image, and give it a hard edge.

  4. Reset Photoshop's foreground color to black (D). Click with the brush at one corner, just outside the picture's edge, and then hold down the Shift key and click the next corner. Photoshop will create a rough line between the two. Repeat the process for the other corners. For an even rougher look, you can handdraw some lines. Make sure the original edges of the picture are obscured, and that the base is a little thicker than other edges.

  5. Imperfections are often part of the transfer's charm. Experiment with the various options under Filter > Distort. Create a combined effect by applying one filter, then applying Edit > Fade immediately afterward, before applying another filter. Try Filter > Distort > Wave, set the amplitude to low values, and click the Randomize button until you have a gentle distortion that looks good.

  6. While a slightly stretched or distorted look is desirable for this effect, you might want to retain some of the image's subject. Check the Preview to judge the extent to which you want the vase to appear to "melt." Use the Lasso tool to select the areas you want to distort, then apply the Wave filter to the selection once you've made a decision.

  7. After applying the Wave filter, you can further enhance the results with the Liquify filter. Use the Smudge tool and set a low Brush Pressure in the Tool Options pane (to the right of the window). Now, stroke the brush over the canvas to apply distortions.

  8. Experiment, too, with changing the Photograph layer's blending mode. In this case Vivid Light looks good, but Hard Light seems to work best. (Multiply is an alternative choice, too.)

Simulating Polaroid image transfers in Photoshop is quick and fun, and is almost as addictive as the real thing.

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