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Emulsion lift-off technique

A few years ago, it was discovered you could separate the emulsion layer of instant print films from their base by immersing the print in a specially prepared solution. The soft, thin emulsion could then be transferred or repositioned onto another paper base like a fine art textured paper. Because the emulsion is completely malleable it's possible to create interesting distortions and folds. Photoshop may lack the freeform distortion tools found in Live Picture or Kai's Goo, but the power is there to create interesting effects when you use a combination of distortion filters like Shear, Displace and Wave. The latter has one of the most complex and bewildering dialogue boxes to be found in Photoshop. The settings used here will have a very different effect on images that are not the exact same size, if these don't work at first, try varying the scale sliders.

1) Open the image, set the background colour to white and enlarge the canvas size to allow enough room for the following distortions..
2) Apply the Distort Shear filter. Add points to the shear line in the dialogue box and drag to define the curve distortion along the vertical axis.


3) The shear filter distorts the vertical plane only, so you'll have to rotate the image 90 degrees, repeat the process with a different shear if you like and then rotate the image back again.

4) Now enhance the distortion with the Distort Wave filter. You can use the triangle or sine wave with the settings shown here, but as I said earlier, more than likely you'll have to experiment with the various controls, though I would recommend a low number of generators. The scale settings magnify the effect, so if you create a trial image at low resolution, increase the scale setting when repeating at higher resolutions.


5) I created a texture channel which could also double as a displacement map. Create a new channel, fill with the Filter Render Texture fill filter and select a texture like 'driven snow' from the Textures for Lighting effects on the Adobe Photoshop CD ROM. I manipulated this texture with a combination of Scale (enlarge), Gaussian blur, Threshold, motion blur, levels, more Gaussian blur and filled the border with black.

6) Load the texture channel as a selection and Adjust Levels, darkening the selected areas - adding a rippled texture. This is optional, but If you want, convert the new channel mask into a separate grayscale Photoshop image and use this as a displacement map. Have the main image open only, choose Filter Distort Displace, (keep the displacements to around 5 pixels) and open the saved map.

Final image

I copied the background layer and loaded a rough paper texture into a new channel. I applied Lighting effects to the new layer,using the paper texture channel as a texture map. The new layer was blended at 25% in Normal mode with the original.

Copyright: Martin Evening 1997


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