DIY: Photo Transfers

DIY photo transfer

DIY photo transfers using Mod Podge are super easy to do and come out great. They can add some style to otherwise plain wood crates, wall signs (click here for DIY wall sign instructions), or even glass bottle.  

  • Inkjet printer (color or black & white)
  • Item to transfer to: You can add a photo transfer to almost anything: wood crates, wood wall sign, glass, plastic. Anything you want to decorate. This method has worked well every material I have ever tried.
    • Mod Podge: Is there anything that it can't do?? There are two kinds of Mod Podge that can do photo transfers, each have their own benefits. After some trial and error, I was able to determine the difference. 
      • Classic Mod Podge: This is my personal preference. I have had better luck with it and have found the transfers to come out better. This formula will transfer the ink only- not the white background. For example, if you have a black image printed on white paper and you want to transfer the black image only- without a white rectangle around it, use Classic Mod Podge.  It will not transfer the white of the paper- only the color or black ink printed on it. This comes in matte, satin, or gloss.  Either will work, its just a personal preference. 
      • Mod Podge Photo Transfer: This formula was created specifically for photo transfers. It will transfer the entire sheet of paper, including the white background. For example, if you have printed a rectangular photograph onto a white sheet of paper, it will transfer the entire paper. If you do not cut the photo out of the printer paper, it will transfer a white, letter-size rectangle with the photograph in the center. Basically, your transfer will be like a photocopy of your printout, including spaces without any ink. I hope that makes sense!
    • Sponge brushThis will be for brushing the Mod Podge onto the printout
    • Gloves: To protect your hands while staining
    • Water spray bottle: Any size will work. If you do not have one, a small dish of water will work, as well.
    • Image or graphic to transfer: The image has to printed in reverse - a mirror image - or your transfer will be backwards. If you want to use a graphic or image, has some really great, vintage and antique images for free. They have everything from vintage logos, botanicals, typography, nature, holiday images, grain sack, and lots more.  They even give a version of each image in reverse, so you do not need any photo editing software. If you want to print a quote or name on your sign,  I recommend using Photoshop. If you don't have it, you can also reverse text to mirror image in MS Word- click here for instructions.  
      • TIP: Be sure to print out your image in the correct size for your item. This is simple to do in Photoshop, because you can make the image whatever size you'd like it to be. If you are making a large sign and it cannot fit on one sheet of paper, you will have to split it between several printouts. If you do, you can line them up and tape them together, but do not tape over a section of the page that has ink on it. Place tape over a spot that you do not want to transfer. 


    diy transfer
    1. Lay your photo, face down, on your item in the spot you want the transfer to be. Measure or use a level, make sure it is even and straight. Take a pencil or piece of chalk and mark the edges of the paper lightly. This is so later, after you've painted your photo with Mod Podge, you will know exactly where it needs to be and can lay it in the correct spot the first time. 
    DIY photo transfer
    2. Lay down some newspaper or a drop cloth to protect your workspace. If you have a silicon mat, use this, as the printout will not stick to it.  Lay your photo face up on your workspace and, using your sponge brush, paint over the entire printed surface with a layer of Mod Podge. Make sure to use enough to coat it evenly, but try not to over-do it. You don't want the paper to be soggy, but you do want to cover it liberally.  
    diy photo transfer
    3. Pick up your transfer carefully and lay it face down on your item, in the correct spot that you marked earlier. Once you press it down, you will not be able to pick it up again without damaging the image, so be sure to put it in the right spot, the first time. 
    DIY transfer
    4. Soothe any wrinkles or air bubbles with your hands or a credit card. If using a card, be careful not to tear the paper!
    DIY photo transfer
    5. Allow to dry completely! I know it is tempting to peel up an edge and peek, but it may ruin your image. I usually wait 24 hours, to be safe.
    diy transfer
    6. Spray the back of your image with water. If you do not have a spray bottle, use a water dish and a sponge or your fingers. The goal is to soak the paper. You will need to continually wet the piece as you go, as it needs to be very wet for the paper to come off easily. 
    diy transfer
    7. You will now rub your fingers across the back of the paper, (do NOT peel) until it comes off. It will come up in rolls and be messy.  Once it dries, you may notice that there is still a white haze over your image. If so, wet it again and keep rubbing. It may look like all of the paper is gone, but it just goes transparent when it is wet. 
    8. Immediately start looking around for other items in  your home to add transfers to. Its addictive.


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