If you’re thinking about giving your pallet projects more artistic edge or simply want to try something new, this is a great way to do it. Image transfer will give you a lot of possibilities to make a unique design. You probably wonder how to put a picture on wood and I’d like to show you 6 simple ways how to transfer photos to wood. It’ great fun and gives you plenty of opportunities to experiment.
1. Photo Transfer Using a Freezer Paper or Label Paper
Yes, you see that right. In this first tutorial, I want to show you how to use a simple freezer paper or labeling paper for photo transfer to wood.
- A freezer paper/labeling paper.
I hurry to explain what a labeling paper is. It’s simply a back of a sheet of self-adhesive sticker like this
an inkjet printer
- a photo editing software, don’t worry anything fancy :)
- a clear finish to preserve your photo
- In the first step, you need to mirror your photo. This way if there is any text in it, it’ll come out properly. Then you print your photo on a glossy side of the paper. Important! You must be careful not to touch it otherwise it’ll smear and will be ruined.
- Make sure that the place you transfer it on is clean, free from any finish and sanded smooth. Porous surfaces take in the ink better.
- Put your image face down on the wood and please don’t move it. You’ve only got one shot at this otherwise, it will smear. Press it down.
- Once you’ve done that you can remove the paper. The image is ready and dry. You can seal it with some clear spray lacquer.
You can have a look at how it’s done here:
2. A Typography Transfer Using Chalk, Ballpoint Pen and Paint
This method allows you to transfer any kind of graphic, mainly writings on wood or wall etc. It’ s very easy and straightforward. All you need to do this is:
- a digital or printed image
- a piece of chalk, soft pen or a pastel crayon
- a ballpoint pen
The whole process consists of 3 simple steps.
- covering your image with chalk or pastel
- putting it on the desired surface
- tracing the outlines with a ballpoint pen
All that’s left to do is to use a small paintbrush or a pen marker and fill in the contours and voila!
If you need your image blown up you can use a free website tool called Block Posters and then print it on several sheets of paper. Here is a good example of how to do it on a piece of furniture.
3. Photo Transfer Using Mod Podge and Glue
This method allows you to use inkjet prints to be transferred to wood using Mod Podge – a medium used to transfer images. What I found out, is that most people say you can’t use it with inkjet prints but only with the laser ones.
This method that I’ve found on matsutakeblog.blogspot.com shows that you actually can. You can use normal paper or piece of cardstock. All you need is put some Elmer’s glue on it before printing your image. Remember to let it dry first! You don’t want to break your printer :)
The glue should be on the side which you want to print on. After drying is time to print. Remember to mirror your image. When your image is printed put some Mod Podge on your wood surface.
Now you press your image facing down onto the surface. Make sure you don’t move it once it’s stuck to Mod Podge. You can use a credit card or a similar piece of plastic to smooth the surface out and get rid of all air bubbles.
You have to let it dry completely overnight and you’re ready for your next step. Now the fun begins. You can immerse the wooden piece in water or if it’s a large one like a furniture surface etc. you soak it wet with a sponge or use a spray bottle.
When the paper is completely soaked you peel it off gently. You can hold it under running water for the small pieces. Then gently rub the rest of the paper pulp off with your fingers. And that’s it! You have a nice and smooth surface with your image on it.
Images courtesy of matsutakeblog.blogspot.co.uk
4. Photo Transfer Using Acetone or Xylol Xylene
This is a fantastic method you can use on wood, metal, and many other surfaces. I really like it because is extremely easy. I’ve found it on villabarnes.com. It’s another great way to make your pallet projects more unique and exciting.
So what do you need? The simplest way is to buy a blender pen. You can get it in most craft shops or on Amazon. But if it happens that you’re in the middle of a project and your blender pen stops working there is a different solution you can use.
First is old, well-known Acetone. But not the nail polish remover kind unless you have 100% pure acetone one without any additives.
A second way is actually using the solvent found in blender pen which is called Xylol Xylene. If you, for example, have a large image to transfer you can get a big container in hardware stores.
In both cases, you must be careful while using them. They are damaging to the skin, eyes and respiratory system so wear gloves, safety goggles, and face mask and use them in WELL VENTILATED AREA.
Use the solvents in a glass container and only small amounts at a time- they evaporate quickly. You can either dab your empty pen in or use a sponge.
You put your image/ graphic on the surface(remember to mirror it) and apply the acetone or Xylol. You can secure it by using some painters tape.
Try not to overdo it with the solvent because it may cause ink bleed. Several thin layers are better than pouring it over the image.
Next step is to rub the image with the back of a spoon or a bone folder. Apply firm pressure but don’t rush. You don’t want to damage the paper.
Peel off the paper and let the transfer dry. Just to mention this only works with laser printed or copied images.
Images courtesy of villabarnes.com
5. Photo Transfer Using Gel Medium and Mod Podge
I think this is the most popular way of transferring images to wood. It works with black and white or color ones. It’s very similar to Mod Pod and Glue way but instead of glue a gel medium is used and Mod Podge to finish off. All you need is:
- A printed image – laserjet ones are best or xerox copies, for color pictures you can print them on a photo paper(quality of the image is far better than normal paper) and then have it copied in color
- a surface to transfer to
- a gel medium
- a Mod Podge
First, make sure the wood is clean and dry without any finish. Then spread some of the gel medium on it and on the photo itself. Put the photo on the wood facing down and press. Get a credit card or similar tool and get rid off of all air bubbles and excess gel.
Let it dry overnight and then the same way as previously wet the paper and rub it off. The last step is to put some Mod Podge on top to seal it off.
A nice video to show you the steps:
6. Photo Transfer Using an Iron
This is the most, in my opinion, a surprisingly easy way of transferring any color image. All you need is:
- a hot iron
- a laser printed image or
- an image printed on “iron on” paper
Then you have to follow some simple steps:
For iron on the paper follow the steps:
Looking through many tutorials online I’ve found many different uses for Mod Podge for example. Some use it as a sealant and some as an image transferring medium. Same goes for using inkjet and laserjet prints. If you want a more vintage look but only have new wood to work with check my awesome post on How To Make Wood Look Old, Weathered or Distressed.
If you have different experience or method for transferring images to wood I’d like to hear from you. Feel free to comment or drop me an email.
Have a fantastic day!
Kasia is an owner of Wooden Pallet Projects Toolbox. She’s a DIY and upcycling enthusiast. If she’s not painting, sanding or drilling she’s writing about power tools or tips for DIY and pallet projects that make the creative process easier and more fun!