This photo to wood transfer tutorial is one of the most popular posts on Hello Creative Family. It was one of the very first projects that I did on my original blog, Sew Creative. I think people love it so much because of the step by step photos and instructions. It’s a fun project, but does require a bit of patience. You’ll notice as you go through my instructions that I actually did this project twice. I wasn’t completely satisfied with how it turned out the first time, so I scraped the wood and tried again. It’s not a fast project, but if you have patience and stick with it, you’ll get beautiful results. Enjoy and please let me know if you have any questions! -Crystal
UPDATE: I’ve recently discovered a much easier way to transfer photos to wood. It takes about 15 minutes to do my new project and isn’t nearly as challenging as the original way I shared below. Curious to see my new method? Check out my post The Easiest Way To Transfer Photos To Wood In Minutes.
Still want to try my original method? Read on!
Photo to Wood Transfer Tutorial With Step By Step Photos
What you need:
-A piece of wood (mine was a small cutting board from the thrift store)
-A laser printed copy of your photo on copier paper, the copy should be the mirror image of how you would like it to appear on the wood. This ONLY works with laser copies. It won’t work with ink jet. (Make sure this is printed on regular paper, not photo paper.)
-Scissors to cut out your photo
-A rag to soak your photo
-A cup or plate to pour your gel medium and mod podge into
-A boning tool or plastic card to get the air bubbles out with
Step 1: Print out the image you would like to transfer using a laser printer. Unfortunately ink jet printouts won’t work for this project. Most copy stores (Kinko’s, Staples) use laser printers. You may want to mirror your image as the transfer will make your image the reverse of how it is printed.
Step 2: Trim your image to the size that you want it to be on the wood.
Step 3: Put a layer of gel medium on the printed side of your photo.
Step 4: Put a layer of gel medium on the wood, then lay the paper photo side down onto the wood. Use your plastic card or boning tool to remove any bubbles of gel medium from between the paper and wood by smoothing the card over the paper pushing excess to the outer edges. Make sure all of your corners are stuck to the wood with the gel medium. If it’s not stuck it won’t transfer.
Step 5: Wipe away excess gel medium from around photo then leave to dry for at least 4 hours.
Step 6: 4 plus hours later, once the paper has completely dried, dampen a rag with warm water and and lay it over top of your photo. Leave for approximately 5 minutes.
Step 7: Once the paper is damp comes the fun, but time intensive part of this project. Stand over a sink, wet your fingers and slowly start rubbing your finger over the paper, almost using your finger like sand paper. The photo copy is going to appear to split in half. The white part of the paper will start to lift away and the paper with the ink will stick to the wood. Take this part very, very slow. If you go to fast the ink will lift away from the wood and you will be left with bare patches.
*Note- having done this step several times now I have come up with the following technique. I stand at the sink and slowly remove the top layer of paper using circular motions with my fingers. I am constantly wetting my fingers and lightly rinsing the wood under the sink to wash off clumps of paper. Once I think I have the first layer of paper off I set the wood down for a couple of minutes and clean up all of the paper bits. This will give the transfer time to dry. When you look at it you will probably see that there are still places where there is a thin layer of paper left, the image will look cloudy. Wet down your fingers and start “sanding” away again. When you can’t see any white cloudy bits anymore set aside again, clean up a bit while it dries, pick it up again and “sand” some more. I wet down and let me project dry 5-10 times before I was done.
Step 7: Leave your project to dry for about an hour then look at it to see if you are satisfied. Grab your boning tool and rough up the edges a bit if you like. You can take a gray sharpie marker and lightly dot in areas where the transfer doesn’t look quite right. If you need to you can wet it down and “sand” down some more if there are bits of paper that you missed. In my case I decided that I would prefer if my photo filled the entire front of the wood so I wet the wood down, scraped the project off and redid it.
Step 8: When you are satisfied with the look of your transfer put a small amount of mod podge into a cup, and using a sponge brush apply a thin layer of mod podge all over your photo, including the edges. Use smooth, even strokes. Allow to dry for at least 15 minutes then repeat 2 more times.
Once your mod podge has dried you have a beautiful photo impact piece that will be commented on by everyone who enters your home. They also make great gifts!
I hope you enjoyed our Photo To Wood Transfer Tutorial. If you have any questions please ask and I’d be more than happy to try to answer. I would love to see the results of your Photo to Wood Transfer projects. Amy Anderson from Mod Podge Rocks recently wrote a great post on 5 Tips for Using Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium! I’d highly suggest giving it a read if you are having any problems.
If you like this project please take a look at our tutorial on how to mount a photo to canvas.