Craft ideas

Transferring a photo to wood – 3 easy ways to do it yourself

A home-made wall decoration made of wood looks decorative and unusual, with a slight vintage flair. Images printed on paper can be easily attached to a wooden board and you do not have to put wood in your printer.

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The principle works really straightforward. All you need is a picture printed out on copy paper, a large wooden board and white glue. We introduce 3 simple methods how to transfer a photo onto wood.

Transferring a photo to wood – 3 simple methods at a glance

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The idea is super easy to imitate and looks really nice vintage. Black and white images are best printed out on simple copy paper. You can also choose a colored motif. One thing we have to admit, however, is that not all details are properly transferred. The result is a rustic picture compared to normal printing. A clean wooden board is ideal as a surface, but also a canvas. The adhesive needed to get the best results is called Gel Medium. A special photo transfer pot is also available in stores.

Transfer photo to wood – Instructions: picture on wooden board

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The illustration you want to transfer onto the wood should be printed out on plain copy paper. It is also best to use thin paper, but definitely not photo paper. You should print the picture or motif with a laser printer. Use a simple wooden board made of pine wood for the surface. You can also use canvas. However, there is a risk that the paint on the surface will rub off and smear unsightly. But of course great, artistic effects can be obtained in this way. Above all, it is important that the surface is very smooth so that the image has contact with it everywhere when it is transferred.

Transfer photo to wood step by step – How does it work?

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The wood can be sanded down a bit if it’s not that smooth. If you like the color of the natural wood, leave it that way. Otherwise, you can lighten it so that the image really comes into its own. Simply use white acrylic paint. You can dilute this with water if you do not want an opaque white. Apply one or more coats of white and let it dry completely.

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Apply the glue evenly to the picture and the surface. You can use a sponge or a rag. That has to be done quickly, otherwise the paper will tear. Then place the photo with the motif facing down on the wood and carefully smooth it out without any bubbles. Now you have to be patient and let it dry overnight or blow-dry for 15 minutes.

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The next day, moisten the paper with a wet sponge. Dab the paper until it is semi-transparent and well softened. Optionally, you can moisten the picture right under the faucet. However, the board must not be completely immersed in water, otherwise the wood will swell and deform. Now all of the paper has to be carefully rubbed off.

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Removing the paper is a bit of a hassle and you have to do it really carefully. In between, the motif should be allowed to dry out and, if necessary, moistened again. The motif remains on the water-insoluble transfer medium and is now transferred to the wood. It is best to prepare a sponge and a bowl of lukewarm water. First soften the paper and rub it off carefully.

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When scratching the paper, you sometimes have to make several passes to completely remove the paper. You can even use an old toothbrush and moisten the surface several times. Just be careful not to apply too much pressure and to avoid damaging the layer with the toner. In some places, for example on the corners and edges, you can even sand with fine-grain sandpaper. Thus, the vintage effect is strengthened and the transition to the wood is staged very naturally.

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When all pieces of paper have been removed, the picture is sealed again with a layer of glue. For a perfect finish, apply wood varnish in semi-gloss or glossy, depending on your taste. If you are exhibiting your works outside, it makes sense to use weather-resistant outdoor varnish. Due to the coating with varnish, the picture not only lasts longer, but also the colors become richer and more radiant.

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If the picture is to be hung, simply attach a hanger to the back. Optionally, you can drill a hole in the back so that the picture is hung on the wall on nails. Alternatively, two holes are drilled next to each other and a cord is drawn in for hanging. Another possibility, but more complex, would be to mount a foot on the back. This means that the beautiful picture can be placed on any surface.

Make vintage decorations yourself: print pictures on wood

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You can make great decorative items yourself according to this principle. In addition, you can personalize every wooden board or driftwood in this way and use it very decoratively. Wonderful and creative idea for an individually designed birthday or wedding gift. The self-made signs look very professional and are sure not to acidify and gather dust in any drawer or corner. To achieve this, choose really beautiful motifs and adapt them individually to the person or the occasion. Almost any image that is printed out with a laser printer is suitable as a motif for transferring to the wooden board.

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Family photos, animal pictures, portrait photos, lettering and texts can be transferred to wood using this simple technique. Black and white motifs work particularly well; they also look good if the details are not transferred 100%. Individual elements that are related to each other can be wonderfully attached to several small wooden panels. In this way you create a whole set and not stand-alone decorative elements. Nicely arranged on a shelf or on the mantelpiece, these are sure to catch the eye.

Great DIY gift idea: transfer the message onto wood

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If you want to put lettering, texts or messages on wood, you have to print out the motif mirror-inverted. In addition, an important prerequisite for the photo to be transferred to wood is that it is printed out with a laser printer. In an inkjet printer, the ink is absorbed by the paper. The other way around, the laser printer applies the ink, the toner, to the surface of the paper and fixes it.

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The motif generated by laser printing can be applied to a surface relatively easily without glue. If you have taken a wooden board to transfer a message to it, the effect is similar to that of the wood engraving itself. No special tools are required here, i.e. no label or gravograph. You can even design the lettering or the message yourself on the computer. Choose a font that you like and simply print it out in the correct size, mirror-inverted. This is especially important because the text is transferred down on the plate. It is also advisable to choose the images with a high contrast or to improve them using a processing program. Above all, black and white motifs look better transferred to the wooden panel. In the case of colored images, the color transitions are not very good and small details are barely visible later due to the wood grain. Optionally, only the area on which the motif is to be printed can be painted white.

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Now there are two options for transferring a text or a message onto a wooden board – with an iron or with a pencil. Both methods require a little skill and patience for precise handwork. You can easily get the text on another surface with the help of an iron. First place the motif exactly in the middle with the beautiful side down and fix it at the edges with adhesive tape. The iron is set to the highest temperature. The higher the temperature, the better the transfer works. Be careful that the plastic tape will melt if it comes into contact with the iron. Therefore it makes sense to use paper tape or masking tape. Iron the reverse side several times with the iron, let it cool down briefly and carefully remove the paper. If the paper is stuck in some places, you can spray it with brake cleaner. Alternatively, moisten with water, but only a little, otherwise the wood will absorb the moisture and the lettering will smear. After you have removed the paper, the transferred image may not be even and well reproduced. You can touch them up by hand with a permanent marker or a small brush and some paint.

Print the picture on wood and make great decorations yourself

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Depending on which effect is desired – vintage, handmade or rather perfectly manufactured, the surface should be sanded smooth beforehand and treated differently. The finer and planed the surface, the cleaner and clearer the result will be later. To ensure that the design looks clean, you can dampen the paper slightly before transferring, but not wet it. It is best to use a spray bottle. Brake cleaner can also be used for this purpose. It comes off easily and no traces remain visible later.

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After the transfer, the motif is immediately waterproof and smudge-proof. But so that it lasts longer and does not blow out its color, it is advisable to paint the whole thing with a few layers of varnish and thus protect the image from the external effects. Water-based paints work fine. Others can dissolve the toner and smear the image, so play it safe and use a spray paint, but use it sparingly.

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Perhaps the simplest method of transferring an image or writing onto another surface, without the need for glue or a transfer agent, is achieved with the help of a pencil. Take the selected illustration that you have previously printed out (whether with a laser or an inkjet printer) and rub the back with graphite or pencil. Then center the sheet of paper on the wooden board with the back or pencil side facing down. Fix in place with tape.

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Now draw the outlines of the picture above with a hard pencil or another pencil. You have to apply a little more pressure, but don’t overdo it, otherwise unsightly marks will appear on the wooden board. If you remove the paper, you will notice that the motif or the writing on the wooden board is depicted relatively precisely. You just have to touch it up and draw over it again with a permanent marker, pen or brush and paint. In the last step, you can refine the product with sealing varnish if you like. This gives it a perfect finish and gives it a higher quality look. Ordinary wood varnish, for example, but also Art Potch are suitable for this.

More ideas for Transferring images to wood

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Depending on what kind of surface the selected motif has to be transferred to, you can even try a simpler technique. You only need a small amount of acetone. Soak a piece of kitchen paper in it and use it to spread the back of the laser-printed motif. Of course you can’t expect photo quality, but the result is really nice for the little effort. Finally, as already mentioned, treat with sealing varnish to make the picture last longer. Once the varnish has dried, the wood print is also ready.

Make your own yardstick for children: transfer digits onto wood

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According to this simple principle, you can design really great decorative elements for your own home. Here we propose another idea for a yardstick for children’s rooms. A long wooden slat is required here, which should be divided down to the millimeter. You transfer the digits to the specific places using the wood printing principle, which we have already shown above, or you can use stencils. When mounting it on the wall later, make sure that you meet the measurements exactly. To achieve this, mark the respective places beforehand with chalk or pencil. You are welcome to decorate your self-designed yardstick with different motifs. You transfer these like photos onto the wooden board or you can simply take them with self-adhesive stickers. Leave enough space so that the body height and the corresponding date can be entered. It is best to place the yardstick next to the door or a cupboard and use it to decorate a corner in the children’s room that needs variety.

Feel free to experiment with different shapes and colors. With a little creativity, completely different results can be achieved. Chopping boards or no wooden boxes also serve as the base. This allows small objects to be personalized and printed, which hardly costs anything. On occasion, this simple wood print is suitable for labeling cutting boards, which would complement the kitchen decoration perfectly. With a lovingly and individually designed gift, you are sure to ensure that the recipient is happy everywhere.