Impossible Lift-Off

Impossible lift-off is a technique that basically gives you the ability of separating the central part of the photo, a transparent foil which contains the image itself, transfer it on a base by your choice and thus creating a completely new medium.

Please note, that you will get the best results with fully developed and fresh photos. If you feel like making a lift-off with old pictures you need to heat them from the black backside for a couple of minutes with a hairdryer and then proceed with the whole lift-off process.


  • lukewarm water
  • suitable receptacle/tray to work in with water
  • scissors
  • soft brush
  • aquarelle paper / glass
  • 10×10 cm glass (optional)


Take the photo and let it fully develop. For starters I suggest you use black & white film because it develops faster but the choice is all yours.



After the photo is fully developed, take the scissors and cut out the central part of the picture by its inner side.



Once you’re done with the cutting put the photo in the water and let it soak for about a minute.



Start separating the black negative backside from the corner. Proceed slowly. Once the negative is fully separated you may gently clean it and save it for later “scan & invert”. If there’s any white paste traces or spots left on the picture clean them off gently with your brush.



Now you need to get rid of the front transparent foil and white gelatin which is hidden between the future lift and aforementioned foil.


You finally have your very own lift. While in the water, lift is quite flexible but it has its limits so try to handle it gently.



And now comes the trickiest part: transferring your lift on a base you have chosen.

The easiest and most comfortable way is to use a 10×10 cm glass, or 10×12 cm for Image/Spectra films, on which you put the lift in a reversed way, as a mirror image, and then place it onto aquarelle paper or any other base you wish. Please make sure you leave a layer of water between the glass and lift, otherwise you won’t be able to separate it later. If the lift is positioned on the glass ideally, gently place it on the base and slowly slide it away. DO NOT lift it! Adjust the lift with your brush and let it dry for about an hour or use hairdryer. The glass lets you place the lift very precisely. The use of glass was introduced to me by Mr. Alan Marcheselli of Polaroiders Italia.


If you don’t have the glass or just don’t feel like using it you can simply put the piece of aquarelle paper in the water and place your transfer directly on it. Paper gets wetter, so make sure you use a heavy one.

You can also create unique picture by placing the lift on a glass from cheap IKEA frame, let it dry and place white background paper behind it.

Feel free to experiment! You can use different shapes of cutting, color the lift itself, base or background and also try different types of bases.