Some of you may or may not know what Polaroid transfers are. Those that have done actual transfers may scream blasphemy! while those who haven't may rejoice in finding a decent tutorial on how to replicate the effect.

Real Polaroid transfers provide a very unique effect, most notably around the edges of the photo. As Polaroid film stock either disappears or stops being produced entirely methods like this will be the only way to duplicate the effect.

I was recently working on a shoot where the editing was leading me down a path that made the photo look a little "grungy" and I thought a polaroid border would suit it well. I knew at one time there was some nice soul who had posted up a psd template that was an actual scan of a blank polaroid transfer so I started looking. After 2hrs and many stock photo sites that were selling exactly what I was looking for I decided what kind of photographer/graphic designer/photoshop fiend would I be if I simply purchased this file. Luckily I stumbed across a post that mentioned using ink and some watercolour paper, that's all I needed to read and I was off to find the box with my drawing stuff.

This process is quite simple, there are probably a multitude of ways to do this and I encourage you to tailor this process to your own style.


  • 1 or more sheets of watercolour paper - others may work but watercolour paper has a nice texture
  • Ink of some sort. I used fountain pen ink but you could probably use all sorts of other stuff like food colouring or maybe even fabric dye just make sure it is dark. Get creative. It doesn't have to be black, we can fix that in photoshop.
  • 1 or more popsicle sticks - again other stuff could work, just get someting with a flat edge that you can use to transfer the ink.
  • Scanner - If you don't have one see if you can scan documents to file using the copier at work. If all else fails I don't think Office Depot or Staples charge that much for this service.
  • Image editing software that supports layers. Photoshop is preferred but GIMP (which is free) will work too. This tutorial however will be citing photoshop tools/commands only.

Step 1: Prepare Your Work Surface

Prepare your work surface. Lay down some newspaper so you don't get ink on your table. It may also be a good idea to wear some old clothes just in case you splatter yourself.
Thank you for an excellent instructable for making your own edge treatments, way cool!
PS. Going to try this and other materials and techniques to make up some of my own. You've given me some awesome ideas to run and play with! We should discuss luminosity masking sometime.
If you make the edge a mask, there will be no edge points that extend since only the masked area will show.
Save as layers, you avoid flattening the image, allowing you to reuse or adjust the image components again at a later time.
Another great option at this point would to select the resulting shape (the black color in this case) and create a selection. You can use that alone to create a layer mask, or save that selection as a shape. You can then reuse it and or apply it to images as a mask allowing you to perform layer effects or other non-destructive operations to the image(s).
PS. Using the method I'm describing you could simply fill the center area. The only parts of the image displayed would be those allowed opacity via the mask.
I would suggest separating your RGB scan into it's three component layers and selecting one of the resulting layers, usually the green layer. (It usually has the most luminosity information.) Or mixing the resulting three grayscale images via differing additive or subtractive modes. This will give much more control over intricate subtleties you may discover or wish to capitalize on. <br> <br>The latter is also the &quot;proper&quot; way to convert a color image to something with the tonal range and detail captured by BW photography using Black and White film. Dumping the color information is provably not the same by simply comparing resulting histograms. It's more time consuming and something not automatable, but gives vastly superior results. Rich tones and detail not possible with simple Convert to B/W.
&nbsp;I am, admittedly, not familiar with Polaroid transfer techniques. &nbsp;I had to read up on Wikipedia to see what they are. &nbsp;Seem to me that it's a method of&nbsp;transferring&nbsp;the image from the physical film to another media (i.e. paper, textiles,&nbsp;ceramics, etc.)?<br /> <br /> If so, and again please forgive my ignorance, is this what you do with the end product in this ible? &nbsp;<br /> <br /> Also, couldn't a Photoshop brush be created that could create the border effect digitally (thus saving a few steps)? &nbsp;Again I'm a newb at photography and Photoshop but it's a growing interest of mine.<br />
The best result would be to make the brush effectively a mask from a vector, and keep it as a vector so it can scale losslessly. I've made and used some rather remarkable &quot;brushes&quot; that were vector based.
Half of the point of this instructable was just to show people what Polaroid Transfers look like. You are correct it was (is) a method of transferring an image to another media, in the process a very unique and identifiable effect is achieved. This effect is desirable by some but as the digital age started taking over this process became impossible to do in the traditional method.<br /> <br /> The end product of this instructable is a &quot;border&quot; that you can use to make your photos look as if they were a polaroid transfer.<br /> <br /> A Photoshop brush would be a possiblilty but generally brushes are a lower resolution pattern that repeats, this would not really yield the quality of result this instructable hopes to achieve.&nbsp; My earlier attempts at faking this effect were similar to what you suggest, I used about 15 different &quot;grunge&quot; style brushes to essentially draw the border I wanted. In the end the limitation was still the resolution of the pattern the brush used, to make it as large as I needed it the brush's output was blurry. <br /> <br /> I hope my explanation makes sense, if not feel free to ask more questions so I can try to clarify it further.<br /> <br /> As for your interest Photoshop you're in luck, there is a plethora of information out there on this program (entire college programs dedicated to it) but all this information can also be overwhelming.<br /> <br /> I've spent years working in Photoshop and still learn new things everyday, my advice is to play around and learn what each of the tools does, learn how the different blend methods work and just gain general experience with the software. There are always more than one way to do something in Photoshop, however one method is often much better than others and that's what takes time to figure out. Last year I completely changed the way I did portrait retouching after a colleague pointed out they way he accomplished the same things I was doing but his method was more consise and non-destructive (ie permanent). <br /> <br /> This post is getting long so I'll stop now ;)<br /> <br /> Let me know if you have any more questions.<br /> <br /> <br />
Thank you so much for the clarification! &nbsp;Makes much more sense now. &nbsp;Especially the reasoning for manually creating the border. &nbsp;I can now understand why a grunge brush wouldn't work. &nbsp;:)<br /> <br /> Another question I have is whether or not you've ever used images, created via this technique, for printing on physical items (i.e. CafePress type output) or other formats (like printing to ceramic tiles for mosaics or similar)? &nbsp;Just a&nbsp;curiosity&nbsp;question to know how they turned out in the end. &nbsp;;)<br /> <br /> I should clarify that I'm a newb to photography. &nbsp;For Photoshop I'm somewhere in the grey area between beginner and upper-level intermediate. &nbsp;LOL &nbsp;I frequent a Photoshop Contest forum and have a couple 2nd and 3rd place finishes. &nbsp;I'm learning all the time! &nbsp;:D<br /> <br /> Thanks again for the clarification and info! &nbsp;It's a great tip and technique!<br />
Glad to help. The only media other than regular photographic paper that I've used this on was cotton, I printed images out on iron on transfers and then applied it to white cotton which I stretched over a wooden frame. I liked how it turned out in the end.<br /> <br /> As for being a newbie, well everyone's gotta start somewhere right ;) I always laugh when people state their skill level in photoshop, I often see people claiming to be Photoshop wizards just because they learnt how to do a little masking and compositing (often with crappy results lol). I'd say after 8-9 years of using it I'd probably be classed as an advanced user however I still have plenty to learn. Just when you start to get cocky you find someone that is lightyears ahead of you ;)<br /> <br /> Often the best Photoshop work goes unnoticed because it doesn't look out of place (unless you're going for the surreal like this http://photoshopcontest.com/view-entry/87388/venus.html )<br /> <br /> Best of luck and thanks for the comments.
&nbsp;HA! &nbsp;I know that chop! &nbsp;Joe did that! &nbsp;I've been a member at PSC since October 2003. &nbsp;:)<br /> <br /> You wouldn't happen to be a PSC alum would you? &nbsp;;)<br />
Instead of pasting the photo into the layer, use the Place command under the File menu. This insets the inserted image, giving you handles (as in Free-Transform) allowing you to scale that image. It also puts that image on a separate layer, and makes it a Smart Object. Use the Save As command and keep a copy as a PSD. When reopening the file to use another background image, select the layer the background image is on, go to Layer &gt; Smart Object &gt; Replace and then choose a new file to insert into the old space. Use the Save As menu to do this over and over.<br><br>*IF* you want to erase part of the new background image (to trim it to fit) you will need to rasterize it first (its a Smart Object, and therefore unable to be erased as such) by going to Layer &gt; Smart Object &gt; Rasterize
Sorry I didn't see this earlier.... &quot;Liquid Rescale&quot; (e.g., the free gimp plug-in) will do a much nicer job of scaling your border, <em>especially if you want to change the aspect ratio</em>. It tries to remove horizontal/vertical &quot;walks&quot; through the image in which the information lost is minimal -- which means it will preserve the nice texturing detail better.
&nbsp;So on a side note, Polaroid has just announced that they will start making the instant film again. &nbsp;So if you missed your chance to do this for real you should have another shot starting in 2010.
its 2011<br>
I am so pleased to read that Polaroid will make the film again. I am looking for #669. Any more info and dates about all of this ? Thanx.
You're absolutely correct, <a href="http://www.the-impossible-project.com/">www.the-impossible-project.com/</a> just announced this in a press conference Oct 13th. That's one thing I love about the internet, if you get enough people shouting loudly enough you can actually accomplish stuff like this. It also worked to bring Old Dutch Mexican Chili Potato Chips back (might be a Canadian only thing ;). <br />
uh yeah its canadian lol<br /> <br />
I knew that Ketchup chips was a Canadian thing so I wasn't sure about the Mexican Chili Chips ;) I don't know if&nbsp; the Old Dutch brand is even available south of the border lol<br />
I've eaten Old Dutch beefore though I could have sworn. (I was in America when I ate it.<br />
&nbsp;Old Dutch is sold extensively in Wisconsin. &nbsp;Can't speak for other states though. &nbsp;:)
lol ur hawt<br />
No scanner? Photograph the image with your digital camera and use that.<br /> <br /> I make various backgrounds and I find that photographing them with my digital camera gives as good results as scanning.<br /> <br /> I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on that.<br /> <br /> <br />
Kevin is correct that a scanner is definitely prefferred and is needed if you're wanting anything larger than say a 5x7 or 8x10. If the resolution is too low then your border will appear less sharp than your image and will detract from your overall image rather than enhance it.<br /> <br /> As you see from <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Quick-amp-Simple-Way-To-Digitize-Old-Slides/">my instructable on digitizing slides the quick and dirty way</a> I'm all for using a camera in place of a scanner when you need speed over quality.<br /> <br /> @ Kevin, the Bayer vs Foveon sensor debate, its like the whole HD DVD vs Blu-ray war. Each have its own pros and cons, Bayer is a more mature format with more generations backing it, Foveon technology is relatively new generation wise but is definitely making leaps and bounds. I think we'll soon hit a point (and we already are with some cameras) where adding more mega pixels actually reduces the quality of the image (too many photosites per sq in on a sensor) and the focus will shift towards improving other aspects of the sensors. Just my 2&cent; ;)<br /> <br /> Thanks for the comments everyone!<br />
Any decent scanner will have far more detail than a digital photo of something this textured. Most DSLRs use a Bayer sensor (the exception being the Foveon&nbsp; sensor used by Sigma). Bayer sensors tend to blur fine detail. Photographing might be OK&nbsp;if you are doing it for fun or small prints.&nbsp;But pros will want to scan in order to get every detail. <br />
was your model in a microsoft 7 ad?
I'm not sure, its possible, it appears that she did have some shots lately that have her sitting infront of a laptop or something. If you see the ad and can provide a link that'd be really cool.<br />
&nbsp;nice job, also thanks for the download, love the open source spirit! sweet!
who is that<br /> not you right<br />
If you're referring to the lovely lady in the photo you are correct that is not me ;)<br /> <br /> She is a model from Red Deer Alberta, here is her modelling portfolio on Model Mayhem http://www.modelmayhem.com/232393<br />
Nice work, but is anyone else seeing big blue rectangles with PS in white type in place of some images? They seem to be files named yada-yada.svg.png My browser (Firefox latest.x) usually works fine with .png so maybe something else is up?
&nbsp;Yeah i was seeing the same thing i was thinking that it errored loading so i refreshed and it stayed the same so i figured it was just like that.
LOL well in this instructable at least you're seeing the right thing ;) I didn't have any images for those steps and rather than leave them blank I figured I'd at least throw the photoshop logo in. If you have any questions for any of those steps (or you think its too confusing without supporting images) let me know and I'd be glad to answer them. Cheers, James

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Bio: Those who know me know that I've always got some project on the go at all times. My interests are varied enough that I ... More »
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