Image transfer - expired Polaroid Type 79 film


Supporting Member
Over the summer, I did some Polaroid Sx-70 image manipulations, using expired Artistic-Z film. (You can get the back story on that effort here.)

What started this exploration was the death of my little darkroom refrigerator, which stored a lot of Polaroid film. The Artistic-Z was one stack. The other stack is the Type 79, which is 4x5 peel-apart sheet film, 20 sheets per box. (!!) The expiration date is 2009, so I decided to see what I would get at this late date in the way of color and basic dye integrity. Being a peel-apart film, I had concerns the emulsion or dyes would have dried out and stick together, not peeling anymore.

To test this film, it seemed quickest to just load a sheet into my 545-I film holder and load that film holder into my Daylab slide printer. A slide printer lets you take any regular film slide, mount it on a holder, and project the slide's image onto a piece of Polaroid film - so that's what I did.

After exposing the Polaroid film and removing it from the Daylab, I peeled it apart after 90 seconds, and it still developed fine - good rich color! (I had to take a guess at the Daylab color head settings, which act as a mini-enlarger, but they were good enough.)

Here's a shot of the Daylab setup. This is the Daylab color head (the top) mounted on the 4x5 base. There are several interchangeable bases depending on what kind of Polaroid film you're using. This shot shows the 545-I film holder on the left, into which I had loaded the Type 79 sheet film, and also shows the 35mm slide in its little holder, that you project light through onto the Polaroid film.

Daylab with 545i holder.jpg

So, the first piece of film developed at 90 seconds as expected. Hooray! I decided to shoot another piece and, this time, try a quick image transfer.

Easy setup: a small tray (8x10) of cool water , and another small tray of warm water to soak a piece of plain watercolor paper, which would be the receptor of the dyes from the Polaroid. I shot the second piece of film and, instead of letting the print develop the full 90 seconds, peeled it apart in about 15 seconds, then pressed the negative part (still holding the majority of the dyes) onto the damp watercolor paper. I used a small brayer to roll it flat, and let it sit for a few minutes, then picked up the paper, with the film still attached, and slid the whole thing into the cool-water tray, and peeled it off underwater.

I lost some of the dyes, anyway, as I thought might happen. Here's a shot of both of the regular Polaroids - the one on the right was my test shot in the Daylab. You can see the brighter colors from letting it develop completely. The pale one on the left is what's left after I pulled the film apart after 15 seconds, to keep the dyes from migrating over:

Polaroid Type 79, 4x5 prints.jpg

(You can barely see my notes on the margin of the right side print, for the Cyan, magenta, and yellow settings on the Daylab, which made a nice colorful print.)

I did another one and it was a slightly better effort than the first one:

Flower image transfers.jpg

I decided I would hand color the one on the left, since it had more emulsion left. After letting it dry overnight, I used Prismacolor pencils (wax-based). I like the emulsion ripples and folds from the water.

I left some of the lifted-off dyes, which appear as bare green patches on the print, because I like it, too. Here is the hand colored image transfer:

Flowers and bee image transfer.jpg

This shot shows how you view and compose your slide (in this case, the slide is of these flowers and bee) into the Polaroid film. The film is protected from the viewing light at this stage by a white card, which is pulled away right before you hit the orange Start button:

Daylab with viewing door.jpg

I felt enthused, so I decided to take the first shot, the fully developed Polaroid up above, and do a slightly different process - an emulsion lift. This process calls for a tray of hot water (around 160 degrees F.), to enable the emulsion to separate completely from the paper backing of the Polaroid, so you can literally "lift" it out of the water and onto various receptors (I generally use hot-press watercolor paper), and brayer it into place after having a play with the emulsion itself. You can tear, twist, etc., good emulsions.

Here's a picture of that set-up, showing my thermometer, the distilled water and the actual print I slipped into the hot water:

Emulsion lift test setup.jpg

Alas! This process did NOT work at all. That expired emulsion is way too fragile to handle the high heat. What was left in the hot water tray was a lot of floating pieces of film and goo, and a paper backing with nothing left on it. *sniffle*

I tried a couple more, varying temperatures, time in the water, etc., but it all dissolved and floated away. No point in wasting more film on it - emulsion lifts are a no-go with this stuff now. It's just too old and fragile.

But overall, I'm encouraged to be able to do some of these processes again. Pretty sure some will still be less successful than others, and I may have trouble with darker dyes. But it's still making my inner alt-geek very happy to play with this stuff again.

My Daylab, which has been gathering dust for years, isn't quite a doorstop yet!

Thanks for looking! All comments are welcomed and appreciated. Hope I haven't made your eyes glaze over. :ROFLMAO:
Oh my gosh, Terri, you are such an adventurous spirit where photography is concerned! All of this came about because a little refrigerator croaked? The hand colored transfer is beautiful so I’m guessing you agree the whole process was worth it, but mostly because you enjoyed doing it!
I sense a kindred spirit here, in that I also love to experiment with new techniques. Kudos to you for an exceptionally well written report on your processes.
OMG! This piece turned out incredibly stunning. I love that no one would know how on earth you came to make this unless they knew this whole process. You can look at this and wonder forever--know that it's not a watercolor, or a colored pencil piece--and just scratch your head and think about how this beautiful thing was accomplished. So, thank you for explaining the whole process with pictures. What a treat for us all. This is so cool, and I've never even seen a Daylab before, or knew such a thing existed (because I'm such a novice). Hannah might know of it. I'll send her to this thread. Congrats on such a successful little work of art! ♥️ ♥️ ♥️
Donna, Hermes, Wayne and Arty - thanks for all the kind words!! ❤ ❤ ❤

A lot of the alternative processes I do have disappeared because of the drastic changes in the photography industry. I cling to reports about certain types of Polaroid films returning so I can figure out how to manipulate them.

I always loved using the Daylab because you can literally put out lots of prints at the kitchen table. Once there's no film left to fit into it, it will be a relic of another time. :) But we're not there yet.
Wow Terri, that's a beautiful print. The whole process sounds staggering! :) You're very enterprising. (y)
Thank you Terri. Great article well written. Enjoyed every word. I hope you find other outlets to publish your article - there is an audience for it.
Zen, Bongo - many thanks to you both! ❤ I'm sorry I overlooked your kind comments.

Zen: it's kinda like trying to describe tying one's shoes to someone: sounds more complicated than it is. ;)

Bongo - I honestly gave that no thought at all. I just babble a lot about stuff I enjoy. 🤣
I love your reaction, Lamar!! I'm so tickled you know what you're looking at. :)

And it's still in use, yes! Thank you for the kind words. We should be neighbors so you could come over to play!