Image transfers using acrylic mediums

5 09 2008

A couple of days ago, I received a lovely email from Jocelyn who had purchased a tub of acrylic medium from me a number of months ago. I had briefly explained the photo transfer technique that I so love using in my artwork that is by no means a “samm” original. She wrote to me in the hope that I could remind her of the technique so rather than type her a long winded, wordy explanation, I thought I’d photograph the process and post it as a bit of a “lesson” for others to share too. This is the first time I have done such a thing and i only hope that it is useful to you all. Please remember that this is my take on someone else’s discovery so there are probably other ways of achieving the same result.

I have numerous books on my shelf that outline this same technique, one of the most comprehensive being this one. If you feel like the real thing, visit Misty at to see where she’s holding her next workshop and you might want to ask her which one’s will incorporate the technique or, you could drop me a line, if you’re in Australia, and ask me when I’m next holding my technique class…. enough promotion and on to the good stuff!

Photo transfers using acrylic paint medium

from left to right, the products I used for this “lesson”

210gm paper – these pads are an Art Spectrum product, available at most fine art supply shops (here in Victoria anyway). I used this paper today only because I am having a bit of a love affair with the pads at the moment. The paper is sized to cope with both dry and wet media and therefore can handle a little bit of abuse. I would normally use a heavier weight watercolour paper – 300gm and 100% cotton is the best and this technique also translates well to fabric. You have to have a bit of a play around to find what you like and what will suit the project you are doing.

Acrylic mediums – I am not faithful to a single product, I unashamedly admit this! I find that each product has it’s strengths and weaknesses and I like to play around to get the best for the particular project on the day. Photographed are Golden’s soft gel (thank you dear Misty), Liquitex Gloss varnish and medium and both the Gel medium and Polymer Gloss Varnish by Matisse. For this example I used the Liquitex product – It dries quickest and gives a nice “thin” finish.

Images for transferring – You can transfer many different types of images. Black and white toner copies, both b&w and colour laser copies, inkjet images and some magazine photos (the cheaper the paper, the better the transfer). Try anything! I have been known to say that this is not a “perfect” process and that the resulting image will not be a clean and perfect mirror image of the original – I have had one person prove me wrong though, so by all means, manipulate the technique to suit yourself.

Depending on your ideas for the final piece, you may or may not want to prepare your surface a bit for the image transfer. I had an idea for a painting so I roughly sketched an outline of the larger window that I would add to after transferring the original photo. The image I have chosen for this example is a b&w laser copy of an original photo. (Be conscious of copyright issues here. Make sure to chose images which are copyright free or use your own photos or scanned artwork).

I add the medium with anything that’s nearby, including my fingers! Today there was a foam brush handy!!! The photo on the right shows that the medium is added and you can still see the image underneath. When you use a gel medium, the medium will appear a little more cloudy. You ultimately want to provide a “sticking” surface.

Place the coated image face down on your receiving surface and rub so that all of the image makes contact with the paper/fabric underneath.

I make sure I leave an edge or corner free so that I always have something to pull away when the time comes.

After a little while, and unfortunately I can’t be more specific than that as drying time will vary depending on many many factors (weather, product used, image type, paper type etc), slowly start to peel back a corner or edge and you’ll see the top surface of the image paper separating from the image itself. If this doesn’t happen, place the paper back and keep rubbing with your finger. The photo above shows you what you’re looking for…

Once you have removed the top layer of paper, it is important to then leave the transfer to dry completely before removing the rest of the paper. Speed the process up with a hairdryer if neccessary, you’ll end up with holes in the image if you try too soon!

The image is now dry enough for you to rub and rub and rub until all the little bits of paper are gone! Sometimes you may not be able to remove them all, accept and embrace them! I use my finger, a stippling brush with a bit of water works really well too.

holes of impatience!!!

The finished transfer – ready to be altered to your heart’s desire!

The following photos are some transfers that I’ve done as examples for my workshop attendees.

colour laser copy on calico

to prove that straight lines are possible (if you want them!!)

colour laser copy on 300gm watercolour paper

And just a reminder that things can get a bit out of control if it’s always all about me…..





4 responses

5 09 2008

Thanks so much for sharing this technique, I’ve always wondered how it was done. My main love is writing, but I also love art, so I value any and all tutorials!

11 04 2009

Thanks for this info, very helpful. I’m trying to figure if I can safely get the transfer to stick on skin.

21 06 2011
you’d think i’d never read a book « Making Art with Fabric

[…] ways to do it.  i’m testing out the paint it with acrylic and dissolve the paper away technique.  it should work, and then i’ll just have the words.  i figured out how to flip the words […]

12 07 2012

This is very cool. I think you did an amazing job at showing the stages. Thank you this has helped a lot.

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