How to Turn Instant Photos into Dreamy Image Transfers with Impossible Project Film

Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3

It was just a year ago that Polaroid’s certain doom lurked around dark corners.

Incredibly, we were rescued from the extinction of instant life as we knew it: The Impossible Project created their very own instant PX films! What made these films especially wonderful was that they could be used with the Polaroid cameras we already had at home.

With practice, we discovered a fantastic little secret about these PX films…something no integral Polaroid film could do before.

Their emulsion can be lifted and transferred onto paper! Transferring your photos is a fun, hands-on way to transform your instant images into painterly works of art.

We can literally take the image off the film, play with it in our hands, and then, put it back on something else.

Wanna learn how? Then check out:

Create Image Transfers with PX Film

p.s. Tumblr’s kind of like our secret notebook where we keep track of our favorite photo stuff and mini projects, like this easy/friggin’ cool instant film frame idea.

Why’s it cool?

beforeTaking apart our instant PX photos and surgically separating their mysterious layers is kind of like a science experiment!

It turns the most hands-off form of photography into an artistic printing project.

Transferring our instant film images onto watercolor paper completely transforms our ordinary snapshots into dreamy, painterly scenes.

Plus, they look great hanging on our wall using because this method actually stretches the image, giving us a larger print than we originally had!

What do I need?:


  • Any instant print that was made with Impossible Project film (PX100, PX600, and PX70 films)
  • Two medium sized pans or wide bowls. (One filled with hot water, one with cold water.)
  • Watercolor paper
  • A pair of scissors
  • Helpful, but not necessary:

  • A sharp knife
  • Soft, small paintbrushes
  • Tweezers

Step 1: Dissecting your print

beforeThe first thing you’ll need to do is grab your scissors and carefully cut open your PX print. Start by cutting across the bottom of the white border.

(Make sure you don’t cut where the white border meets your image. You might accidentally cut off part of your image if you do.)

From there, you can easily peel off the white border that goes around the front and back of your print.

Peel it off completely, and you will be left with just the image part of your print. Start to trim the edges of your image.

beforeHow close or how far you trim the edges of your photo is up to you. The closer you cut to the image area, the faster the print will absorb the water in the next step.

Step 2: Soaking the Film

beforeNext, we’ll soak the print in a bath of hot water, which will help to separate all the layers of the film and allow us to peel it apart.

Try to get the water as hot as you can, or boil water and leave it in the pan to cool slightly before you insert your prints.

Watch your prints carefully when you insert them in the water. If you start to see them wrinkle up like in the photos below, it’s a good sign! That means your photo is almost ready to be transferred!

Most prints should stay in the hot water bath for about 5-10 minutes. However, use your best judgement. If your print is fully wrinkled, it’s ready.

before before

Step 3: Underwater Polaroid Surgery

before Keep the print underwater for the entire time during this step. You’ll be peeling off a top layer of your print in order to get to that elusive thin image layer in the middle! Use your hands or a small paintbrush.

The layer that you peel off will depend on which side of your print is facing up. If it’s the black back side that’s facing up, you’ll gently lift the edge of the black layer up and off the inner image layer. If the front side is facing up, you’ll be lifting a thin clear layer up and off of the image layer.

If you have trouble getting the image to peel off, your small paintbrush can come in handy to help apply fragile pressure between the layers.

(This step can take a lot of patience and practice. The thin jellyfish-like image layer is fragile and can have a hole poked into it. We recommend trying it out first with a sample or mistake shot you can experiment with stress-free.)

Step 4: Cleaning and Moving Your Image

While your thin image layer is still floating in the warm pan of water, clean it off a bit with a soft brush (or finger). You’ll see small, white chunks float away (this is leftover film residue), but don’t worry about removing every last one.

Next, scoop the image up in your palm and move it carefully from the warm water pan to the cold water pan.

Step 5: Applying the image!

Once your jelly-like image is floating in the cold water, you’re ready to apply it to your paper!

Simply slip the paper into the water underneath the image and let it float below it.

Try to pull the floating image apart with your hands to make it as flat as possible, and use your fingers to push the image against the page while you slowly pull it out of the water.

Step 6: OOPS! Do it again.

It’s hard to catch something that’s moving in liquid in the exact way you want it to, and trust us, we almost never get it right the first time. So don’t get discouraged if your image folds in half or falls off the paper!

The best part about this process is you can return the paper and image to the water and start over from scratch! (Even if you accidentally rip your image while applying it, the ripped film pieces could easily be used as added shapes to your print, or overlapped for a double exposure!)

We think that makes it all the more exciting when we finish :) and speaking of finishing…

Step 7: You’re done!

Once you lift the paper out of the water and you’re happy with the results, you’re done!

You should now let your print dry for at least 2-4 hours before touching the surface (or trying out one of our nifty ideas to do more with this project below!)

Want to do more?

  • Once your image is completely done drying, try adding your own touch by coloring, painting or drawing on top of it!
  • Make a double photo print by attaching one image to the paper, drying it, and attaching another image after the first one has dried. You could even combine color film with black and white for some surreal results!
  • Try transferring your image onto other materials, such as wood
  • Check out the Impossible Project Film Manipulation group on flickr, where hundreds of photographers have been sharing their experiences manipulating this magical film!