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You have been warned – but we’re sure the Lab Rat in you won’t mind at all. Manipulating instant photos isn’t limited to drawing mustaches and horns with your markers – a little cutting and spraying will also give you jawdropping effects!

When I was first made aware that there was a (semi) replacement for the love of my life, Polaroid, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this possible savior of integral instant film to experiment with. Finally, after the Fuji Instax cameras and film became widely available in the states this year, I have had my first round or two of trial and (a lot of) error with this very odd, black-goo-insides mystery film. Egad! What a mess this stuff is (I kept a trash bag around for the refuse and worked in a sink, with a lot of paper towels around) – though as it went, I did get a lot better at keeping the goo off of my fingers. I still prefer Polaroid for cutting apart and playing with, but c’est la vie, this stuff can be interesting in its own right…

My first attempt at manipulation started immediately after taking the shot: I cut off the three sides other than the developer side (having crappy, beat up scissors is a plus), peeled the plastic front from its backing (this is a bit of the messy part), removed the developer pack, and placed the opened “image” face down on a moist, almost dry paper towel. I then put the two halves back together, rubbing lightly all over, and cut off the last side (saving one side until you’re done futzing around just makes it easier to put the two pieces back together again – it certainly isn’t necessary other than to keep things straight, but then again, maybe it shouldn’t be straight…). Bing, instant texture! But it wasn’t really what I was looking for, so…

Next I tried what has always worked well with Polaroids, and that is to roughly spray/dribble/splatter the opened insides with, in this case, Windex. I like the way Windex sprays on with bubbles when I barely squeeze the trigger, plus it can be a bit sloppy, but really, I think any fluid, any way you can apply it, will work. From what I can tell from the Instax film so far, the places that are wet from the splatters actually helps keep the texture down when the halves (of which both are covered in the black goo) are reunited again. One of the most important things I learned – the hard way of course – is that you have to rub down fairly well the main areas of your image, otherwise the blackness of the unburnished texture will slowly take over anything that you held dear. I had a couple of shots I was really happy with, but then watched in horror as the texture got darker and darker until most of the image had been devoured by it. Lesson learned. From there I started rubbing the images down (using a wadded up paper towel) with what you might call a “gradient” rubbing style – firmly on the main image while slowly using a lighter touch as I went outside of the image, creating a textured vignette. It is recommended that you work on some newspaper, paper towels or something because, again, this stuff is a bit of a mess.

In reality all of this is harder to explain than to do, it really is just: take the picture, cut, spray (or… fill in the blank), re-fold, cut, rub, go to the next shot. Fun.

One other thing I tried but haven’t followed up on is scratching around on the black goo (there is a yellowish photo of my noggin where I did some real quick arbitrary squiggles). You can try anything as an instrument of creative destruction: a pin, fork, comb, fingernails, chopsticks, knitting needles, whisk, pasta or any other what-have-yous that are handy – just some ideas…

written by merge


  1. dogma


    This is simply fantastic!!!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  2. plyshbel


    Terribly attractive!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  3. larslau


    Fantastic guide!!! This is the best thing I've read on Lomography since... Well, ever. Good work!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  4. cinzinc


    cool eerie gallery! and nice tip!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  5. -kosmonavt-


    great tip! this is so cool!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  6. stouf


    Genius ! Thanks for all the details, that's very generous of you... And the results are pure pieces of art ! Bravo !

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  7. mandi


    wwwooooow. what a labrat!

    this is so cool... i think i will try instax again :)

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  8. miriel



    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  9. mephisto19


    psycho effect - LOVE IT!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  10. disdis



    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  11. jeepercreeper


    great photos... the orange guy composition has a large member. ;)
    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  12. anarchy


    This is soo freaking awesome!! Great job & thanks for the tip!!! I love it =)))))

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  13. snoop


    awesome! i want to see some more collages now ;)

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  14. grenoouille


    mad! this is fantastic!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  15. kdstevens


    Great! By the way for you old SX-70 shooters out there, Polaroid is making a new version of the film especially for manipulation. Here's a link: http://shopping.icp.(…)ct_id=31827 Chances are good this won't be available for much longer. I ordered a pack and dusted off my leather and brushed stainless steel beauty that looks as good as the day I first saw it over 30 years ago. I will post my results. Maybe get a pair of crappy scissors...

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  16. grenoouille


    wooohooo!!! I've just tried it!!! That tipster is bloody brilliant!!!! Amazing!! I love it!! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  17. ethermoon


    can this be done with a fuji instax film??? :p really nice photos here!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  18. jeepeng


    it's like Grindhouse: Planet Terror!!! COOL!!!! i like this very much!!!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  19. trash-gordon-from-outer-space


    OMG! These are so creepy. I'm not sure if I got entirely what you've done, but maybe I'll just try it.

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  20. holgafot


    WOW! WTF! have you done tool videos? This is amazing stuff, too messed up to read details now but seriously impressed with the wierdness .

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  21. luobodingr


    mate, some of the best stuff I've seen here in ages. Love it. Would love to try this....

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  22. tommynorth


    cool stuff

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  23. sideshow_nob

    Nice!! Its a messy one! but good fun! il be trying this more often! thanks! =]
    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  24. cyanwater


    This is great!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  25. chaweemek


    awesome technique!!! i must try this!!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  26. deniscaplang


    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  27. gvelasco


    I wonder if there's a way to do transfers.

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  28. pawsinart


    Ooo..love the archaic inkiness! Ever tried any mods on the instants using heat?
    about 5 years ago · report as spam
  29. gomi11



    about 3 years ago · report as spam