It is so easy to transfer photos to canvas.
This transfer technique can also be used on wood, watercolor paper, clay, fabric, or any other porous surface. The possibilities are endless.
Here is the method that I use:
What you’ll need
- a mounted canvas board or whatever medium you would like to transfer to. I used an 8X10 pre-primed canvas board from the dollar store
- Golden Soft Gel Gloss Medium or any brand gloss gel medium
- laser copied photo in black & white or color (see Photo copy notes below)
- 2 wide foam paint brushes
- a paint brayer or flat spreader
- a spray bottle or sponge with plastic tray
- a damp rag and a dish scrubber
- a plastic drop cloth or newspapers to protect the surface that you are working on
- scissors for trimming your image
- acrylic paints or gesso for priming your canvas (optional)
- Mod Podge or any clear acrylic sealer
Step 1: Preparing your photo
- Prepare the surface of your canvas if it is not already primed. Paint the surface with the color of your choice (optional).
Neatly trim your photo to fit the canvas. Leave at least 1/4 inch border around the image if possible.
Step 2: Transferring the photo to the canvas
Coat the photo side of your photocopy with a moderately thick coat of gel medium, making sure to cover the entire image evenly. Work quickly so that the gel medium does not have a chance to dry up.
- Holding the edge of your photo, carefully place it upside down on your canvas with the gel medium side down. Make sure your photo is straight before placing it on the canvas as once it is stuck down it cannot be moved.
- Using the palm of your hand, smooth out the air bubbles and creases. Then use your brayer to roll across the back of the image in both horizontal and vertical directions. You want to try to remove all of the air bubbles and creases and make sure that your photo is firmly stuck down. Wipe away any excess medium on the edges of your image with your damp rag.
- Leave your image to dry, preferably overnight, or at least for 3-4 hours. If you try to remove the paper layer before it is dry some of your image may come off. When dry, the paper should feel dry to the touch, not cold. You can also use a hair dryer on the low setting to speed up the drying time.
Step 3: Exposing and sealing your photo
Once your image is fully dry, use your spray bottle or sponge to wet the back of your image. You will start to see your image come through the paper. Leave it to sit for a few minutes so that the paper has time to soften.
Using the pad of your finger, lightly rub the back of the paper in one spot until the paper layer starts to roll up and come off. You’ll see your image being revealed as the paper is rolled away.
Work on one section at a time, rolling up the paper, while keeping the area you are working on moist. Try to remove as much of the paper fibers as possible without removing your image. NOTE: It is important to not rub your photo too hard as some of your image may start to rub off especially near the edges of the photo.
- Once you have removed the majority of the paper fibers with your finger you can use a wet kitchen scrubber (see the type of scrubber to use in the supplies photo above) to lightly scrub your image of the remaining fibers. Again, be very gentle, especially near the edges of your image.
- After your image has fully dried you will want to seal it with two coats of either Mod Podge or a clear acrylic sealer. This will not only protect your transfer but it will also make your image more vibrant and it will help to hide any residual paper fibers left over from the transfer. For my transfers I like to use Matte Mod Podge. I works like a charm!
Photo copy notes
- I found my image on The Graphics Fairy website here. She has so many gorgeous images to choose from.
- Transferring a photo with text? Make sure you print your photo in mirror image mode (In Photoshop go to—->Image tab—->Rotate image—->Flip canvas horizontal).
- Laser copies on regular copy paper (20 lb) work the best for transferring. The cheaper the paper, the better your photo will transfer. Matte copies transfer better than glossy copies.
Other things to keep in mind
- No matter how gently you remove the paper layer, some parts of your image may start to come off. Don’t panic! You may or may not be able to get a perfectly crisp image every time. I have transferred a lot of photos using this technique and some photos don’t transfer as cleanly as others. Your final transferred image is meant to look aged. You can always touch-up bare areas with acrylic paints.
- Soft gloss gel medium will give you the clearest image, followed by regular gloss gel medium, then matte gel medium and finally gesso.
- Photos transferred on to fabric should only be spot washed with a damp cloth. This method does not preserve the image enough to be able to run it through a washing machine. Some of your image may come off. I have sealed some of my fabric transfers with starch (this makes the fabric stiff).
- You can layer many transfers over top of one another and also mix text with images to create an interesting piece of art.
Have you ever transferred photos to a canvas or any other medium before? If you haven’t, I hope you get a chance to try out this wonderful technique.
This is very inexpensive project as well. It cost me only a couple of dollars to create this transfer. The majority of supplies I already had on hand.
Just think of all the amazing things you can make for your home or for gifts for your family and friends!
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