Experimental Techniques: Physical Alteration Of Prints With Bleach


Prints are a wonderful treasures to collect. They are a memento we can physically share with friends. There is a joy in sharing a photographic moment, looking at prints with friends around a table.

Many end up in a box, and we almost forget about them. The lucky one ends up on a wall. But what to do if there are no more walls in your home to cover and you are piling up prints from the LomoLab?

Photo by Melissa Peritore . Physicals alteration by Elisa Parrino

We get experimental! Have you heard about bleaching prints? Well, we have a cool tip for you today to get funky results that will give new life to your photos.

What You Need

In the spirit of analogue reuse, we will rehash those prints lost in some drawers. You will also need:

  • A cleaning product containing bleach
  • Gloves
  • Water
  • Nail polish or varnish
  • Tipp-ex
  • Trays
Step 1 paint, step 2 bleach, step 3 wash

To be able to destroy our prints and make something completely new we need a few ingredients that are easy to find in any store. Or perhaps you have them available at home.

Set your working station in a properly ventilated room. All of these ingredients are dangerous and need to be handled with care. Make sure to wear gloves; bleach is a toxic substance for our skin. If you have a mask, also cover your nose, nail polish and varnish are intoxicating if you spend a long time around them.


Bleach will dissolve the layers of imprinted colors on your photos. The amount of liquid used and the concentration levels, will determine the effect of fading. If you want to create some texture and leave visible traces, you can use nail polish to locally cover and protect a portion of the image.

Photo by Melissa Peritore . Physicals alteration by Elisa Parrino

Transparent nail polish will allow you to see the original image underneath. Colored nail polish will add a layer of vibrancy. Keep in mind that bleach will eat away all that is on the paper. If you want to be more selective with your bleaching, use a Cotton Swab or a brush to work on the designated area.

The pure bleach will rapidly eat all the ink away. To obtain a more subtle fading, dilute with water as much as you wish. Once the bleach is dissolving the image, you must act fast as the solution will go through the layers at a fast speed.

Photo by Melissa Peritore . Physicals alteration by Elisa Parrino

As it is fast dissolving in front of your eye, all the colors will leave the print and the last layer to melt from the paper is the red/orange, granting this bright predominant tint. Wash with water and let it dry. Make sure you properly clean every drop of bleach as its action will keep on going otherwise.

This tipster is really a hands on creative work where we draw and create new textures as we paint with colors. Let your imagination run wild, and don't be afraid to experiment with different tools and resistant substances that can withstand the action of the bleach. It is a wonderful process to go through your archive and give a new life to your photos.

Are you an experimental photographer? Have you ever worked with alternative techniques? Share your work with us on our community.

written by eparrino on 2022-10-18 #tutorials #videos #experimental-photography #alternative-techniques #bleach-prints


  1. guypinhas
    guypinhas ·

    Thanks for this! Check out Lillian Bassman's work with bleach.

  2. eparrino
    eparrino ·

    @guypinhas Thanks for the tip! She is absolutely brilliant!

  3. guypinhas
    guypinhas ·

    @eparrino Glad you like :)

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