Introduction: Image Transfer to Wood

Picture of Image Transfer to Wood

UPDATED: Guide originally called for Parchment Paper to be used. We apologize for the misprint and have corrected the guide as FREEZER Paper is what we use for this method.

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.

Picture of Cut Freezer Paper to 8 1/2 X 11 In.

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)

Step 5: Choose an Image and Reverse It

Picture of Choose an Image and Reverse It

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. Freezer paper 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!)

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

Picture of Place the Paper Ink Side Down Onto the Wood

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 and let dry. If surface remains rough once dry, rub down with a brown paper bag 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!


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.

AmandaK110 (author)2017-07-06

What printer settings do you use?

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

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.

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?

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! :)

RonB94 (author)scartm2016-09-05

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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

AndriesM2 made it! (author)2016-10-18

i had great fun creating a farewell present at my previous post.

KelM9 (author)AndriesM22016-12-22

using this method???

AndriesM2 (author)KelM92016-12-22

Followed it step by step. Had a bit of a hard time obtaining the freezer paper here in western Europe.

krzysztoff (author)2016-09-26

Even when the ink is dry, the clearcoat of makes a mess. What can I do?

Syncubus (author)krzysztoff2016-12-06

Spray a clearcoat, so the brush doesn't smudge the image.

ewbray (author)2016-09-04

Has anyone ever tried buying hot iron T-Shirt transfer paper; costing ~$0.85 per sheet for each wood transfer. The beauty of the these products are that they manufacture transfers image paper for both light & dark T-Shirts, so they could be used on both light wood & darkly stained wood!! Coating with clear polyurethane when finished will preserve the finished image.


I might also suggest using a FREE graphics manipulation program like GIMP {} to reverse any image with a simple click of the mouse!

heat4212 (author)ewbray2016-12-04

I was wondering if T-shirt transfer would work for this but I would not recommend the dark unless you don't expect any parts to be transparent. The transfer is solid white and unless you cut away all the white that remains after your image is printed the white will show up on your item. The light T-shirt transfer is transparent though.

One80Bits (author)2016-10-23

Can I suggest for Aussies who don't really have access to freezer paper (or anyone who is having issues with printing), I use spray adhesive on a standard piece of paper (just lightly sprayed so it's tacky), tack the piece of material to the paper to help me feed it through my printer if it won't grip. It's so handy.

RoseMaryB13 (author)2016-10-10

Tried this and it was a disaster! Can't print the image on the freezer paper. It jams in my printer

remy1234 (author)RoseMaryB132016-10-21

At least it only jammed in your printer. I've been on the phone now with Epson trying to get it fixed and no go. My printer is now ruined...

cicijay made it! (author)2016-10-11

Thanks for putting this tutorial together, I wouldn't have tried it if I hadn't seen it otherwise! The steps work great, though I did have to use some different materials in the end.

Bought some freezer paper to do this, but I got lots of smudge lines out of my printer, though annoyingly the bottom was fine just most of the top part had lines through it. Printed it on paper just to make sure it wasn't the printer and it wasn't.

I ended up using some acetate (I pulled off the see-through front cover of a presentation/brochure that I had lying around) and it printed perfectly. I didn't handle it properly and I did smudge it a little bit: I'd spent so much time on it at this point I just went with it, but would have been just as easy to wipe it down and print again.

I actually had several goes at the transfer, having tried it a few times with the freezer paper. When it didn't work, I just went and sanded my block of wood until I got rid of the image.

I used clear nail varnish for the clear coat, seems to be ok so far.

adamson23 (author)2016-09-30

strange, i can't download the pdf

TNTGamer101 (author)2016-09-14

My printer keeps saying it doesn't have paper. Any way to fix that? (My printer is an HP officejet pro if that helps)

StijnB10 (author)TNTGamer1012016-09-23

If you cut The freezer paper t he size of a normal paper your printer recognises (like A4 or legal) and then tape it Yo one of those pages, chances are your printer Wil recognise!

PaulC80 (author)2016-08-04

An easier way of doing this is to use 'LASER Overhead
Projector film' on an inkjet printer. The ink sits on top of the film and does
not get 'burnt' into the film as it would have done on the laser,

I've used this method to transfer an image onto wooden
napkin rings that will be burnt into with a Pyrography tool.

SharonA55 (author)PaulC802016-08-08

Does this get a bit mixed with colour inks and smudge?

PaulC80 (author)SharonA552016-08-23

Hi I've not gone to check out the smudging, however similar to this project I've come across this page,, look down the list to transferring images to wood. I'm not sure of what he gel medium is but if you find out let me know!

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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