Image Transfer to Wood




Introduction: Image Transfer to Wood

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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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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

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242 Discussions

Since paper finish needs to be glossy, would glossy photo paper work for this type project?

Will this rub off nicly on light painted wood, have good color?

i cant wait to use this to put a dragon on a wooden box for my partner

Do you know if this would work on a rough painted surface?

I need a transfer larger than 8-1/2 x 11 and onto a chalk painter surface. I'm thinking it can be done but am somewhat unsure how to piece together the image accurately. Any ideas?


7 months ago

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.

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. :-(

Will this process work the same on painted wood?

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.

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

2 replies

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

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.

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

3 replies

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.

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

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.

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

1 reply

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


1 year ago

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.