Since sharing my How To Guide for Transferring Photos to Canvas many months ago, I have received quite a few comments and e-mails asking if the transfer method that I use would also work with images printed from an inkjet printer. Honestly, it’s been hard for me to respond with a definitive answer as I only ever use laser printouts and photocopies for my transfers. I have had such amazing results when using laser images, so why mess with a good thing?
Well, my curiosity got the best of me when I purchased an inexpensive inkjet printer for my office about a month ago. Why not use my new printer to try out an inkjet transfer or two? Then I would know for myself whether or not inkjet transfers actually work and I could share my results with you.
Below, you will see the French art canvas that I ended up making using my inkjet printer. Now I have my proof that inkjet image transfers really do work!
Read on to find out how I made this piece of art and how you can make your own too.
I have written this tutorial specifically for transferring images to canvas using an inkjet printer but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make this piece of art using images from a laser printer. You totally can! To use a laser printer, just follow the steps below until you get to my photo with the white star on it that reads “Inkjet Transfer Tutorial”. Then click on over to my laser transfer tutorial HERE to finish off your canvas.
Whether you use an inkjet printer or a laser printer, I would suggest that you print out a small test image from your printer first and then try transferring it onto a piece of cardboard before moving on to the large-sized canvas in this tutorial. This way you can make sure that the image from your printer will transfer properly and that you are also comfortable with the transfer process.
Supplies You’ll Need:
- an inkjet printer containing regular 20 lb. photocopy paper (not glossy paper)
- a 16″x20″ artist’s canvas (fits image template below)
- a wooden frame to fit (optional)
- the Lovely French Label image from The Graphics Fairy HERE or my modified image below
- Golden Soft Gel Medium (I used semi-gloss)
- matte Mod Podge or Krylon’s Matte Spray Sealer
- white acrylic gesso
- acrylic paints in the colors of your choice. I used DecorArt’s Americana “Driftwood” and Americana “Neutral Grey“
fine grit sandpaper (I used 400 grit)
an assortment of paint brushes
ruler, pencil, and scissors
painter’s tape (I used Frog Tape)
- plastic plate/tray for paint
rubber brayer or flat spreader
paper towels and rags
- disposable latex gloves
plastic drop cloth to protect your workspace
I found my this gorgeous French label image on The Graphics Fairy’s blog that I thought would be perfect for this project. I loved the look of this image but I wanted the colors to be a little more subtle so I used the Eye Dropper and Flood Fill tools in my Photo Impact program to change its colors.
Below you will find my modified image for your use. It has been saved as a “mirror image” so that when you print it out and transfer it to canvas, the text will be facing the proper direction. The only thing that I ask is that if you use or share my modified image that you provide a link back to this tutorial. Thanks so much!
Right Click Photo to Save Full-Sized Graphic
In order to print out your image so that it will fit your 16″X20″ canvas, you will need to print it out in Poster mode. This means that your image will be scaled to fit your canvas by printing it onto four separate letter-sized pieces of paper which you will then piece together to make one large image.
Here’s how to print out a poster-sized image using Microsoft Paint.
First, open up your saved image from this tutorial into your Paint program. Then click on File—>Print—>then Page setup.
Click on Portrait, center it both horizontally and vertically and also fit the image to 2 by 2 pages (this will give you 4 separate printouts). Also, make sure you have selected letter size paper on the top right. Then click on OK to save your settings.
To preview how your print out will look, click File—>Print—>Print Preview.
Click on Next Page and you will see that your image has been split into 4 separate parts. Before printing, check to make sure that you have selected color for your printer. You may also want to set your printer to Best Quality printing.
Next print out your image. Leave your printouts to dry for a few minutes before moving on to the next step.
Carefully cut off the “inner” edges of your printouts exactly on the edge so that when you put them all together they will line up properly (see photo below). I like to use my handy, dandy Fiskars paper trimmer (I can’t cut a straight line no matter how hard I try), but you could also use a pencil, a ruler and an Exacto knife if you don’t have a paper trimmer.
Assemble your printouts on the floor face-up. Try to match up the design as closely as possible. Use a low tack painters tape such as Frog tape (as shown above) to help hold the pages in place well enough so that you are able to flip your image over onto its back side without anything shifting out-of-place.
Then flip your image over and use small pieces of tape to tape your image so that it is sturdy enough to be turned over again without shifting (see 2nd photo below for an example). TIP: Don’t over tape because you will need to remove all of the tape during the transferring step.
Check the front side of your image again to make sure that everything is still lined up correctly and then carefully remove the tape from the front of your image. Leave the tape on the back side of the paper.
Next, use a pencil and ruler to mark off a 1/4″ border of white space all the way around your image and then cut off the excess with your trimmer or exacto knife. Be sure to erase any pencil marks on your image or they will show up on your finished picture.
Paint your canvas with a fairly dry brush using the steps above. Let the canvas dry in between coats. When I say paint “randomly and vertically” I mean that you will be brushing on the paint vertically on the canvas and randomly (here and there). You want to end up with a striated look (different shades of painted lines running vertically through the canvas).
Also, if you don’t have on hand the colors I have mentioned. No sweat! Just use what you have. This paint finish works best with similar colors that have different tones to them, (light, medium and dark) so that there is a subtle contrast showing between the striations.
Transferring such a large image to a canvas can be a little awkward because the large-sized paper can flop all over the place. I am going to share with you the best way that I have found to easily line up an image onto canvas. This step requires a few more minutes of preparation but it will give you great results and help avoid a lot of potential frustration.
The first thing you will want to do is to center your image face-up on the top of your painted canvas. Measure from the black edge of the outside border of your graphic to the outer edge of your canvas. Do this on all four edges to make sure your graphic is even all the way around and completely centered on your canvas.
Next, add a strip of painter’s tape to each side of your image leaving up to a 1/4″ of space between your image and the painter’s tape. Try to keep your border as straight as possible. (see above photo). Basically what you are doing in this step is making a frame of tape around your image so that you can easily line it up inside this taped frame. The frame helps to keep your image straight and prevents gel medium from getting all over the rest of your canvas.
Usually when I do my canvas transfers, I add my gel medium to the printed side of my image and then place it face-down on my canvas. Because this image is so large, what works best is to add the gel medium directly on to the canvas and then place the image face-down on top of it.
Using a large paintbrush, coat your canvas with an even coat of gel medium. You need to work quickly because the gel medium needs to be wet for the transfer to work. If it starts to dry in one area, quickly go over it again with your wet paintbrush.
Line up your image face-down over top of the painter’s tape frame that you made on your canvas. Quickly place your image down onto the wet gel medium and use your hand to smooth out the wrinkles. IMPORTANT: Once your image has been placed down onto your canvas it cannot be moved.
Next, use your brayer to roll back and forth over the back of your image, smoothing it out. Go over your entire canvas 2-3 times in both directions.
Wipe off any excess gel medium immediately with a damp cloth or paper towel and carefully peel off the painter’s tape frame around your image and any tape on the back of your image. Leave your transfer to set for a few minutes.
NOTE: If you are transferring a laser printed image please refer to my laser transfer tutorial HERE. The steps that follow are for inkjet transfers only.
You can see (above) that with inkjet transfers, the image comes immediately through the paper when you are rolling over it with a brayer. Unlike laser transfers, where all you can see is your white piece of paper with a faint image coming through.
And the missing spot above? This is where I carefully tried to remove the painter’s tape on a spot wet with gel medium. To my surprise, the inkjet ink had already transferred to the canvas after only being attached for 2 minutes.
Next, to expose your image you will need to immediately peel off the paper while your transfer is still damp. Use the pad of your finger (preferably wearing gloves) to gently rub across one spot on your image. Then find an edge of paper that is lifting and peel it away. Continue over your entire canvas peeling off the paper while the transfer is still damp.
To remove any residual bits of paper you can use a soft rag to gently rub them away. Don’t do like me and use your hands to rub off the paper unless you want your hand to be stained purple like Barney. Oops!
My purple stained hand would not come clean despite thorough and repeated washings, but by the next day it finally faded away. I would suggest that you use gloves as inkjet toner ink is probably not the healthiest thing to absorb into your skin!
Ha! I did not realize until after I had taken this photo of my purple-stained hand that I managed to create a little friend in the photo. My daughter said it looks like a dog. Me, I think it looks more like a giraffe.
My final tip for you is that whatever you do, DO NOT wet your canvas with water like you would when doing a laser image transfer. Inkjet printer ink will run if it gets overly wet which you can see in my final canvas and closeup in my photo below. Don’t do as I did! As long as you remove the paper backing from your image while it is still damp from the gel medium you should get a fairly clean image.
I should also mention that sometimes especially near the edges of your image, some of the image may rub off (see the bottom of my image below). This is the nature of inkjet transfers, which just adds to the aging of your canvas in my opinion.
Once you are happy with how your canvas looks, leave it to dry for at least an hour. When it is dry, your image will look hazy and you may see residual paper fibers. At this time you can use your gloved hand to lightly rub in a circular motion over top of your canvas which will help to remove any remaining fibers. Don’t worry about the residual paper fibers too much! Once you clear coat your canvas almost all of the residual fibers will disappear and your image will be crisp and clear again.
To seal your canvas, spray it with 2-3 coats of clear sealer such as Krylon’s matte spray sealer (my favorite sealer) or coat it with a few layers of matte Mod Podge.
I don’t know about you, but I have an abundance of wooden picture frames in my basement from years of thrifting. I ended up finding the perfect sized frame to fit my canvas. I love when that happens!
This frame was originally a dark teal which didn’t really go very well with my new canvas art that I made, so it too got a makeover. Sorry, I totally forgot to take a before photo of the frame to show you.
To age your own frame, first lightly sand it with 400 grit sandpaper to give your paint some tooth. Next, paint it with a coat of white gesso. Follow with a coat of a medium or dark gray craft paint. Leave it to dry, then add another coat of white gesso over top.
Next distress your frame randomly with your 400 grit sandpaper exposing some of the original color and gray layer underneath.
To protect what you have done, either coat it with two coats of Mod Podge or a paste wax.
Your French art canvas is now done! You can sit back and proudly look at the beautiful large piece of art that you have made for your wall for very little time and money! Or you may be like me and have all of the supplies already on hand. In that case this art won’t cost you a penny to make!
Now that I have done an inkjet transfer myself, which transfer method do I prefer?
If I were to choose my favorite method, I would have to say that laser transfers still win hands down. Inkjet transfers are a much quicker method of transferring but laser transfers give a much more vibrant, flawless image. Inkjet transfers will give you more of a subtle, aged image.
Have you tried both inkjet and laser image transfers before? Which do you prefer?
Until next time,
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