Picture of Solvent Transfers
Every time I use this technique, people always ask how it's done, and I've always had a bit of difficulty explaining it. They say a picture's worth a thousand words. Hopefully this will help a bit.

The applications for this technique are nearly limitless. I've used and seen it used on business cards, journaling, book covers, I created an entire book "typeset" using this method (and most people thought it was actually done with letterpress). Explore.

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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
The list of materials:

- Paper (or other porous surface to transfer on to)
- Paper with the desired image/text to transfer
- Masking Tape
- Solvent
- Burnishing device

For the paper, I used Rives BFK, a neutral, smooth surfaced thick paper. Thicker, more absorbent paper will take the ink better, and the smoother the surface, the more evenly the transfer will lay down. Interesting effects can be had with different surfaces.

For tape, I usually use white "artist's tape" which is acid free and generally the least adhesive. Any masking tape will do, and it's possible to transfer without tape, but the tape makes it a ton easier.

For the solvent, the easiest and simplest way to go is with a blender pen, designed for blending when using markers. I used a Chartpak Blender (P-0 201) a link for info, but can usually be found locally at a good art supply store.. Despite the nontoxic seal on the pen, the blender pen is filled with Xylene, which means it should be used in a very well ventilated area, and with a respirator if you're sensitive. Any other solvent can be used (i've heard of good results with Citrus-solv) but Xylene seems to work better than anything. If you plan on doing an extensive amount of transfers, you can purchase a can of Xylene at the local hardware store for not much more than the price of a blender pen. Use a glass jar (Xylene can destroy plastic) and a brush to apply.

And lastly, for the burnisher, if you have a Bone folder (traditionally used for bookbinding and other book-arts) it works as the best tool as you can achieve the greatest control and precision. again, a link, but one can usually be found at a good art supply store. A spoon or other hard object will work as well.

The first photo shows all possible materials you could use, while the second photo shows the basic materials, which are more portable, cleaner, and a bit safer to use.
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stbride6 years ago
I have used this technique for years -- see (and other artwork in the gallery also). Just a few months ago I tried to buy toner for my old dual-process copier on which I created original images for use in my artwork and learned it is no longer available.

I am musing about other ways to get a simalar effect..

Brigid Manning-Hamilton

I was under the impression that toner is toner and toner cartridges can be refilled. Some just have caps that pull off. Other are sealed but there is a company that sells a kit so you can drill a hole and it comes with a plug to make your cartridge refillable. I'll try to find you a link if you think it would help.

Another new issue to consider -

Some laser printer manufacturers are now using "newer" toner made from epoxy-based materials rather than the traditional plastic-based. I found this out when trying to laser-transfer images to metal with heat (for etching). Brother laser printers apparently use epoxy-based, non-melting toner. And some newer HP printers, as well.

These will NOT melt and transfer with heat. I don't know if this affects solvent transfers as described in this Instructable, but it may. If anyone has tested this, please add a comment.

Yikes. I didn't know they were changing toner from plastic to epoxy. Do you happen to know which HP models of color laser printer have changed, and which ones (the older ones) have stayed the same? I've done laser transfers with b/w, and I'd like to do it in color. I made a big mistake and got an Epson 3880 ink jet printer with that Ultrachrome ink, which unfortunately will not transfer with either Citrisolv or rubbing alcohol. I thought of trying Everclear or wintergreen oil. But an HP color laser printer would be a lot easier to use as long as they don't change their formulation! Do you know which ones are still the old kind? Thank you very much.

LisaXDavidson3 months ago

Does anyone happen to know how archival the Xerox Color Qube Solid Inks are? I notice that Xerox in discussing this says that they have a drawer full of prints made twenty-five years ago that look brand new, but that does not mean that sun exposure will not harm them. Any Xerox solid ink users out there? Thank you.

jleblanc105 months ago

i tried a test print and it worked with acetone in the form of Great Stuff foam gun cleaner onto newsprint. The print was done with a Samsung colour laser printer. I couldn't find blender pens or xylene in less than a gallon tin here.

spinach_dip8 years ago
Can ink from gel pens be transferred?

Heck you they can. Works like a charm with acetone so probably works with xylene too.

They're might be different types of gel pens. I can tell you what kind mine were if you want. I'm thinking they were gel pens but not 100% sure. The box is around somewhere...

10 seconds, I'll try.
Djeucalyptus is right, it only sort-of works.
Ahem. I was wrong. It doesn't work at all. HOWEVER, you can sort-of get a transfer if you write and then burnish really fast. The ink stays wet for a little while, and you can transfer it while it's wet. But I suppose you probably don't care anymore, since you asked over a year ago.
djeucalyptus (author)  spinach_dip8 years ago
I haven't tried, but given the nature of the gel, I'm not sure it would transfer cleanly. It might be worth a shot - could be interesting.
funkbassman7 months ago

I've seen people transfer onto tile but I cannot get any item to transfer onto tile for the life of me. I'm using a bottle of xylene and only looks like a blob

djeucalyptus (author)  funkbassman7 months ago
I'm not sure I've seen a transfer onto tile with solvent. I'm guessing that the problem (and the reason for the blob) is the surface of the tile is finished and has no tooth/texture to pick up the transfer, thus the xylene sits on top of the surface of the tile, allowing the pigment to further dissolve and mix into a blob. To use a solvent, I think you would need to coat the surface of the tile with something to give texture - maybe a spray of matte fixative/sealer? Or find a tile that is uncoated/porous.
harooney9 months ago

will this method work for transferring an old book illustration do you think? I would try it, but I'm away from my studio right now.

djeucalyptus (author)  harooney9 months ago
It all depends on the way that the original ink was printed. I find that a toner-based image (from a laser printer or copy machine) always works.

So my advice would be: sure, you could try it. but your best bet would be to make a photocopy first and then transfer that.
neeterxxi1 year ago
I've had wonderful success transferring prints to fabric with Citri-Solv, which has orange oil as the active ingredient. Non-toxic and very, very pleasant scent. :)
FWIW - I accidentally "discovered" this method in frustration while trying to get toner to transfer from a laser-printed overhead transparency sheet to a sheet of brass. Tried a number of different solvents; the ones I found that would dissolve the toner from my laser printer were acetone and lacquer thinner. I found that print on the transparencies would leap right over onto paper that was placed on top of the toner side of the sheet and then soaked with acetone, leaving the transparency sheet completely clean and unharmed as far as I could tell. Maybe it could even be re-used for another image. I thought this discovery might prove useful for someone. I was using a Brother color laser printer and laser-printable overhead transparency sheets from 3M.
beaniew3 years ago
I've been experimenting with large scale production of clothing and textiles with transfer with chartpak blender pens --- I'll try the xylene - also mentioned to me by an art store salesperson as the solvent in most markers.
Also, I've found success using that blender pen transfering onto leather and matte or semimatte ceramic tiles -- I plan to seal them for permanence.
The blender pen is wash proof on silk at least!
vcote3 years ago
I've used different types of toners and was always annoyed by the left over smell. Does the Xylene smell go away after a while or does it stay forever? How long does it take?
melonbee7 years ago
Can I do a transfer onto fabric, like a T-shirt?
You want to transfer it on T-Shirts, you need transfer on T-shirt paper, which costs around a dolar, print the image left side right, you should have this option in printer settings, and then iron the paper on you clothes, and peel of the white paper.
Sorry, but that's not all true. Normal paper, xylene/blender pen and an inkjet/photocopied image will work fine.
Well, atleast we don't get xylene pens in here
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons glycerin
5 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon rubbing alcohol
use that and just dab a cotton soaked with the refill recipe (that)
cpotemkin5 years ago
A little lesson from when I was learning this process... be sure to mirror your image before printing. Otherwise, the image (or text) will come out backwards on your receiving material.
but using the reversed image on the paper, you can use that to generate your final image by repeating the same stuff as above
mdog935 years ago
can you transfer onto a t-shirt, im guessing yes but it will wash off. is that right? mdog
djeucalyptus (author)  mdog935 years ago
theoretically it could work... I've seen it done on fabric several times. but the process doesn't really give any sort of permanence. maybe some sort of fabric fixative? if you try it and figure something out, let me know!
It would work really well as a guide, followed by fabric ink added on, alternatively it's possible the ink may be soluble aswell, in which case you could print on to paper by refilling a cartridge with fabric ink, if the consistency's right. Then using this process...
is fabric ink the same as fabric paint or is the ink thinner. and i have never trusted refilling cartridge becuase i worry they might leak or block up your printer and ruin it or something. I would worry the fabric ink might do something bad to my printer.
Well it could ruin a set of cartridges but the right consistency would make it fairly trustable, A cheapo printer might be a better option considering the cost of cartridges...
yeah but i wouldn't wana buy a printer just to try this because if it doesn't work I wouldn't want to do it again but if it did work i might make lots in batch and sell them or sumthin.
cool, sp can you buy proper fabric fixative? I know of some homemade fixatives that you can use like salt and stuff but i don't know how affective they are.
gkalem20116 years ago
does this work with photos too. Like family pictures in color or black in white
djeucalyptus (author)  gkalem20116 years ago
yup. it will work with anything as long as it's toner from a copier. Actual photographs (or inkjet prints) won't work... but anything from a copier will do the trick.
UltraMagnus6 years ago
ok..... i must admit, at first i thought "wtf did he not just print onto the good paper in the first place" but, i can see how it would be useful to transfer onto wood etc now.... perhaps mention that the beginning of the instructable?
deadwhale8 years ago
I've used essentially the same method to transfer graphic designs to copper. Once transferred, the design made a great resist for etching.
Bold is NOT cruse control for cool.
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