6 Ways How to Transfer Photos to Wood

If you’re thinking about giving your pallet projects more artistic edge or simply want to try something new, this list of how-tos is where you should start.

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. 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 to transfer photos to wood. You’ll need:

  • 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

    Self Adhesive Sticker Sheet

 

  • an inkjet printer
  • a photo editing software, don’t worry anything fancy :)
  • a clear finish to preserve your photo

 

In a 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.

  1. covering your image with chalk or pastel
  2. putting it on the desired surface
  3. 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. 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 :)

 

Image To Wood Transfer

 

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.

 

Mod Podge Image Transfer

 

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.

 

Inkjet Image Transfer to Wood

 

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.

 

Soaking Mod Podge Image

 

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.

 

Transferred Image

 

Images courtesy of matsutakeblog.blogspot.co.uk


6 Ways How to Transfer Photos to Wood

 

4.Using Acetone or Xylol Xylen


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.

 

Aceton image Transfer on Wood

 

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. 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. 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 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 wonder what the difference is between a gel medium and Mod Podge you can read more in this post.

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

7 thoughts on “6 Ways How to Transfer Photos to Wood

  1. Hi there,
    Your tutorials are very easy to follow by the way! I would like to transfer photo’s on wood, but I wanted to age the wood beforehand, using vinegar, steel wool and hydrogen peroxide.

    Would you know if the photo’s would stick ok, to the treated wood?

    Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa!
      I’ m glad you liked it :) As for your question I think the picture would stick as long as you won’t seal the treated wood. When you age wood this way whatever you put on it goes into the wood fiber.
      It’s still pretty much raw wood so I can’t see the reason for the picture not to stick to it. The only thing is it might not be as clear/visible as on light colored/plain wood but that might be the look you want to accomplish.
      Have a nice day!
      Kasia

  2. Super easy one is, Mod Podge now make a photo transfer medium. So all you need to do if use a photo copied picture of your choice. Cut to fit your unfinished wood. Add Mod Podge photo medium transfer to the copied picture side of your picture as well as the wood. Then you stick your picture glued side down. Let dry completely. 5 hours worked perfectly for me. Then set a warm clothe over your dried wood. And scrub of gentle with your fingers to reveal your picture to wood transfer. Top it off when completely dry again with a finish of your choice.

    1. Yeah, it’s pretty easy. But if you feel you will mess it up I’d suggest printing off a couple of images and make a test image. If it turned out not quite how you like it, you can always sand off the wood and start over :)

    1. Hi Ashlie, unfortunately, the iron method won’t work with the inkjet printer. You could try the mod podge or transfer medium method. These are great for transferring images printed on inkjet printer.

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