Return Of The Polaroid Transfer; A Tutorial In Smart Objects And Filter Effects

Remember the Polaroid? You push the button and the print is ejected and developed right before your eyes. But rather than settle for these "straight" prints, for many years professional image-makers used the unique features of this technology to create wonderfully textured images as well. The process involved transferring the image from the original to damp watercolor paper. As a result the image took on a distinctly different look and feel to a standard Polaroid print.

A popular technique a few years ago, Polaroid transer involved the migrating of the film image to a watercolor paper background.

Much acclaimed for its artistic appeal, the technique was not always predictable. There were three main problems--dark areas of an image often didn't transfer to the new surface, colors and image detail would bleed unpredictably (due to the moisture in the paper), and it was difficult to control how dark or light the final print would be. I know these problems intimately as it once took me 16 sheets of expensive instant film to produce a couple of acceptable prints.

This success ratio is not one that my budget, or my temperament, could afford. So I started to play with a digital version of this popular technique. I wanted to find a process that was more predictable, controllable, and repeatable. My first step was to list the characteristics of the Polaroid transfer print so that I could simulate them digitally. To me it seemed that there were four main elements:
·Desaturated colors
·Mottled dye
·Distinct paper texture and color
·The Polaroid film frame