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Printing colour images on to wood: Making letter tiles

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Using wax transfer paper, normally sold for printing images on to t-shirts, you can tranfer images on to most any porus surface. In this instructable I explain how to make a set of tiles similar to scrabble.
 
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Step 1: Parts & Tools

You will need to buy
Enough 1/4" plywood to complete the project, higher ply number the better
Wax transfer paper, available from any office supply or craft store. AKA t-shirt transfer paper

Tools
Text editor with options to mirror the output print.
Inkjet printer
Iron, some heavy cotton
Sander
Narrow gauge circular saw or band saw

Overview: A mirror image it printed on to the transfer paper, ironed on to the wood and in this case cut up in to individual tiles.

Step 2: Layout print

So, this game I'm making is made up of a number of tiles with letters on them.

I've attached an example html file which you should be able to enlarge to fit your paper (A4 or US letter) using the (CTRL) key and '+'. Alternatively import this in to word to manipulate.

Some things to note.
The letter in each row and column should be centered both horizontally and vertically within each cell, which is why I chose html over word.doc.
Leave enough room between each letter for the width of the saw blade and a little. You will also want to chamfer (round off) the edges of each tile

Start with a trial run, print the image on to plain paper and place on the receiving surface to make sure everything is laid out correctly. When you're happy, print to the wax paper.
buirv5 years ago
This is something I've been trying to do for a while. However, I can't find a text editor that will mirror Text properly without making a project of it. MS Word only allows you to mirror a graphic of text. Which text editor did you use?
paqrat buirv2 years ago
Perhaps instead of a text editor you need a graphics program. Paint allows you to insert text. Not sure if Paint will allow you to flip the image but there are others that would.

Late reply, I know (but you know what they say!)...just about every graphics program including Paint has a function to flip an image. Sometimes it's called "mirror".

jeffeb3 buirv2 years ago
If you can flip the image (and there's not a flip in the properties as Johne99 suggests) then you can hit printscreen, and then paste, and get the text as an image in the word document. Might be cumbersome for large amounts of text, or frequently editing text though.
holzwurm buirv4 years ago
If you are looking for a good way to print on wood check out my website at www.theholzwurm.com. We directly print on wood up to 1 3/4" thick. I am also a graphic artist so we can take any photo or artwork and print it for you.
radiorental (author)  buirv5 years ago
That is a really good question. Its been a number of years since I've done this but it looks like I must have made an image of it somehow. I'm not sure which file types are going to work best for a simple workflow, but at a guess I'd say you're probably going to have to save the file as a pdf and then import it in to gimp or photoshop. Then flip the image on the vertical axis. Sorry about that.
Look at the 'properties' box on the print menue and I have a Mirror Print option box to tick for exactly this problem. No need to export and import.
radiorental (author)  johne995 years ago
Thanks John!
Nlarkin3 months ago

Great tutorial on how to do this at home! If you are looking to get them professionally done, check out InstaThis.com They do a fantastic job of printing on Wood, Metal, and even coasters. You can Connect to your instagram account and print right from there.

instathis-custom-wood-instagram-prints-0.jpg
mlastrina2 years ago
Check out www.woodsnap.com. They do some really incredible stuff. They print photos directly on to a wood canvas.
Whoa, that looks cool. I wonder how they do that?
tburch42 years ago
I was wonder what this paper is exactly called and where to find it?...
Would this technique work for transferring a photograph onto a skate deck?
radiorental (author)  Sarah Von Zombie2 years ago
yep, as long as you take any paint/varnish off the deck first. You need the ink to soak in to the wood and also, ironing on to paint will cause it to bubble & stuff.
plpicher4 years ago
 thanks!
i was trying with t-shirt transferable sheets but i didn't think about the coton sheet so it was almost imposible to make it right!
i use it to print my name on my homemade guitars.
thanks
abishur4 years ago
so I just tried it on my own, and the transfer paper keeps leaving a solid wax wall behind and not just the image (which makes varnishing difficult). Is this unavoidable or am I doing something wrong? (or just using low quality transfer paper?)
radiorental (author)  abishur4 years ago
you should be able to just rub that waxy coating off without damaging the ink.
abishur4 years ago
have you ever tried varnishing the tiles after applying the wax images? Do you know if there would be any problem with doing this?
hi, pardon me for asking, i'm a newbie when it comes to printing on wood. may i ask, if i want to print the picture or letter on the wood for many times , do i also have to make lots of copies of the picture from the laserjet/inkjet printer? for example: i want to print 80 pieces on the wood a certain picture, do i also have to make a copy of 80 pieces for the picture?, i'm planning to make tokens for the guest on my brother's birthday. thank you and hope to hear a reply soon. helpful site too.
hediyeh5 years ago
What kind of varnish I should use to transfer image. Please advise me . Thank you.
hediyeh5 years ago
What kind of varnish I should use to transfer image into wood. please advise me. Thankyou
katytencor5 years ago
Thank you so much for this! Can't wait to try it out in my art project. Great website too :)
tyeo0987 years ago
will kitchen wax paper work?
Reosurce for printing
Kitchen wax paper works of course, in the kitchen.
But you can try printing images on to t-shirts.
I'm glad that aren't my t-shirts.
amandakarl16 years ago
I have 70 wooden wine glasses as my wedding favours and we are looking into a way to put our names and date on them. Does anyone have an idea of how to do this on a curved surface?
Kelpy7 years ago
This is great! I'm a harp maker, not mouth harp, the kind that angels play. I'm trying to transfer photo art via inkjet printer and iron onto Sitka Spruce soundboard wood. I'll give your technique a try. Thanks Kelpy
Ingerson7 years ago
Hey there. Really like this and the coasters idea.. Was thinking you could glue little magnets on the back and you get one of those fridge poetry sets.
radiorental (author)  Ingerson7 years ago
I like it! or fridge magnet pictures. Thanks!
Would the wax paper transfer to a surface like tiles? If so, it'd be interesting to decorate a bathroom or kitchen with it using your own designs.
radiorental (author)  Cristian Lavaque7 years ago
I dont think so. It has to be a porus surface. You do have a couple of options open to you. There are special paints for tiles, you could hand paint them or make a stamp to automatic the process. Depends on what designs you were looking at. Alternatively, check out my other 'printing on to wood' instructable. You can print the image on to paper and then stick it to the tile. Not sure how good this would look as the whole tile would be a different colour and might look out of place.
radiorental (author)  radiorental7 years ago
Unless!!!! if you could get unglazed tiles then you could certainly do this, dont know what you would seal/glaze the tile with though. I would start by finding an artist who works with pottery and get their advice. Draw out some of your images and show them. Good luck and let me know how you get on, I'm very interested.
Cool. Thanks for your replies!
guerroloco8 years ago
Shouldn't the letters be printed as a mirror image? These letter A's look normal (no mirrored)
radiorental (author)  guerroloco7 years ago
Aha!!! well spotted that man. Yes, I actually cheated a little here. I created this stuff ages ago and 'reverse engineered' the documentation and made the classic booboo of not mirroring the print. You win a pint, redemeable next monday at Red Bones for the red sox game
radiorental (author)  radiorental7 years ago
note I only show the A which is fairly symetrical (o;
Jafafa Hots8 years ago
Thanks... this gives me ideas for other things too.
radiorental (author)  Jafafa Hots7 years ago
its fairly limitless in its application. The nice thing about it is the final result, I'll upload picture of larger prints where I made cup coasters and a place mat
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