Transferring Photos to Canvas




About: I'm a mom of two young children, one boy and one girl. I live in Tampa, California. You can find useful and cute ideas of what to do with your children from my instructables. Also, i have a site about pregna...

I love love love photos that are printed on canvas. I like the classic but unique look of them but they are so dang expensive to have printed. I have seen here and there where people have done transferred photos onto canvas through different techniques. I decided to try a gel medium and see how it turned out. I like this method because it helps with the distressed canvas look. I gathered my supplies and got to transferring.

I printed my photo of choice (I tried 2) on plain copy paper. This works best with a printer that uses toner. I used 11x17 paper knowing that I would have to cut down the edges to match my canvas. I bought a 7 pack of 11x14 canvases at Michael's for $19. You will also need a foam brush and spray bottle of water.

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Step 1:

This is the medium I used to transfer the photo to the canvas. By far the priciest part of the project at $13, but it lasts for a while.

After you have your picture printed (remember you may have to cut it down to match your canvas size) spread a medium thick layer of gel medium onto the canvas.

Step 2: ​Spread the Picture Over the Canvas

Spread the picture over the canvas. Smooth out any air bubbles with your finger or a credit card or something similar you may have laying near you. Once you are happy with how smooth it is, leave it to dry for at least 12 hours.

Step 3:

Once dry spray a light coat of water over the whole picture.

Step 4:

Begin peeling off the paper. (this will happen in many layers).

Step 5:

This is what mine looked like after the first layer came off.

Step 6:

Keep spraying and peeling and spraying and peeling. You will have to repeat this process a few times to get off most of the paper. Even then all of the paper will not be off. The peeling is what will give your image the distressed look. You will not be able to get a perfect image transfer using this method. But I love the distressed look so this is ok! This project is per-erfect to do here and there with a few or many breaks in between all of the spraying and peeling. And spraying and peeling.

Step 7:

This is final image #1. There are still some bits of that darn paper on there but I didn't want to lose any more of my image so I felt okay with this look. Spread a thin layer of high gloss Mod Podge over the canvas to protect the image and it will give a great finish to the photo.

Step 8:

Final image #2! I think this method works better with images that have more light in them as it is easier to keep the integrity of your image intact since there isn't as much paper peeling.

I love these little canvases and I am so excited to try out more. I can tell the more I do the easier they will become. There are so many different things you can try like painting the canvas before transfering the image, transfer words, add ribbon around the edge to give some flair, add a beautiful frame-endless! I can't wait to try. And what great keepsakes and gifts to give!

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9 Discussions


2 years ago

You can do similar with inkjet if you print onto shiny paper that is backing for stickers (like mailing labels) but ink will transfer instantly.

1 reply

2 years ago

Works best with prints that use toner? Are we talking prints made with a regular laser printer? please clarify & thanks for a great idea.

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

Toner is for laser printers.

Inkjets use "ink" which is way different and would just desolve when wetted


2 years ago

Hi, for everybody: the printers that use toner, are "laser printers" !


2 years ago

Sweet, no frame. Looks best to me with no frame!


2 years ago

Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

I live in Germany, what "Gel" is it you used, e.g. what is it normally used for?

Do I need to print the image reversed?

Thanks for your time and trouble.


1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

It's a gel medium used for thinning paint, like acrylic paint - not house paint. You can also use Mod Podge.


2 years ago

Think you for sharing your know how with us. I plan on trying it when I can. Thanks again God bless