If you’re thinking about giving your upcycling projects more artistic edge or simply want to try something new, this is a great way to do it. Image transfer to wood or other surfaces will give you a lot of possibilities to make a unique design.
You probably wonder how to put photos on wood and I’d like to show you 6 simple ways how to transfer photos to wood and have great results. It’s great fun and gives you plenty of opportunities to experiment.
Learn how to transfer photos to wood with these methods below:
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/wax paper
I hurry to explain what a labeling paper is. It’s simply a back of a sheet of self-adhesive sticker
- an inkjet printer
- A photo editing software, don’t worry, anything fancy :)
- A clear finish like Mod podge to preserve your photo
Step by step method
- In the first step, you need to mirror your photo. This way, you’ll make sure that it’ll come out properly if there is any text in it. 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 wood surface you transfer the photo on is clean, free from any finish, and sanded smooth. Porous surfaces take in the ink better. A light color piece of wood works best here.
- Put your photo face down onto the wood and please don’t move it. You’ve only got one shot at this otherwise, it will smear. Press it down. You can use a bit of thin stiff plastic to smooth it out gently.
- Once you’ve done that you can remove the paper from the wood. The photo is ready and dry. No need to wait for 24 hours for it to be ready, yay! You can seal it with some clear spray lacquer or a layer of mod podge.
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 type of graphic/photo, mainly writings onto wood or wall, etc. It’s very easy and straightforward although the most time consuming, in my opinion. All you need to do this is:
- digital photo files or photos printed on a regular printer paper
- a piece of chalk, soft pen, or a pastel crayon
- a ballpoint pen
The whole process consists of 3 simple steps.
- Covering your photos with chalk or pastel
- Putting the photo/graphic onto wood, wall, or furniture
- Tracing the outlines of the photo/graphic with a ballpoint pen to transfer
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 photo blown up, you can use a free website tool called Block Posters and then print it on several sheets of paper. Here is an excellent example of how to do it on a piece of wood furniture.
3. How to Transfer Photos with Glue and mod podge
This method allows you to use inkjet prints photos to be transferred to wood using Mod Podge – a medium used for photo transfer. I found out that most people say you can’t use it with inkjet prints but only with the laser printer ones.
This method that I’ve found on matsutakeblog.blogspot.com shows that you actually can. You can use a normal printer paper or a piece of cardstock for the transfer. All you need is put some Elmer’s glue on it before printing your photo. 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 photo as well, if needed. Once the photo is printed, put a layer of mod podge on the piece of wood.
Now you press your photo facing down onto the wood surface. Make sure you don’t move it once it’s stuck to Mod Podge. You can use a piece of plastic to smooth the surface out and get rid of all air bubbles.
You have to let it dry completely overnight, preferably 24 hours, and you’re ready for the next step. Now the fun begins. You can immerse the wood 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 wood 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 photo transfer on it. An easy method for photo transfer to wood with glue.
Images courtesy of matsutakeblog.blogspot.co.uk
4. Photo Transfer Using Acetone or Xylol Xylene
This is a fantastic photo transfer 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 upcycling projects more unique and exciting.
- Xylol Xylene
- rubber gloves
- face mask
- safety goggles
- glass container
- bone folder
- laser printer/ laser printed or copied images on regular paper
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 an old, well-known Acetone can be used as a transfer medium. 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 the 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/
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 photo/ graphic you want to transfer on the wood surface(remember to mirror it) and apply the acetone or Xylol. You can secure it by using some painters tape.
Image courtesy of villabarnes.com
Try not to overdo it with the solvent because it may cause the ink to bleed. Several thin layers are better than pouring it over the image.
The next step is to rub the photo 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 from the wood and let the transfer dry. Just to mention this only works with laser printed or copied images.
5. Photo Transfer to wood Using Gel Medium and Mod Podge
I think this is the most popular way for photo transfer 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 as a transfer medium and Mod Podge to finish off. All you need is:
- laser printer or already printed image/photo – laserjet ones are best or xerox copies, for color images you can print them on a photo paper(quality of the photo is far better than normal paper) and then have it copied in color
- a surface to transfer to like wood
- 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/ 24 hours and then the same way as previously wet the paper and rub it off. The last step is to put a layer of 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 photo. All you need is:
- a hot iron
- photo printed with a laser printer on regular paper or
- a photo printed on “iron on” paper
- piece of the wood surface to transfer to
Then you have to follow some simple steps:
For “iron on” paper follow the steps:
Looking through many tutorials online, I’ve found all the different uses for Mod Podge, for example. Some use it as a sealant and some as a photo transfer medium. The same goes for using inkjet and laserjet prints. I guess this is a bit of a trial and error method. So pick one and if it doesn’t work, try another one until you find one that produces the best results.
If you want a more vintage look but only have new wood to work with check my post on how to distress wood and make it look old and weathered.
If you have different experiences with transfer photos to wood, failures perhaps? I’d like to hear from you. My favorite is how to transfer photo to wood with glue method, mostly because you can use your home printer to print the design/image.
Anyway, feel free to comment or drop me an email. And don’t forget to pin it to your Image Transfer board :)
Have a fantastic day!