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*All images and words copyright of Diane Dobson-Barton dba as Barton Studio 2002-2007

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Liquid Emulsion

Materials needed
Liquid Light
Index cards – 3x5
Brush(s) for application
Hot Water at least 104 degrees F
Hair Dryer with cool setting

Emulsion is the light sensitive material used in various photographic methods, and can be found on the surface of all photographic paper. You can buy it in liquid form to coat just about any item you can think of to fit your creative needs. The most commonly known brand is 'Liquid Light'. It is premixed, and can not be used in sunlight. Be sure to read all safety information included with the product and of course take necessary safety precautions.

1. Choose a black and white negative to use in the enlarger. Be aware that some detail in the final image may be lost. So it would be best to choose a negative with a wide range of value.
2. Liquid light will need to be warmed before it can be spread. The best way to do this is to place the bottle in the hot water. Gently shake the bottle as its contents warm.
3. Set up the typical darkroom chemicals of develop, stop, fixer, hypo and/or water.
4. If your liquid emulsion does not come with an antifogging agent skip to number 6. With safe light on test the liquid emulsion for fogging. To do so spread approximately 1 tablespoon onto a 3x5 index card. Dry the emulsion with a hair dryer on a cool setting. Develop the index card without exposing it to any light beyond the safe light.
5. Examine the index card for any grey tones. If the emulsion has no grey areas it is alright to go ahead to the next step. If not you will need to add 20 drops of antifogging agent to each 8 oz. of develop. When you put up your chemicals be sure to put the developer in a separate container from the normal developer, and label it accordingly.
6. With the negative in the enlarger focus on the actual surface you plan to print the image on.
7. Mark the position of the item with tape or something else so you will be able to reposition it correctly.
8. Coat a small sample piece of the same surface as the item you will use for the finished project. Dry as you did the index card.
9. Set the f-stop down to f/5.6 or one stop more open then the image would print on paper. Do a tests strip with the sample, making 10 second exposures.
10. Develop it as you normally would.
11. Pour a small amount of the liquid light on the final projects surface. Spread it evenly with a clean warm brush. Be sure to use a thin even layer, dry the emulsion with the hair dryer on a cool setting.
12. From examining the test strip determine the correct exposure and expose your final project accordingly.
13. Develop the image normally.
14. Wash the item for 10 minutes, nonporous for one hour. Do NOT allow the stream of water to hit the emulsion or you could damage it. Set aside an air dry it on a flat surface.


To make the edges even use masking tape to block off areas before spreading the emulsion. The final rinse will most likely loosen the tape, leaving it with nice clean edges.

If you put the emulsion on too thick it will crack. If after pouring the emulsion from the bottle it thickens, add up to 20 percent warm water.

Wipe off the mouth of the bottle and brush after each use, to prevent cross contamination of exposed and unexposed emulsion.

With odd shaped objects you may want to tape a piece of white paper onto the surface of the easel, and then draw around the object. It will help ensure correct positioning of the item during exposure