This Christmas, I made most of my gifts. The majority of the handmade items were photos transferred onto blocks of wood. It was something memorable to give family (especially for parents, who never seem to need anything!). Everyone seemed to really like them.
I first heard about the photo-to-wood transfer from a coworker. She had found it on Pinterest, and wanted to try it out for Christmas gifts this year. I decided to do the same. The premise is easy: you take a (cheap) photocopy of a picture, adhere it to a wooden board using gel medium, and then rub off all the paper so you’re left with just the image.
I followed the directions on this youtube video, and came up with a nice collection of photos on wood. My cousin Justin was kind enough to send these pics over to me (they’re ones taken at his wedding last July). Came out pretty good, right?
I thought I’d share some tips I learned during this process. Hopefully it’ll make it easier for you when you do your own photo transfers!
photo, printed on copy paper
varnish (or Mod Podge)
step one: the wood
I think any wood works, but just look for something that doesn’t have a lot of markings on it, or this will affect your end image. I ended up buying a 2×4 of birch plywood at Home Depot, and getting the guys there to cut it into eight 12″x12″ pieces. You don’t need to treat the wood, but if yours is extra splintery, make sure to sand down the edges.
step two: the image
Two rules of thumb here: use cheap cheap cheap paper (i.e. photocopy paper), and use a laserjet printer. Ink jet images won’t transfer because the ink is water soluble. Also, all images will come out mirrored when you transfer them onto the wood. So if you need words to show up right on the wood, make sure to flip your image accordingly before transferring it onto wood.
I chose to make all my images black and white, but color pictures work just fine too!
Once you have your image, trim to the border so you don’t have an extra white border (it’ll just be extra work to remove this border after you transfer the photo).
step three: adhering the image
I used Liquitex’s gel medium (found it at JoAnn Fabric), and it worked just fine for me. I painted the gel medium onto the photo, then adhered it to the wood. To get the glue to spread around, I took my bone tool and dragged it across the image several times to push all the extra glue out (you can also use a credit card). If you don’t do this, you could end up with lumpy bubbles in your end image.
step four: removing the paper
After the gel medium dried, it was time to take the image off. I used a sopping wet washcloth and laid it on top of my entire image for 5 minutes to soften the paper.
Then it was time to rub the paper. Thanks to the soaked washcloth, the top layer of paper was really easy to remove.
Removing the paper takes a lot of time and patience. I had to do this 3-4 times to make sure all the paper was gone (and that took 30-45 minutes). And you have to do a final run-down when the image is mostly dry. As a rule of thumb, any fuzzy white patches on your wood will remain on it, even after you varnish it.
step five: finishing it off
I loved the layered look of the plywood I used, but wanted to jazz it up. So I applied wood stain to the sides of the wood, giving it a warm walnut color (top board in the image below).
So there you have it: photo-to-wood transfers. Next time you’re in need of a gift (or home decor) idea, try this one out!
linked at nifty thrifty things