Introduction: Image Transfer to Wood

Picture of Image Transfer to Wood

No fuss method for transferring an image onto wood using minimal supplies! I have tried several other methods with mixed results, but THIS WORKS!

Step 1: Supplies

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You will need:
1. A piece of raw (unfinished) wood - lighter woods work better
2. Coarse grit (60 or 80 G) sandpaper
3. Paper cutter, or scissors and a ruler
4. Freezer paper (much more "printer friendly" than wax paper)
5. Printable mirror image of what you want to transfer
7. Clear coat (Lacquer has been used for this project)

(and not pictured, a credit card or something similar to use for smoothing the paper onto the wood) will want your phone, because immediately after you make this, you will want to take a picture to text to your mom, your sister...and especially that super-crafty friend.

Step 2: Choose a Piece of Wood

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Ideally, a lighter wood, as the ink will show up better. Mine measures 5 1/2" wide x 11" tall. The size of yours is up to you!

Step 3: Sand the Surface

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Using 60 or 80 grit sandpaper, rough up the surface of the wood. Go with the grain. Don't skip this step, or the ink won't absorb into the wood!

Step 4: Cut Freezer Paper to 8 1/2 X 11 In.

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Using your paper cutter (or scissors and ruler), cut a piece of freezer paper to 8 1/2 x 11 inches (or to any size that your printer recognizes). Crooked cuts often lead to paper jams so try to be very accurate here!

Updated: Several have commented having also had success using transparency paper (it is already the correct size, more easily feeds through the printer and can be wiped clean and reused) as well as the leftover paper that address labels are stuck to.

Step 5: Choose an Image and Reverse It

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Design your image (or choose from a free printables site). Using a program such as "Paint," reverse the image so that you have a mirror image. Feel free to use our image! :)

Step 6: Print the Image Onto Freezer Paper

Picture of Print the Image Onto Freezer Paper

Feed the freezer paper into your printer so that the image prints on the shiny side. Print. The paper holds your ink in place but will not absorb it. The slick surface is the trick to making this method work.

(I tried at least a dozen times with wax paper on 3 different printers and paper jam every time. So, try wax paper at your own risk! If you are still getting printer jams with this, try taping or glueing the freezer paper to a standard sheet of paper.)

Step 7: Place the Paper Ink Side Down Onto the Wood

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Careful here - it is a one shot deal! Lay the freezer paper ink side down onto the wood. Do not re-position once placed. Using a card (and holding the paper in place with the other hand), smooth the card over the entire surface of the paper, taking care not to move the paper.

Step 8: Remove the Paper

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Pull off the paper - the image will remain on the wood!

Don't like how it looks? The ink is superficially absorbed into the surface - just sand it off and give it another go!

Step 9: Apply a Clearcoat

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Once ink is dry to touch, apply a clearcoat (spray is recommended to reduce smudging/bleeding) and let dry. If surface remains rough once dry, rub down with a brown paper bag (this smooths the surface without lifting the clearcoat) and apply an additional clearcoat. I applied black paint to the edges prior to clearcoat.

Step 10: The Possibilities Are Endless!

Picture of The Possibilities Are Endless!

Broom parking is my original design - feel free to use it! Trick or Treat is available at for free!


RonE44 (author)2018-01-17

What setting do you have the printer on? My Epson I set to glossy inkjet, because of the shiny finish on the paper and the solid colour came out with a 'crackle' finish. When I placed it on the wood the finished item had the pale wood 'crackle' all over the solid black.

CandyH13 (author)2017-12-16

Can you use the Freezer paper that says "Reynold's Kitchens plastic coated"? I tried it and though it didn't jam in the printer, it floated completely on top. 15 minutes later it smeared. One of them was smearing as it printed. :-(

talkdtwo made it! (author)2017-12-07

Goodness, going to use it for lots of things. Made hand warmers for a thank you wedding gift. Used this on the little signs that will be above each basket and the larger sign. I taped the reversed image on freezer paper to a sheet of card stock, went through the printer like a dream. Taped the printed image to the wood so it wouldn't scoot around. Beyond pleased!

talkdtwo made it! (author)talkdtwo2017-12-08

I also made a larger sign to go with it. As stated in the article, the rougher the wood, the more rustic the appearance. I found that going over the words with the credit card first and then going over them again with the back end of a ball-point-pen (the non-ink side) really helps the ink to settle better. Make sure to tape down the image before rubbing because if the paper slips, so does the ink :)

CrazyCase (author)2017-12-01

Will this process work the same on painted wood?

scartm made it! (author)2015-10-10

Great technique, this is the back of a pine box I'm decorating. Btw, I've found it works great with Photocopier film/OHT's as well & I do it once w/ credit card & then go over w/ a spoon in the detailed areas, thanks fo rthe tute.

ronecc (author)scartm2017-11-12

Have you used the method to transfer photo's, as opposed to single/duo colour prints? Just wondering about the colour bleed on a photo, with the ink staying damp.

scartm (author)ronecc2017-11-13

Hi Ron. No, haven't tried any colour ones yet. Let me know how you go & G'luck.

CabinetDoorGuys (author)scartm2015-10-11

Beautiful! :)

scartm made it! (author)CabinetDoorGuys2015-10-12

Cheers, this is the final after stain & varnishing, thanks again

Ginny Antonic (author)scartm2017-03-13

Looks great, but just a question...did you do the image transfer, then stain over the top of that? Any problem with the image smudging?

No stain, only a spray clearcoat. I like spray lacquer because it dries very quickly and goes on well. I would not apply any finish over the ink that needs to be rubbed or brushed on.

Ghostrider13 (author)scartm2016-09-06

Nice work. Any way to make it darker?

StanfordL1 (author)scartm2016-09-04

Once again -- good job, thanks for sharing.

we3reeds (author)scartm2016-01-07

looks great

CabinetDoorGuys (author)scartm2015-10-27

Wow, this looks so nice! Thanks for posting your "I made it!" pics! :)

zeppelingirl (author)scartm2016-09-04

I love this...You said you do it with a credit card and then a spoon? What does the spoon do? Do you think this would work on a guitar? Thank you.

LorraineC31 (author)zeppelingirl2017-10-01

The backside of a spoon is an excellent burnishing tool. Super smooth, direct pressure with your finger or thumb inside the bowl of the burnishing tool ever!!

zeppelingirl (author)LorraineC312017-10-02

Cool. Thank you..

loch12v (author)zeppelingirl2016-09-04

You would need to sand or scrape the back of the guitar to remove the finish so the ink can grab the wood. Be aware that too much sanding can potentially change the tone of the guitar.

zeppelingirl (author)loch12v2016-09-04

OK thank you. My husband plays guitar and all our friends build their own so this would be done before any hardware and stains and such. Thanks so much.

scartm (author)zeppelingirl2016-09-04

Thanks. The spoon allows you greater pressure to ensure more complex areas aren't missed.

zeppelingirl (author)scartm2016-09-04

ah! cool thank you.

RonB94 (author)scartm2016-09-05

do you have a website where to find the Photocopier film/OHT's ????

LorraineC31 (author)RonB942017-10-01

OHT = OverHead Transparencies...Amazon...Office jet compatible. ;-)

Olyveoil (author)scartm2016-09-04


Do you reuse your film? Sounds interesting.


scartm (author)Olyveoil2016-09-04

Hi Olyveoil, yes, I wipe it clean & usually get 2 uses per side out of it so it's good for 4 prints, cheers

StanfordL1 (author)scartm2016-09-04

scartm -- Good job, nice work. I would likely use the same methods.

AmandaK110 (author)2017-07-06

What printer settings do you use?

I used the standard "good" setting, nothing special at all. Every printer is different, I would experiment a bit with the settings to see what works best for yours. The "photo" settings seemed to apply too much ink and was more apt to smudge with my printer.

RoseMaryB13 (author)2016-10-10

Are we missing a step here? Shouldn't we paint the gel onto the wood before we lay the picture down?

The paper only "carries" the ink. There is no need for any transfer medium onto raw wood as the wood soaks up the ink.

SergeE (author)RoseMaryB132017-01-09

From what I understand from various forums, the gel would be to transfer from a laser printer. Gel grabs the ink off the paper which is then carefully rubbed off ... bit of water to soften the paper and light pressure. Never tried it, seems to be a long process.

I did a quick test with a laser printer. Printed a small color image at work, went home at end of day and used a hot iron to press the ink onto a piece of wood - 2x4 waste I had, light color and rough by nature. It worked, even after hours of having been printed on the paper. Image was a bit faded since some of the ink stayed on the paper. But it worked, given a bit of the antique look in process ...

The ink from an inkjet printer stays on the surface of waxy paper, thus becomes easily transferable to the awaiting surface which, like wood, will hopefully soak it off the waxy paper. Smudging is the risk as you move paper from printer to the awaiting surface. In fact, you could probably do a (temporary) tatoo this way ?

A few say to use the backing paper of label stock for inkjet printers, just remove all the labels and extra webbing to leave just the, you guessed it, waxy paper ... These feed through the printer easily since they are thicker than freezer paper, and designed to feed through the printer in the first place. I did a quick test and it worked ... but smudging can be all too easy.

BlueJaye (author)2016-09-04

I am wondering how well this printing lasts. Does it fade over time?

CabinetDoorGuys (author)BlueJaye2017-10-22

Mine have not faded at all and several have been in sunny spots. The clearcoat does have UV protectant though. Most any wood will darken as it ages though, giving less contrast.

SaurabhK47 (author)BlueJaye2016-09-04

We are applying clear coat over it. So I don't think the ink has any possibility to fade.

elicitone (author)SaurabhK472016-09-04

Make sure it is a UV-Resistant clear coat... but fading can still happen. Especially if the item is in a place that get Direct Sun.

MaryF141 (author)2017-05-29

Im guessing it doesnt work so well on photo doesnt look clear

jvn1989 (author)MaryF1412017-08-05

Would be it because it is not as absorbent as untreated wood? I would like to try this process with MDF.

ShannonB102 made it! (author)2017-05-28

I did this with wax paper and it turned out perfect

GigiB8 (author)2017-05-17

I used your method on cheap Dollar Tree parchment paper. The paper was too think for the printer to grab without crumpling so I applied a piece of scotch tape to the back of the leading edge of the paper. Worked very well.

Swansong (author)2017-04-12

That looks really good! I may need to add some to our decorations this year :)

Kali Jennifer (author)2017-04-07

Can't wait to try this on my new guitar! Thank you

TheresaM70 (author)2016-11-04

You need to glue the freezer paper to a regular sheet of printer paper or else it does get stuck in the printer. I use Elmers all purpose and just make sure all of the edges are glued down. My neighbor uses spray adhesive. Either will do but you must attach the wax paper before printing

RobbW4 (author)TheresaM702017-02-11

OMG - you just saved my sanity. The glue to paper thing made it work. THANK YOU!!

AdriannE1 (author)TheresaM702016-11-18

could you use vellum instead? That's all I have!

StijnB10 (author)TheresaM702016-11-09

Good tip, thanks!

nicolenb55 (author)2017-01-10

Google PlakThat . this company creates beautiful custom prints on wood ANY photo you want, literally! I've tried this^ DIY method and several others until i finally decided i wanted a true clear beautiful wood print.

friger made it! (author)2017-01-02

This process worked perfectly for me using waxed paper. Just need to be careful feeding it into the rear feed on my Cannon. Also you need to cut very crisp edges on your paper. The smudging on the first image was just me playing with different clear coats. The images on the leather worked out better than expected too. The first octopus is cleared with a clear Fusion Tough coat sealer and the attempt at the coloured octopus was cleared with Super Sheen for leather. That one seemed to really wash out the colours. Both stayed very flexible and the ink soaked well into the leather.

EllenR26 (author)2016-12-26

Wow it really worked. The only problem I had was getting the paper through the printer

About This Instructable




Bio: With tens of thousands of cabinet doors to choose from at our shop ($5 ea!) the real question is...what to make next?! Want more ... More »
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