Photographs on Stone




Introduction: Photographs on Stone

About: I like trying new things and cheaper or better ways of doing old things. I like making things out of natural materiales such as wood, antlers, shells, clay, etc. but I also have an interest in synthetic poly...

We have a ton of slab stone in our yard, and as soon as I came across a few pieces that were particularly thin I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. I also have a few pictures I have been meaning to display, so this project was a good way to finally get around to displaying them.
After a lot of research I found that there are many ways get pictures onto stone, each with varying effects. I tried out three methods and eventually went with one though I will talk about the the other two as well.

Step 1: Materials

Whatever method you choose you will need a photo, something to transfer the photo onto, and something to transfer it with.
For the photo, vibrant colors will of course show up better and it's a good idea to use a big picture with simple details. Regular photographs don't work very well; photocopies are best, or you can print them off of your computer (Lazer is best but ink jet will work too, you just have to be more careful because it's prone to smearing). If your picture has words be sure to flip the image because the end result will me a mirror image of the original picture.
For the object being transferred onto, I obviously choose some thin slabs of stone, but there are many other things you can use if you don't have any stone or don't like it. You can use wood, fabric, most kinds of plastic, or metal. Whatever you use be sure it's clean and as smooth as possible; you can see in the pictures that the stone I used isn't prefectly smooth- that's ok, it just means more work.
For the transfer medium there are many options. The cheapest I found is xylene; it's sold in quart or gallon sized containers at hardware stores and will cost around $10 or less and the process is quick and simple. All you need to do is place the image face down on whatever you are transferring to, brush the xylene on, and burnish well. Repeat this process as needed (between 3 and 5 times). The down side is that this chemical requires lots of burnishing (vigorous rubbing to get the image to transfer) and doesn't produce a very crisp image. It's good for achieving an old or weathered look and works well on fabric but is not good for stone.
The best I found was gel medium. There are a few brands but the one I used was liquitex; this requires little burnishing and it dries clear so it's good for transferring text bit it is more expensive, an 8oz bottle cost me $12 and you have to brush it on kind of thick.
The method I ended up using was mod podge transfer medium. 8oz cost me $6 and it is still decent quality and easy to use. It requires moderate burnishing and produces a good quality picture. However, it does not dry clear, so if you are transferring text only you will end up with a white background.
As I said before there are other methods but these are the ones I tried out, feel free to experiment with others though since each one produces a slightly different look.

Step 2: Put It Together

Start by cleaning the surface to be transferred onto. Since I was using stone this meant chipping off as many rough spots as possible and scrubbing a bit of dirt away. Make sure the surface is dry before going on to the next step.
Get your picture ready by trimming any edges and positioning it so you know it will fit and look good (keep in mind that it will be a mirror image of what you have now).
Brush the transfer medium onto the face of the picture. If you are transferring onto a rough surface then brush done on that too so that it kind of smoothes it out a little. You can see in the pictures that I didn't go all the way to the edges of the picture, that's because I wanted a more natural looking edge; if you prefer straight lines then go all the way to the edge of the picture.
Carefully place the picture face down on the stone (or whatever you are using)and rub going from the center out to release bubbles and to get it to stick evenly. Now you need to burnish the image; many people use the back of a spoon for this part, but since I was transferring onto stone which had a couple of sharp spots I used my fingers to avoid tearing through the paper, this also makes it easier to get into cracks and ridges. When you are satisfied, take a damp cloth and lightly blot over the paper until you can see the picture through it. Now all you have to do is wait for it to dry (the transfer medium, not the water) this will take 8 to 24 hours.

Step 3: Reveal the Picture

When it's good and dry, take a damp cloth and blot it again and, using either the cloth or your fingers, rub the paper away. The cloth goes quicker but you have less of a chance of rubbing through the picture with your fingers. You can see in the second picture what happens to a picture that is rubbed too much. You will probably have to wet the surface a couple of times to get all the paper off.
When all the paper is removed you can either brush or spray a protective clear coat on the image or leave it as is. Now you are ready to display your pictures or give them away as unique and personal gifts. Thanks for reading!



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    20 Discussions

    I'm glad to see this craft having interest to the newer generations. Glad you put this up on Instructables. Good job!

    I used to do this same thing 40 years ago on stone, wood and burlap material. Mod Podge was invented in 1967. People have been do this type of craft ever since then.

    Hey I find this technique really interesting and quite keen on trying it. My question is for how long does this print or stone photo last?

    2 replies

    I only started doing this a few months ago so I can't really say for long term but if you are keeping it indoors it seems like it would last at least as long as a regular photo. If you are wanting to display it outside I would recommend a UV resistant clear coat, I think that would make it pretty permanent but I can't say for sure since I haven't tried it.

    I've done photo transferring on wood but never thought to try stone. What a great idea! I can't wait to try it. Thanks for all of your tips.

    Water based polyurethane works very well instead of Mod Podge.

    Nicely done!

    1 reply

    I didn't know that, thanks for the info!

    Mod Podge is used as a sealer on canvas for artist and is pricey so I use 2 parts PVC 1 part water this works and dries clear so I will try and see if this works on the transfer of photo on to stone

    1 reply

    Great idea but in the USA you have a lot of products that we just can't get over here in the UK. Can you tell me what the ingredients are in Mod Podge ? and I can try and find something similar in the UK. Many thanks Adrian

    2 replies

    hi I also live in the UK and I've just found the mod podge photo transfer on

    Thanks Ozzy, never thought to look there. Lot of different types so I'll have to go through them to see what's what. Thanks again. ps Love some of the things on this site, when I retire I'm going to try some of those as well !

    I have a beautiful piece of slate, the Mod Podge Transfer and a paper copy of a photograph I want to do this with. How did you burnish? what did you use??????? I have tried looking up how-to's but I need to know what worked for this exact project! PLEASE TELL ME! I am driving myself nuts wanted to make these!!!!

    1 reply

    actually for this I just used my hands. on other projects I use the back of a spoon but burnishing on slate tends to ruin the paper pretty quick and as long as the air bubbles are out the mod podge transfer medium doesn't need to be pressed all that hard anyway no matter what surface it's transferring to

    This would be a beautiful garden memorial for a pet. I wonder about fading?

    1 reply

    Yes, that would be a great idea! It seems to be latex based so I imagine it would do alright in the rain or snow, but maybe brushing or spraying it with a uv resisted sealer would help with fading, it's usually found in decking supplies I think...

    So, real cool idea, and looks great. Sorry I was too tired to read the whole note. But, I would buy this. How can I buy and for how much?

    1 reply

    If you Google "mod podge photo transfer" it will bring up a number of online options for buying some for prices ranging from $5-$12. Or if you don't like shopping online you can get it at stores like Jo-Ann or Michael's for about $10. Thanks for checking this out, I'm glad you like it.