Acrylic Gel Lift & Transfer

Emulsion transfers and lifts have deep roots in photography's history with examples as far back as Frederick Scott Archer and his intent to transfer Wet Plate Collodion images to other surfaces, such as paper. More recent examples include Polaroid emulsion lifts, acrylic gel lifts and other digital art transfer techniques such as DASS (Digital Art Studio Seminar), Super Sauce and many others.

The acrylic gel lift is a relatively new process compared to the age of transfers lift processes. I have devised personal working methods and developed a series of variations using acrylic gel to make both transfers and lifts. The most commonly used gel transfer technique is done by coating a substrate with gel and placing an inkjet print onto it. After letting it dry, the paper is then removed with the use of water and very little controld and little to no aesthetic manipulation. The methods I include in some tutorials and writing offer a full spectrum of control and creative variation to integrate into the photograph or other visual art.

An Acrylic Gel lift has similar steps to a transfer, but it is closer in nature to that of a polaroid emulsion lift. Acrylic gel is used to paint several thin and alternating layers into the inkjet print, which bonds with the ink. Once dry you remove the paper backing by soaking the print in water, and after removing it from the water and drying it (or slightly damp), it becomes a thin and delicate skin. This skin (ink intact) can then be stretched, folded, pinched, ripped, burnt or any number of techniques while applying it to a new substrate giving the artistmore control over the aesthetic outcome.

These lifts in particular have two primary versions. One I refer to as Acrylic Side Up, which allows paper to be left behind underneath to retain highlights. The second is referred to as Acrylic Side Down, which paper can be left behind to act as a textural veil over specific parts on top of the ink and gel layers. It all comes down to picking the process and variation that best supports your work and more importantly your concept.

These instructional how-to's can be found at AlternativePhotography.com and will be included in my book Alternative Photographic Processes: Crafting Handmade Imagery, published by Focal Press with a release date of March 2015. You can find other great information on transfers, lift processes and a number of other processes in The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes by Christopher James, and Jill Enfield's Guide to Photographic Alternative Processes among others. Be sure to also check out Books by other Focal Press authors including Tom Persinger and Robert Hirsch.

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