Introduction: Transfer Photos Onto Plexiglass

About: I'm a maker with a penchant for art and a love of sculpting the unsettling. I also appreciate the history of deep craft traditions and would be a good part of any post apocalypse survival team.

I created these semi transparent plexiglass tiles from photocopies and laser printouts. Since each photo becomes transparent, you can layer several images to create one design. I also added some color and backing to give a more vintage feel. I picked a couple of ladies that I think are pretty awesome, Alfonsina Strada and Ruth Asawa and layered text and images that related to their lives and careers.

You can use any image as long as it's been printed with a laser printer or copied on a copy machine. Part of the aesthetic of this technique is that it isn't a perfect transfer, so it works great for vintage photographs or anything that could use a bit of detritus. 

Step 1: Materials

You'll need:
- A piece of plexiglass
- Photocopy or laser printed images or text (get extra copies)
- Clear gel medium (you'll find it at any art store in the paint section)
- Squeegee (or a small block of wood works too)
- Paintbrush

- Semi-transparent paper
- Markers

Step 2: Transfering Photos

Okay, so here's where we really get to it. Basically whats going to happen is that the ink sticks to the gel medium as it dries and you'll then be able to remove the paper. First things first, we attach the first image to the plexi.

Attach the First Image
1. Paint - Paint the first image with the gel medium. Cover it generously and work steadily since it dries pretty quickly. Be sure you don't get any medium on the back of the paper or it will be harder to remove later on. I also paint a little directly onto the plexi to help prevent streaks.

2. Place - I usually leave the image on the table and then position the plexi over it so I have a better idea of what the finished product will look like. If possible keep some of the paper off the side of the plexi so it's easier to remove later.

3. Squeegee - Flip it over and use the squeegee to flatten out the paper and ensure it's securely down. Look at the front to be sure there aren't any streaks or air bubbles. Wipe away the excess medium that the squeegee pushes out.

4. Troubleshooting - If there are streaks or air bubbles, you can try to squeegee more, but it's likely you didn't use enough medium. Pull off the image ASAP and start over with a new printed image.

Step 3: Removing the Paper

1. Wait - Now that the image is applied, wait 5-10 minutes. The paper should still feel damp or cold, but at this stage it's easier to remove the paper than when it's completely dry.

2. Test - Test a corner to be sure the image is sticking to the plexi. If it comes up with the paper, wait longer.

3. Remove - Pull off the paper and it should come off without any ink. Check out the pic.

4. Rub - Be sure you have something cued up on Netflix for this. There will be plenty of remaining paper bits that need to come off. The easiest way of doing this is by lightly rubbing the paper and it should start to ball up leaving the image in tact. Be careful though, if the gel isn't set, you can easily push or tear the image. If the paper is completely dry, you'll need to get it a little bit moist to get off the remaining bits. This can take a while and depending on the number of layers you have, you can easily do some binge watching.

You may not be able to get all of the paper off the image, or just decide to give up. Wherever paper you leave will get a bit of a cloudy or torn look, and after experimenting you may want to use that as part of the aesthetic. Or you can just say it was intentional and move on.

5. Repeat - Once you have your first layer, go back and do the same process for all subsequent layers.

Step 4: Finishing

At this point you should have all of your layers with paper removed. If you'd like to add a bit of color, now is a good time to do it. I use  markers since they are transparent, but you could experiment with paint or colored paper as well. Just color directly onto the back of the image.

The final thing is to add a backing to create a nice even background and cover up any tears or missing bits of medium. I used trace paper on the Ruth Asawa tile to keep it fairly transparent. On the Alfonsina tile, I stained the remaining paper with ink then added two layers of sewing pattern paper and two layers of trace. These layers are done one at a time with the gel medium and squeegee.

You can now put these up in your window on your wall... or use your new fancy plexi for many other maker projects.