How To: Bleaching Impossible Project Negatives

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Today on the blog, we have a great little How To post for you. Marcelo Yáñez, one of our Artist Spotlight’s from last year, has come up with the steps to recover an Impossible Project color negative.
Why is this cool you ask?

Well for starters, we all know about doing emulsion lifts. Cut, peel, separate, and toss the back in the trash. Once you begin the process of doing the lift, there are things that could possibly go wrong, yielding undesired results. Thankfully, you scanned the original print and have a copy of your beautiful image. But, what if you didn’t? Or, what if you just want a cool looking version of the original. Now you can stop trashing the original images backing and recover it. We also made a how to video on our handy Youtube channel, that video is linked at the bottom of this post. I’ll turn it over to Marcelo now. Please be sure to check out more work from Marcelo and follow him on his Flickr and Twitter feeds.

 

In the midst of the hoopla over recovering a negative from the B&W film, I decided to attempt at recovering the color negative from the new PX70. Considering that it was possible with FP100c and the new PX600/PX100 as Francisco has shown, might as well try and do it with PX70 Color. I started by bleaching the black back of the film — just like FP100c — and a black goop started to come off. I kept on scrubbing and scrubbing, with more black paint coming off over time, but I never reached a clear, shiny surface that would allow light to come through. This isn’t like FP100c — the black back is not just a chemical put over, but the plastic itself that the negative is made out of is black, and it’s not possible to get a transparent back.

I washed off the left-over bleach from the back, and started rubbing away at the titanium dioxide in the surface of the film, and as it started to come off, residue was left behind, but a faint image was present — however, nothing to work with… Just for shits and giggles, I sprayed bleach on the surface of the film, and immediately (too rapidly I would say) a clear negative began to emerge. I washed off the bleach with water, and I could see the image — something I certainly could work with. I put more bleach, and the negative starting changing colors. I sprayed some more and I reached yet another color. I sprayed some more, and my image completely disintegrated — all that was left was a thin piece of plastic. So, there are three color layers to the film before the negative is completely gone: a yellow layer (which is inverted to cyan), a greenish layer (which is inverted to a yellow/rose color), and a final light blue layer (which is inverted to a magenta).

While Skyping with Francisco, I reported my results, and via webcam I tried the bleaching with a different negative (two days old and dry) — spraying the clorox in pure concentrate onto the negative, and scanning after I saw each layer disappear, stopping the development after each layer with a wash under tap water, and then scanning. The results were messy, and the clorox was attacking things too quickly and unevenly. However, an image was showing up, and when zoomed in on Photoshop, it had a very high amount of detail — detail that wasn’t present in the positive.

first bleach

I took an image with my SX70 — let it sit for an hour and peeled the negative. I created a dilution of bleach of 1+35 in a plastic cup with enough quantity to submerge the negative fully. Do not use a tray — the black back of the film is going to come off, and the chemical will go on top of your negative and hurt the negative — instead use the cup and submerge the negative upright. I attached the negative to a set of lockable tweezers, and dunked it in the diluted bleach for a minute, sometimes pulling it out of the cup for a couple seconds to look at it. As I saw more color emerge, I soaked it in a tray of water, and brushed it lightly with a watercolor brush — the negative is really fragile so be careful! After a couple seconds of brushwork, I submerged it more in the bleach, repeated the water wash, back in the bleach until I could finally see that clean yellowy texture in the negative I was aiming for. Soaked it in water, and put it on the scanner.

Repeated the same thing with the next layer, but this time it took a bit longer — around 4 minutes. Scanned again, inverted it in Photoshop, adjusted the levels and lighting slightly, and there you get your clean negative. You could bleach one more layer, and you’ll get the red.

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How to in steps:

Things needed: Bleach, water, a soft, flat watercolor brush, a cup, tweezers, a small plastic tray, and an SX70 color image.

1. Peel you’re negative from your positive.

2. Wash off the titanium dioxide with warm running water, rubbing it carefully with your finger until you get most of it off.

3. Create your bleach dilution in the plastic cup — with a dilution around 1+35 made using regular bleach from the supermarket (around 8% sodium hydrochloride)

4. Grab your negative with the tweezers and submerge it in the bleach. Do not use a tray — the black back of the film is going to start coming off, and the chemical will go on top of your negative and hurt the negative — instead use the cup and submerge the negative upright.

5. Look at the negative after a thirty seconds or so, move it into the water tray, and take your watercolor brush, and lightly pass the brush along the negative, slowly removing the color layer. Re-submerge the negative in the bleach for another thirty seconds or so (you can take it out to look at the progress), and pass it back into the water tray, and repeat the brush work until you see the negative emerging. Wash your negative off with the water in the tray to stop the bleach development.

6. Repeat step 5 for each color layer but using less time. Instead of one full minute, you might go thirty seconds total. From my experience, the second layer is the most accurate in color.

7. Wash your negative off, and allow to dry in a dust free environment. Enjoy!

 

Here are a few examples and some observations we made while testing. I will say up front, some images scan better than others. Images that are darker to begin with seem to work best. Shadows come to life and highlights are pleasant. Skin tones and older film stock are harder to work with as well.

 

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Impossible Project PX70 (pre CP) had very bad crystallization.  This did not scan well and was very hard to color correct. But, converted to black and white, I think the results have a unique look.

 

 

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Impossible Project PX70 (new formulation) Scanned very well and color corrected easy. Has a “vintage” look, with tons of detail.

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Impossible Project PX70 CP. Scanned very well and color corrected easy. The bleached negative is much sharper than the original.

We hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. If you have, please let Marcelo know in the comment section below. We look forward to seeing your results! Please share on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #snapitseeit or, up load to the Flickr group.

Comments

  1. Meredith says:

    Thanks so much for this video tutorial Marcelo. I love that we now have another way to preserve the images we love :)

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