Monday, December 15, 2014

'FREE TUTORIAL: Image Transfer using Contact Paper!'

by Mary Lou 'LuLu' Haynes

Howdy and Welcome,

Here is another free tutorial. This tutorial I wrote describing my process for an IMAGE TRANSFER. There are many, many different image transfer processes out there in cyber space. This is one of the processes that worked well for me.

Note: Soft Gel medium (gloss) was not used for the image transfer - but soft gel medium (gloss) was used to adhere the contact paper to the artwork after the image was transferred.


  • clear contact paper (I got mine either at Target or Menards - don't recall which)
  • inkjet image to take to copy shop (I prefer to use copyright free artwork - for example, antique images, my own artwork or my own photos)
  • toner copy of above image from copy shop (reversed, if it has text you want to preserve as readable in final art piece)
  • shallow container of hot water, larger than image
  • soft gel medium (gloss) or other 'plastic-to-paper' glue, like '3-in-1' (Beacon)
  • clear gesso or soft gel medium (matte) - optional
  • palette knife, old credit card, or sponge brush to apply soft gel medium
  • paper towels (dry and slightly damp)
  • wet wipes (optional)
  • workable fixative  (optional)
Note: Skip the copy shop steps if you print a toner copy of your image on your home laser printer.

Note: You can also skip the copy shop step if you 'fix' your inkjet image by spraying  it outdoors with 'WORKABLE FIXATIVE' (Krylon). The disadvantage of using WORKABLE FIXATIVE spray is that it can only be used with ventilation in specific temperatures and specific humidity's. I live in Chicago. So I'm limited to spraying  WORKABLE FIXATIVE outdoors in 5-7 months a year. But I can take my inkjet image to the copy shop all year... 

Important: The reason we do not use an inkjet printed image directly in our wet artwork is that the ink will smear. Inkjet printer ink is water-soluble, therefore it will smear with moisture. However, if you WANT your artwork to have smeared images then you do not need to use WORKABLE FIXATIVE or a toner copy...

PROCESS [over several days]

My clear contact paper transfer process follows, which I accomplished over several days: 
  1. scan antique color image into computer and reverse image using image editing software (I scanned it first because I want to keep this image on my computer)
  2. print reversed color copy on home inkjet printer
  3. take color inkjet image to local copy center and have them make a 'toner' color copy (also the copy shop can reverse the image if you prefer them to reverse it)
  4. 'fussy cut' toner image out of paper leaving small margin all around the image (leave about .25 inch)
  5. cut contact paper a little larger than the image
  6. apply clear contact paper to toner image and burnish contact paper (I let image set overnight after burnishing)
  7. fill a shallow plastic 'Tupperware style' container with very hot water
  8. plunge image to soak for a minute or two, until paper is saturated
  9. remove image from pan and lay it onto a paper towel -  paper side up to absorb excess water on bottom.
  10. rub off wet paper with finger, gently - rub and rub. Moisten paper with drips of water if it dries in this step. Don't rub too hard! WHen all the paper is rubbed off there will be a slight white film.
  11. dry overnight [or longer] after all paper is removed. (I made a whole batch of image transfers on one day. When they were all dry, I stored them in a drawer labled 'Image Transfers: READY'...)
  • When you want to use the transfer apply a very thin layer of soft gel medium (gloss)  on your artwork and on the back of your contact paper image with old credit card or foam brush.
  • Lay the contact paper image, dry side up / wet side down, into the medium on your artwork. And, starting in the center of image, gently press out any air bubbles with your fingers towards the outer edges [several time]. Before each pass, with a wet wipe, remove any medium from your fingers. Carefully blot up any excess medium if it squishes out the sides with slightly damp paper towel. Dry overnight.
  • Because the contact paper is slick, you'll have a glossy image on your artwork. If you don't want glossy, apply a thin layer of clear gesso or a thin layer of soft gel medium (matte) to the transfer, or to your whole art piece, as you like.


I tested this transfer process (and many other image transfer processes) before using it on my 'good' artwork.


Packing tape and Contact paper made identical image transfers in my tests. So you might ask, why use clear contact paper instead of using clear packing tape? Which product you choose to use depends on the size of the image that you want to transfer. 
  • clear packing tape is useful for small images
  • clear contact paper is useful for larger images.

My test results of various image transfer techniques, including inkjet print on deli paper, showed that the contact paper and packing tape images came out the best (clearer and crisper).


Would love to see your results if you try my Image Transfer Contact Paper process. In the comments of this post, please send me a link to the post on your blog.

Would love for you to comment on this post.

Thanks for visiting and please come back soon.



Dandelion and Daisy said...

Great tutorial! Very clear direction, think I'll have to try that.

Groupdmt said...

Really i appreciate the effort you made to share the knowledge.The topic here i found was really effective
color balancing

UTs Hobby Time said...

Thanks for the wonderful and clear tutorial.

bmlilith60 said...

I will try this to see how it works. Thank you for your tutorial.

Zsuzsa Karoly-Smith said...

I've tried this with packing tape, which works really well for smaller images. I guess, the contact paper has the advantage of being any size you want! Must get some! Thanks for the tutorial!

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