Make Super B-I-G Negatives Without a Darkroom

2013-07-03 1

Learn the easy way to make huge, supersized negatives without any darkroom equipment! Think I’m kidding? Nope! This is a great summer activity that also helps to recycle old magazines. Once you learn the basic skills and purchase a pack of inexpensive solar “blue” print paper, you’ll be singing about the BIG negative blues.

Did you ever wish that you could make big negatives? I mean really BIG negatives! Sure you can buy a sweet medium format Lomo system (e.g., Belair X 6-12) and create impressive 6-x12-cm panoramas. What I’m talking about, however, are huge 5-x7-inch negatives. Again, you’re correct, there are some large format film cameras, too, but most of these are traditionally limited to a measly 4-x5-inch negative. Plus you will need a darkroom for developing these pix. Oh, and you’ll also have to find special cut film developing tanks, along with all of the usual film development chemistry suspects. Ha!

My BIG negative technique doesn’t require any of that stuff.

No darkroom, no chemicals (well, you will need some water), no enlarger. Likewise, you won’t need a scanner, or computer, or any digital thing-a-ma-bob, either. Just a pile of magazines, some clear contact adhesive covering, and a bucket of water. A-ha, see, now I’ve really got your attention. So, without further ado, let’s make some BIG negatives.

Technically, this process is known by many names, but the most common term is “magazine lift.” Basically, a magazine lift pulls the image off of a magazine page and encases it inside a sandwich of clear sticky film. The cost of using this process is negligible, but the rewards of making your own BIG negatives can be huge [please pardon the pun].

How to Make BIG Negative Magazine Lifts: Step 1


  • Magazines
  • Clear Contact Adhesive Covering
  • Scissors
  • Bucket
  • Water


  • 24 hours


  • Easy


  • $5.00

Before you can make magazine lifts, you will need, err, some magazines. The trouble is all magazines are not suited to being used as magazine lifts. Limited circulation magazines (e.g., special-interest publications) have notoriously thick paper that is very poor for making lifts. The ideal magazine lift page is from big circulation, many-paged, thin paper, glossy mags. You know the type, newsstands are filled with them. Just buy a couple issues and test them.

If you don’t like the costly “trail-and-error” method of finding suitable magazines, consider FREE magazines, instead. Real estates offices, visitor centers, and coffee shops are loaded with giveaway copies of magazines that are worthy of experimentation. Once again, avoid the “pulp” newsprint-type paper issues, you won’t get quality results.

Once you’re armed with a stack of magazines, start combing through them looking for suitable imagery. Big photographs, little drawings, fancy text, solid colors, and black and white ads will all work. So try anything and everything. Just cut the artwork out of the magazine and set it aside.

After you’ve reduced your magazine stack to a pile of paper cutouts, it’s time to make the lift. Start by cutting a piece of clear contact adhesive covering that will hold your selected artwork. Remove the paper back carrier sheet from the adhesive covering. Lay the sticky side UP on a flat surface. Now, carefully, set your artwork face down (i.e., the image that you are trying to lift) on the sticky side of the covering. Watch out for hair and dust and also make sure that you don’t make any air bubbles.

By the way, all is not lost if you introduce an air bubble into the adhesive covering. Just take a pin and pop the offending bubble, then use your fingernail to gently squeeze the bubble down into the artwork.

After you’ve adhered your artwork to the contact covering, throw the lifts into a bucket of water and walk away. In less than 24 hours, the paper magazine page should conveniently slide away from the plastic covering. Remove and discard the paper from the bucket and lay the lifts evenly on an absorbent towel for drying.

Once all of your lifts are dry, repeat the above drill without the water bath. In other words, cut a piece of clear contact adhesive covering and carefully set the lift face down (i.e., the former sticky side, where you soaked/peeled/removed the paper) on the sticky side of this new piece of covering. Again, watch for dirt and bubbles and forcefully burnish the two pieces of covering together. You should now have a perfect plastic magazine lift “sandwich.” Cut the final lift to size and shape and move on to Step 2.

How to Make BIG Negative Magazine Lifts: Step 2



  • 15 minutes


  • Easy


  • $6.00

Now, you could stop right here with a wonderful fistful of magazine lifts. Your friends will admire your ingenuity and the lifts make great envelope stuffers with a Lomo Freundschaftskarte. But we’re here to make BIG negatives, remember. And Step 2 is where we convert our magazine lifts into 5-x-7-inch negatives.

While the subject of “making negatives” sounds like an ominous task, the whole procedure couldn’t be made easier than with using Toysmith’s Solar Paper Prints. You can find this exciting “photo” paper at most science gift shops, museums, and online.

These beautiful blue sheets of ordinary-looking paper turn white when exposed to strong sunlight and deep blue when developed. Oh, and by developed, I mean, washing the paper under a stream of running water. Yup, that’s it. No darkroom, no chemistry, no stained fingers. Just slap your magazine lifts on the blue surface-side of the Toysmith paper, lay a piece of glass on top, and carry your BIG negative sandwich outside for full exposure under the bright sun.

In around three to five minutes, the blue paper will begin to turn white. At this point, grab your negative sandwich and run indoors, take the blue paper out of the contact glass frame and wash it gently under a stream of water. For optimal development, slowly and gently rub the blue surface with your free hand. When the white exposed paper has been properly washed (i.e., approximately 1 minute) it will be blue again. WOW! And just like that, your BIG negative has now been completely developed and it should be air dried on a clean towel. Oh, and don’t fret about the color being too light, the blue color will continue to darken over the next couple of hours.

But this is only the beginning. Once you’ve mastered BIG negatives from straight magazine lifts, try combining your film negatives with the lifts for exotic photo-montage compositions. Remember that your film negatives will make a positive solar print, whereas the positive magazine lifts with produce a negative solar print. The possibilities are endless and I can see your mind reeling with great creative ideas. So go for it, but don’t worry if you’re not fully grasping the full potential for this process just yet. I won’t leave you hanging, look for a couple of future articles on other neat DIY applications for Toysmith solar paper prints that will knock your socks off along with your blue suede shoes, too!

written by themindseye on 2013-07-03 #gear #tutorials #medium-format #tutorial #tipster #recycle #darkroom #handicraft #magazine-lifts #big-negatives #contact-adhesive

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