Liquid Light is probably one of the coolest inventions in photographic history. It basically allows you to print photographs onto anything and everything using standard darkroom procedures. You can print on wood, metal, glass, walls, even eggs! (Don't worry, if you don't know how to print in a darkroom, I've included instructions in step 4).

  • Object to print on
  • Pre-existing or recently proccessed black and white negative
  • Oil-based polyurethane varnish
  • Brush, sponge, finger...anything to coat your object with Liquid Light
  • Pot or bowl of warm/hot water (or a microwave)
  • Darkroom
  • Patience
Darkroom Equipment:
  • Darkroom with safelight
  • Enlarger (or projector for larger objects)
  • Developing chemicals, (developer, fixer, stopbath if needed)
  • Tongs or gloves
  • Brush or sponge, (other than the one listed above for the emulsion)
  • Access to a sink
  • 3 trays for chemicals
  • Music to calm your nerves (my personal preference - A Perfect Circle: Emotive or Thirteenth Step)

FUN FACT: The largest photograph in the world was created with Liquid Light in 2007. "The Great Picture" took 9 months to create and required 6 artists and 400 volunteers. The negative image is 3,375 square feet and took up most of an aircraft hanger in southern California where it was shot. The entire airplane hanger was made into a pinhole camera, and was sanctioned by the Guinness Book of Records as the World's Largest Camera. 80 quarts of Liquid Light were used. (For more info: The Great Picture).

**Note: The top three photographs were taken and printed by myself. Please excuse my censoring, some of my Liquid Light experiments involved nude photographs. (Model release contracts were used, as they should be for any shoot involving models! Especially nudes!!)

Step 1: Preparing the Surface

Before using Liquid Light emulsion, you must first figure out what you're going to print it on and prepare the surface with a pre-coat. In my particular case, I chose a light wood, watercolor paper, and of course a butcher knife (just for fun).

Generally, paper and fabric do not need a pre-coat because they are porous enough to allow the emulsion to stick properly, (be sure to wash your fabric and if you're printing onto raw artists' canvas, it should be washed and dried as well before applying emulsion). For other materials, such as wood and metal, an oil-based pre-coat, like polyurethane varnish, should be used for good adhesion as well as to prevent discoloration.

Do not use water based coatings, acrylic gesso, aerosol sprays, satin or matte varnishes, oil paints, damar varnish lacquer, or shellac, as they may be softened by the chemicals used in the darkroom.

For Glass and glazed ceramics, polyurethane can also be used, but for better results, a gelatin pre-coat or traditional photographic "subbing" solution will help fuse the Liquid Light to the surface.

The wood and butcher knife I used were both coated with a glossy polyurethane varnish, but as you can see on the butcher knife, some of it was chipped off before the printing process. To prevent this from happening, apply the coating in an enclosed area away from wind and allow it to dry completely before applying the emulsion. (I had a cover for the knife and made the mistake of putting it back on before the varnish had dried). :(
<p>have you ever tried printing over uneven surfaces? I'll try to use a Ceramic Skull and pour the gelatin and then expose, will it work?</p>
<p>Hello, can I print on Merino Wool? Will the chemicals not destroy the fabric? Thank you</p>
<p>Hello Rayya, printing on a fabric such as wool may be a bit tricky if its not stretched. This is because the Silver Gelatin emulsion in the &quot;liquid light&quot; may flake off / not stay in tact. How ever printing on canvas and other surfaces that can hold its shape are more effective in terms of outcome. Good luck!</p>
Developing film to A Perfect Circle... nice.
Very interesting 'ible! I'm a writer, not a photographer, but this could easily turn up in one of my books, though Dick Francis has already used something like it in a novel of his published many years ago.
Sounds awesome! When it's done, you should send me the title so I can find it and read it. :)
Thanks for sharing this useful info.

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Bio: Want/need to learn photography from a professional? That's what I'm here for. However, I'm bad at this, "talking about me," stuff ... More »
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