Photo-transfers can be a fun and alternative way to print your photographs on different surfaces. Today, I'm going to talk about photo-transfers to the surfaces of wood, canvas, and glass, and how the same process with different textured materials affects the finish printed image.
First, lets start with the process of photo-transfers for those of you who are unfamiliar...
You can start by either choosing the materials that you would like to print on, or by choosing the photos you would like to print and matching up the right materials with the right photo. I used a piece of craft-wood, canvas, and glass candle holders for the examples. Keep in mind that surfaces that are light in color will work better to show image detail and contrast. Other supplies that you need include: laser prints of photographs you want to use (they must be laser prints and not ink-jet or the process won't work), gel medium (can be found in the acrylic paint section at any craft store), a washcloth or towel, a paintbrush, and Mod Podge (you can use matte or glossy depending on your personal preference- I used matte) to seal your final image.
Once you know the measurements of the surfaces you want to print on, print your images accordingly. Keep in mind; since this is a direct contact transfer, you need to print the image backwards so it will transfer properly. Use thin paper; regular cheap printer paper will work just fine.
When you have your image cut and ready, apply with your paintbrush, a thin layer of gel medium to the surface. Then adhere the image to the wood, glass, or canvas. Make sure there are no bubbles in the surface of the paper. I used an old gift card to flatten the paper out. Let your image transfer dry for 8 hours.
Once the gel medium has set, you will use a washcloth or small towel to soak the surface of the paper. Do not drench the paper, but do make sure the whole image is wet.
Slowly peel the white paper back by rolling your fingers back and forth on the paper. This is the most challenging and time-consuming part of the project. Don’t rub too hard or you will lose parts of your image. If you let the paper dry just a bit, it is easier to see the white paper flakes that need to be rolled away. Keep carefully rolling until these flakes are gone.
If you want a more distressed look, use the towel to remove the thin layer of paper and it will rub more of your image off. I did this with the votive candle holder and an old black and white family photo.
Once you have removed all the white paper flakes, you are left with your final transferred image! Lastly, seal the image with a protecting coat of Mod Podge.
I found that the images were changed by the transfer onto the different surfaces. Images that are higher in contrast look better on glass. Since the background is transparent and adds no tone, it is best to use an image with more defined tones and shapes. The glass is very smooth and therefore it was also very difficult to make sure that when I was rubbing the paper fibers, that I was not rubbing away important parts of the image also.
The canvas was a very clean transfer but was also very difficult to make sure I wasn't rubbing off more paper than I should have. There wasn't a lot of color loss or changes to the image after transferring to canvas.
With the wood, I really like how the background adds a mid-tone to the print. The grain of the wood will affect the image, so make sure you choose an image that will be complimented by such a surface. The texture may also hold on to the paper flecks a bit tighter. Because of this, I think it looks very rustic and natural so the subject matter of the image should also be taken into consideration. I found that my favorite surface to work with to get the best-looking print was the wood.
With all of the surfaces there is a fine line between taking off too much image, and not taking off enough paper. In either case, keep in mind that your transferred images will have a unique quality to them , and will not look like they were printed directly on those materials.
- Kelly Latos