Inkjet Photo Transfers

Posted by on Oct 2, 2013 in blog | 0 comments

Inkjet Photo Transfers

A photo transfer is a fun and relatively inexpensive craft. They are also pretty easy to do, once you get the hang of them. A photo transfer is a technique to transfer the image of a photo or graphic onto another material like wood or a canvas.

The first thing you need to do is choose a photo. The photo that I chose is pretty old and had significant fading. But it had faded really beautifully and I didn’t want to lose that quality, so when I restored it I cleaned up a little dirt and smudges and left everything else alone. The antique feeling of the photo works really well with this project.

The transfer will end up being a mirror image of your photo, so reverse the image before you print it. Make sure it’s the size that you want, then print it out on to regular printer paper, not photo paper. This project should also work with a laser copy.


Here are the other things you’ll need :

  • A wood plaque
  • Scissors
  • A paint brush
  • A sponge or paper towel
  • Water
  • Mod podge (I used matte) or Soft Gel Medium
  • Acrylic sealer
  • Acrylic paint (optional)

Get your wood plaque ready. I chose to paint mine, but you could also leave it bare wood. If you leave it bare, you will be able to see the wood grain in your finished project which looks really nice. You can also transfer on to many different materials like fabric or a canvas.

Now it’s time for the Mod Podge. I have heard that using the Soft Gel Medium transfers the image more clearly, but it is pricier and I already had Mod Podge, so that is what I chose to use. For this step you have to work pretty quickly so the Mod Podge doesn’t dry on you. Put a liberal coat on to your plaque. Make sure you don’t miss anywhere with the Mod Podge or your photo won’t transfer completely. If you like, you can also brush some on the front side of your photo.


Once everything is coated and still wet, quickly place your photo, image side down on to your plaque. Press it down firmly but carefully to make sure there are no bubbles. Remember that the paper is now damp and can easily tear, so do this carefully. Once you’re sure everything is fully adhered and there aren’t any air bubbles, let it all dry. It’s probably best to let it dry overnight, but if your impatient like me, several hours should be long enough.

When everything is dry, take wet (but not sopping) sponge or paper towel and cover the back of your photo. You’ll start to see the image through the paper. Let it sit for a minute to let the paper soften.


Then take your finger and gently rub the paper. The paper will start to pill and can be brushed away. This is the tricky part that takes a bit of practice. There is a pretty fine line between not pressing down hard enough and pressing down to hard. If you rub too hard, you’ll start to rub off the image. You only want to rub off the paper fiber. Just be patient and work in small sections. Don’t try to get all the paper off the first time. The water will start to soften the Mod Podge making it easier to rub off the image. Once it looks like you’ve gotten most of the paper off, let it dry again.


Once it dries and the paper looses its translucency, you’ll see that you weren’t even close to getting all the paper off. Dampen it and start removing the paper again. I think I did this step 4 or 5 times. Once all the paper was removed and it was completely dry, I took a dry paper towel and brushed over the top of it just to remove any remaining paper fibers. You’ll notice it’s not perfect, especially around the edges. That’s ok, it’s rustic.

Then I sealed the photo to protect it.


I took some Antiquing Polish (which is basically translucent brown acrylic paint) and dabbed it around the perimeter then wiped it away just to darken the edges. I did this step after I sealed it, so that if I messed up, I could just wipe it up with a damp cloth and the photo wouldn’t be damaged. After that, I applied another coat of sealer.


Then I had a brilliant idea. I thought why stop there? The fun thing about transfers is that you can seamlessly combine multiple photos and/or graphics. I decided to add a transfer to the border which I had originally painted black. I repainted it blue because a transfer won’t show up on black. Then I did an image search to hunt down a border image that I liked. I found one at Since it’s going on a blue background, the border needed to be pretty dark to show up well so I boosted the contrast. I resized it to fit the plaque and printed it, and cut it out.


I repeated the photo transfer process above. Even though it was on a concave surface, it wasn’t any more difficult.


And here’s a close up of the finished border:


And here’s the final product:


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