How to Transfer a Printed Image

By Nicole Tinkham

how to

In regards to art project how-to questions, we get a lot about how to transfer images. The process is simple and can be used to make great gifts (think family portrait transferred onto a block of wood). Intrigued? We thought you would be which is why we put together this blog post to explain the process and materials needed for image transferring.

Materials needed for this project:

  • Image (photocopies, ink jets, laser prints)
  • Gel medium
  • Paint brush (optional)
  • Sponge
  • Water

Selecting a gel medium
Just about any gel medium will work to lift an image but we suggest using GOLDEN’s Soft Gel (Gloss). This will give you the clearest transfer. Gel medium can be applied with a brush but to avoid brush strokes, the medium can be poured on. Thickly pouring the medium on can lead to crazing (rough surface). It is also hard to control the thickness of the transferred image when pouring. That’s where GOLDEN’s GAC 800 comes into play. It’s made to avoid crazing, making it perfect when using the pouring method. Self-Leveling Clear Gel and Clear Tar Gel are also great to use with this method. Since these gels are made to avoid crazing, it’s not recommended to apply with a brush. Using a brush with these gels can reduce the clarity of the image.

When applying a gel medium to an image, you don’t want the layer of medium to be too thin. This makes the image hard to handle without tearing. Try to keep your layer at least 1/32” to 1/16” thick. Also keep in mind that gels can be tinted with color before applied to the image or painted after the transfer is complete.

As far as paper goes, photocopies, ink jets, and laser prints work fine when transferring an image.

The process
The following are two different methods for transferring images:

  • Method 1: Direct image transfer
  1. Apply the gel medium to the surface in which you want to transfer the image.
  2. While still wet, place the image face down on the medium and let dry thoroughly.
  3. When completely dry, wet the paper with a sponge. Wait a few minutes for the paper to soak up the water.
  4. Rub the paper off carefully. You can use a scoring pad or soft cloth to do so. Notice that the paper is removed but the image remains. Once dry, you will be able to see the areas missed. Feel free to add more water to remove the rest.
  • Method 2: Gel image transfer
  1. Cover a level work surface with plastic sheeting.
  2. Lay your image face up on the sheeting and apply the gel medium (either pour or apply with brush) and let dry completely.
  3. Soak the coated image in lukewarm water. The longer the image soaks, the easier it is to remove the paper from the back of the image. If you see any fogging, remove from water. Usually an image only needs to soak for 3-4 minutes. Do not exceed 15 minutes!
  4. Rub the paper backing until all paper is removed. Allow the image to drip dry completely. Often times the gloss medium will become milky. Once it’s clear again, the transfer is ready to be used in artwork.
  5. To complete the transfer, brush a gel medium onto the side of the image that will be adhered to the canvas. Press the transfer to the canvas and apply pressure. Once dry, the transfer is complete!

In this post we talked about how some of GOLDEN’s mediums can be used to transfer images. Golden carries many different mediums all with various uses. Stay tuned to learn more about these mediums and what they are used for in a future blog.

We want to hear from you! Please leave a comment below explaining your experience using GOLDEN medium to transfer an image. Need further help with this project? Just let us know!

Image used under Creative Commons from “T”eresa

For more information about our art supplies stop in, give us a call (941-747-2995) or visit! For a list of our upcoming workshops, check out The Artist’s Corner.

4 thoughts on “How to Transfer a Printed Image

  1. When using this method to apply an image to glass, Is another step required to make the image transfer permanent?

    1. Hey Sierra! For lower viscosity materials like Clear Tar Gel, Self Leveling Gel, Polymer Medium, Fluid Acrylics, etc… you will see the air bubbles right away and can treat them on the surface by spritzing some rubbing alcohol from an atomizer bottle. The atomizer bottle (vs. a bottle with a more direct spray) will give you a fine mist that will pop all surface bubbles. Sometimes you have to do more than one spray to eliminate all visible bubbles. Hope this info helps!

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