Emulsion Lifts With Polaroid Go Instant Film

Transfer Tips & Techniques

4 min read by Dmitri.
Published on .
“Cherry Blossoms 1”: an emulsion lift with Polaroid Go instant film.

Polaroid Go is a new film format and a camera series by Polaroid that spits out tiny squares with 46mm/1.8” sides.

Polaroid Go film in hand.

The film is small, but it’s cheaper than the full-size Polaroid ISO 600 colour frames while remaining technically the same film/developer. This unlocks creative possibilities, like emulsion lifts and transparencies, not available to the Instax film shooters (Fujifilm’s massively successful competing film format that’s also cheaper).

“Yellow Star Flower”: an emulsion lift with Polaroid Go instant film.

What’s an emulsion lift or an emulsion transfer?

An emulsion lift/emulsion transfer is a process of separating the film layers from the integral packaging.

Polaroid film layers that retain the developed image are extremely thin/drapable and somewhat stretchable. They can be submerged in water and manipulated like delicate pieces of fabric. That “fabric” can then be gently maneuvered onto a piece of watercolour paper (or any suitable surface), which creates an image with altered properties.

To learn more about emulsion lifts and how to make them, check out this guide: How to Make Polaroid Emulsion Lifts & Transparencies.”

“Cherry Blossoms 2”: an emulsion lift with Polaroid Go instant film.

Emulsion lifts with Polaroid Go film.

Emulsion lifts are possible with Polaroid Go film.

For better results, use film that’s been exposed less than 24 hours ago. I’ve noticed a significant difference in the amount of the white material stuck to the transparency between the older and the newely-exposed frames. Fresh film, in addition to giving clearer transparencies, was easier to separate: the emulsion layer felt glued to the transparent outwards-facing plastic of the integral frame; freshly-exposed film layers came apart with gentle brushing and tugging under room-temperature water; older film took more work, and the emulsion ended up ripping on the sides from the additional force I applied to unstick it.

“Tulip”: an emulsion lift with a week-old exposure on Polaroid Go instant film.

Opening up the integral frame did not seem much different from the regular-sized Polaroid square. If you’ve done this before, Go should not be a problem.

As with the regular-sized frames, I expect colour emulsions to be more difficult to separate than in monochrome film. I’m looking forward to trying this again with Go once there’s a black and white version.

The Go lifts aren’t as impressive in person as the full-sized frames. You may notice that the lifted emulsion image, once scanned and enlarged, isn’t very sharp — especially when compared to something shot on a Polaroid SX-70. I hope we’ll eventually get to shoot sharper lenses with Go, which should help with acuity/definition. Better receiving material (paper with an interesting texture, for example) and multiple lifts onto the same surface are some ways the perceived definition can be improved on the Go lifts today.

I’m happy that emulsion lifts are possible and aren’t particularly difficult with the new Go film. It’s a fun experiment that needs no specialized tools other than a sharp knife and a paintbrush — now more accessible, thanks to the fact that Go is the cheapest Polaroid emulsion today.