Printing Colour Images on to Wood: Place Mats & Coasters


Introduction: Printing Colour Images on to Wood: Place Mats & Coasters

About: Appreciate what you've got, every day will bring something new.

Based on the letter tiles instructable you can make any number of objects from key fobs, jigsaw puzzles. Most applications require nothing more than sealing the image with some varnish which also helps the colours stand out.

However in this instructable I show an alternative method of 'printing' an image on to wood and how to apply a cork base to placemats and coasters

Step 1: Follow the Letter Tile Instructable

choose your images. I've found that 4 squares per page works out best. Always print a test page first and make sure you mirror the image (aka 'flip horizontal')

Step 2: Cut, Sand, Clean and Varnish

Once the paper is off and you've rubbed of any wax residue, lightly sand the image. Sand the edges and round the corners.

You can wash the wood to remove any dust on the image.

Let it dry and varnish the image and the edges. No need to varnish the bottom.

Step 3: Alternative Method of Placing an Image on to Wood

Print your image out on a laser printer, ink jets may run in the varnish?? Ihavent tried.

Put a coat of varnish on to the wood.
Place the paper on to the wet coat, face up.
Smooth out any air bubbles
Put another coat of varnish on top of the paper.

I'm not a huge fan of this method, I prefer the worn look and feel of the grain with printing directly to the wood. I've seen plenty of people do it this way so maybe someone and chip in with tips on this.

Step 4: Adhere the Corkboard to the Bottom

Fairly straightforward.

Place the wood over the cork and mark the outline with a pencil
Put a layer of contact cement on the respective faces, let dry for 15 mins
Stick together




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    27 Discussions

    Great tutorial on how to do this at home! If you are looking to get them professionally done, check out 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.


    I have 70 wooden wine glasses for my Weddign favors and would like to try this to put our names and date on them. Does anyone have any idea how I can do this on a curved surface?

    1 reply

    i would try ARMOUR ETCH, "Armour Deluxe Glass Etching Kit" its cheap and and really you can make your own stencils for it as well.

    Hi, I must have missed something in step 2, I didnt understand how "Once the paper is off and you've rubbed of any wax residue" could you please expand? Thanks

    1 reply

    Have you tried the step? if you put wax transfer paper on to wood, the wood will only absorb the ink but not the wax, so you have to rub off the excess wax. Cheers - pauric

    I referred to this and the letter-tile instructable on a project this week. I had to build a carrying case for some items for my church and wanted to make sure I had the church logo printed on the box. I used Avery inkjet paper #3275 but only printed in B/W (can't confirm any running colors). The printed area is on 1/4" luaun plywood and sealed with urethane varnish. Looks great!

    4 replies

    Hi "thepez" I'm transfering a family written poem onto a sliced piece of a tree trunk (a wood round). Any, I've sanded and smoothed as much as is possible considering this was made by nature and so there are a few areas that are just a bit lower than others. No problem with the aesthetics, but because the iron is perfectly flat, there are places where the printed "film" just doesn't adhere. It leaves "white/cloudy" areas. one of the "tile" instructions said rub this off. But if you do that, you rub off the ink. The other problem I'm having, that I don't like the look of is what you mentioned regarding your photo where the varnish didn't penetrate the the wax film. But you didn't say if you ever overcame that problem. If you could, I'd love a response as soon as you could. Thahks. Gary

    I didn't try to overcome the "clear" wax problem on this project because I didn't care about it. I just happened to notice it. I've thought about the problem and I believe the only way to avoid it is to not apply wax in those areas. This means you'd have to cut out those areas prior to heating. Of course, too many cuts and then you have problems holding together your entire transfer.

    Another alternative would be to use a cabinet scraper or something similar to scrape the wax after application. If you're not familiar with a scraper as used in woodworking, it's a flat, steel card on which a burr or raised lip is created on the edges. People often make their own for special profiles or sizes. I think a scraper would be the best solution for those cloudy parts. You can use the edge of a single-edge razor, too - just hold it perpendicular to the surface and pull the edge across the surface.

    Anyway, to avoid the problem altogether, it seems like silkscreen is the next step. Sorry I'm not much help otherwise.

    Here's the final product. This is after sanding (220, I think) and three coats of spar varnish. In the first picture you can see where the wax prevented the varnish from penetrating the wood. The second is a macro shot showing how well the transfer integrated into the wood. The actual transfer size was a full 8.5" by 11" sheet. The logo and text were prepared in Photoshop.


    Help, using lazertran inkjet on a canon i9900 mac platform and on darker colors I am getting color bleed. Does anyone know how to solve this problem? thanks, Scott

    1 reply

    Great project. I had some T-shirt transfer paper that I got at a dollar store a while ago and had to try it. I also had some birdseye maple veneer from a lamp project that never realized. I took the image into Photoshop and applied the "photocopy" filter to it. I think it turned out pretty cool and i am excited enough to restart the lamp project and add this technique to it. Thanks. : )

    2 replies

    cool! please post the project when you are finished

    photoshop filters are a really good idea here... will cover up and untransfered ink mistakes. Thanks!

    i've transferred images to cloth in much the same way.
    A low cost alternative to the transfer paper is ironing a sheet of clean paper onto freezer paper.
    Put the stiffened sheet of paper with freezer paper through your printer.
    this link has more info on how to use the freezer paper.
    I used a laser printer and didn't have a problem with the paper or ink transferring.

    1 reply

    Lazertran is another transfer paper that would be great for a project like this. Ceramics and metal too.

    2 replies

    wow! this is what I love about instructables. Ordinary wax transfer only works with cloth/wood. Lazertran, while a little more expensive works on metal!?!?! effing cool - thanks

    you're welcome. i can't wait to see what cool projects you'll make with it