How to Transfer a Photo to Wood

Transfer-Photo-to-Wood-Crafts-UnleashedTransferring a photo to wood is one of my favorite crafting techniques!  Transferring any image I want from paper to another surface is so much fun and surprisingly easy to do.  I’ve transferred images to fabric (here) and even on to painted surfaces (here).  Once you give this a try, I think you’ll find yourself looking for more ways to apply this technique!

Photo Transfer to WoodTo begin with, know that you cannot use an image that comes from your ink jet printer at home.  The ink will smear and you’ll be disappointed (unless you were going for an impressionist style piece!).  You need to use a photocopied image.  I went to my local public library to use the color copier.

Supplies needed to transfer a photo to wood:supply2

Step 1: Paint the edges of your wood panel.

step 2Step 2:  Apply a generous amount of the transfer solution to the image.  You’ll need a thick layer.  (Photo courtesy of Brown Eyed Girl Photography.)

step 3Step 3:  Press the image, photo side down, onto the wood panel.  Rub firmly to smooth out the image and remove air bubbles.  Let it dry completely.

Step 3BStep 4:  Use a damp cloth or sponge to wet one section of the paper at a time.  Begin rubbing gently to remove the paper and expose the transferred image below.  I like to remove the top layer first, let it dry slightly, and then repeat the process as needed to remove the “fuzzies” that were left behind.

step 4Step 5:  Once you are satisfied with the image, sand the edges lightly.  Seal the photo to wood transfer with a finishing spray.

Step 5I love the end result!  What makes this process different from decoupage is that  it looks as if the image is part of the piece, not glued on top of it.

Photo to Wood TransferYou can also paint the wood before you transfer your image.  Think of all the ways you could update your furniture or wardrobe with this technique!  What project will you try first?

Transfer-Photo-to-Wood-Crafts-Unleashed-2

Edited: Due to the overwhelming response to Morena’s awesome project, we have put together a list of frequently asked questions for your convenience. Read them here –> FAQ HOW TO TRANSFER A PHOTO TO WOOD

About Morena

Morena Hockley is the crafty mind behind the tutorials at morenascorner.com. She loves to share ideas for projects that are fast, frugal, and fabulous: easy on time and money, and great to look at! Morena is a stay at home mom to four young children, and crafting is what helps her maintain her sanity. It’s a wonderful outlet and it’s how she gets her “me” time. In a past life, Morena was an elementary school teacher and an assistant principal. She misses teaching, so her blog is in a sense a virtual classroom. Make sure to swing by and check out Morena’s Corner!

Comments

  1. I want to do cubes of Peter rabbit pictures on it. So it’s not photos do u still have to use laser printer which I don’t have? I can print the images on my hp printer and then go to like a ups or kinkos? I’m not sure what to do.

  2. Can you please tell me if you can make your own mod podge?

  3. Hello

    I cant wait to try this! Im wanting to add text to my image… how would I do that?

    Thanks x

  4. Allison says:

    Should you sand the wood first?
    Sorry if this is a repeat question.
    Thank you!
    Best wishes ~

    • Sarah {Crafts Unleashed Editor} says:

      Hi Allison, if the wood is smooth (like the wood panel Morena used), there is no need to sand. If you are using a very rough piece of wood, you should probably smooth it out.

  5. Britney Hudson says:

    do the pictures have to be laser printed or can it just be an actual photo printed off at any kiosk?

    • Sarah {Crafts Unleashed Editor} says:

      Hi Britney, use a photo copy for the best results. Glossy and matte photos will not transfer well.

  6. I am wondering if I could do more then 1 picture on a piece of wood! I’d like to center a somewhat bigger picture in the middle and then put smaller ones around it? Could you also cut different shapes out of the picture’s your transferring? Please help right away! My email is msmagic9307@gmail.com

  7. Will the final product be waterproof? (If I wanted to keep it outside)

  8. Hi morena, I admit im an impatient person. would a blow dryer speed the process of drying?

  9. Victoria says:

    Would the photo transfer work on canvasas?
    Thanks,

    Victoria

  10. Hi,

    Thanks for your tutorial. I tried this craft and it is almost OK except that I ended up with some air bubbles between the medium and the wood! I wouldn’t mind if the bubble wasn’t exactly on my son’s eye. What did I do wrong? Is there a way to avoid this? Thank you

  11. Michelle Smart says:

    Same process for cardboard box?

  12. jaylynn martinez says:

    Hi, I have all the materials I need, except for the ppictures. I called my local fed-ex/kinkos to make a photo copy enlargement. They can do them for me very inexpensively. However, theyre printers/copiers are laser. And their paper is 24 lb. Would that work? Or do u suggest anything else?

  13. I have a Epson printer at home. I have color pictures printed. I want these pictures transferred though in black and white. What do I do. Just make a copy if them on a printer at my work or what?

    • Sarah {Crafts Unleashed Editor} says:

      Hi Laura, if you want the project to be black and white then make a photocopy on a black and white copy machine.

  14. Morena I was wondering a couple of things.
    1) My ink is considered quick drying, its the Epson XP-410. I have used highlighters on things I’ve printed out on my inkjet and they have completely smeared everything this printer has not done that so i was wondering if it would work.
    2) Did you use photo paper or copy paper?
    Thank you so much,
    Tim

    • Sarah {Crafts Unleashed Editor} says:

      Hi Tim, we are not familiar with your type of printer, so cannot tell you if it will work or not. If you’re not sure how well your printed image will work, test it by dropping some water on it to see if the ink smears or not.
      You need to use a photocopied image on copy paper.

  15. the image that will be photocopied, does it have to be an actual image? or can it be like a printed image from my computer at home?

    • Sarah {Crafts Unleashed Editor} says:

      Hi Netta, the image can be anything you wish. You just need to use a photocopied image for best results.

  16. Morena thanks for the idea. I’m working up the courage to do this. My only question is, the photo I’m looking to transfer has a little text. Do you have any recommendations for a program that can invert the photo. I’m looking through windows and it doesn’t apprear to be an easy option for the image viewing programs I have.

    Thanks!

  17. Question about printing. I have a photo printer (an HP Photosmart Printer). I assume I need to print my picture on reg copy paper or would photo paper work. If not, then it has to be printed on copy paper via a laser printer?

  18. Hi,
    I did this with several photos on a plaque. I had an issue with two photos. Can I rub the whole photo off and try again? I don’t want to redo the whole thing bc the other photos came out ok. Also, there are still some fuzzies, will a layer of mod podge hide them?

  19. I’ve tried this project using various things with mixed results. I used a teeny, tiny canvas from my craft store (like 2.5″ x 2.5″) using a thin piece of flowered scrapbook paper I had as a test. I didn’t use the Mod Podge because my craft stores don’t have it so I used the Liquitex. It came out okay. Still had a little bit of that white ‘film’ on it and I didn’t want to rub anymore off for fear of losing my pic so I immediately coated it with regular Mod Podge and it went away. So I got a little braver and did a test on wood. I printed out a pic of a chicken I took in sepia with just the eye area red colored and printed on my laser printer. The first time, I just couldn’t get the paper all the way off and rubbed too much off for my liking – didn’t even fit my ‘rustic look’ definition. So I rubbed everything off and started over. Did some more googling and found a handy tip: With the rest of the fuzzies or opaque look, go over it gently with oily furniture polish like Old English. That did the trick for me! Then I sealed it with Mod Podge (drying now). I tried doing two 8×10 canvases after the tiny canvas success but both were bombs. I think my laser paper is too heavy (24 weight). So I’m going to search for at least 20 weight and try again. The scrapbook paper I used was definitely lighter weight than my laser printer paper. I’ve read mixed reviews on the Mod Podge photo transfer stuff so I might skip buying that and stick with the Liquitex, depending on if the lighter weight laser paper makes a difference or not. Anyway, try using the Old English trick on your canvas – that tip was from someone that used in on canvas and I’ve not had a chance to do that yet but it worked on wood.

  20. I have a quick question. I have done the photo transfer onto a piece of wood. I followed the instructions, but when I removed the paper I had major issues. :( I no matter now much I rubbed the paper I couldn’t get rid of a very fine layer of paper. I’m not sure if that’s the fuzzies you mentioned above? I would rub, and rub and rub…but I would eventually just either still have a white layer on my piece of wood or I would end up rubbing the photo completely off. Any tips?

  21. I’ve made 6 of these and they came out wonderful! I had no idea you could do it on a painted surface. I’m trying that one today :) Can you transfer the image to a STAINED surface? I was thinking of applying a coat of stain to the wood first. Thanks!

  22. In printing the photo, can I use an ordinary paper? Like a bondpaper?

    Btw, your crafts here are really good. More powers! :D

    • Yes, you can. And thank you! :)

      • Hi,

        I have transferred a few pictures onto wood but the image on wood is cuming out to be lighter than the original image. The colour dsnt look faded but it looks very light. Can you plz suggest me what can be done in this case.

  23. Is there still a thin layer of paper left? Or do you remove the paper completely?

    • It’s hard to describe…it may seem like a very thin layer of paper left, but it’s as if the color has been transferred to the medium and thus sealed onto the surface.

  24. Hello , I love this idea and wanted to add something to my 2 yr old son’s wooden table to make it stand out a little more. Right now his table is just black and he have 2 spiderman chairs, can I add pictures to a black table without the pictures being too dark?

    • Yes, you can. For a dark surface, I would trim the image to remove any excess paper, and be sure to use the photo transfer medium that states “for dark fabrics”. Regular Mod Podge or gel medium gives a more transparent background.

  25. Hi, how long does this typically need to dry for? A few hours?

    • Sarah {Crafts Unleashed Editor} says:

      Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for stopping by! According to Morena, it needs to be completely dry. She let it dry overnight, so about 18-24 hours. Smaller projects will dry faster than that.

  26. I want to do this for my father for Christmas & yes I realize that is less than a week away. I’ve been through youtube and several websites and read over this project. My only problem is the inkjet part, i’m worried I wont choose the right copy paper, copy machine etc. I am now officially panicking. :/

  27. Jennifer Hurley says:
    • Oh nooo! Please send that to CraftFail. :)

      It looks like the transfer solution didn’t dry completely, and then way too much water was used. Just use a damp cloth….don’t soak the board. I hope the second attempt was better.

    • Hi Morena,
      Is the idea to completely remove the paper after it’s wet to reveal the image so that no paper is left? Thank you!

      • It’s hard to describe…it may seem like a very thin layer of paper left, but it’s as if the color has been transferred to the medium and thus sealed onto the surface.

  28. Thanks for an awesome lesson on this! I noticed any white on the image to be transferred comes out clear in the finished product which can be an advantage,but what would need to be done to have the white bits white, where you wanted them? Thanks

  29. I’m trying to make a few of these with pics of my son for Xmas gifts. I’m using laser printers and I’ve tried both 20lbs paper and 18lbs paper. After I get the top layer of paper off there’s always the little fuzzys left, so I wet it down and try to rub them off but usually I end up rubbing off parts of the picture. Any tips?

    • Jay, let it dry completely then use a lightly damp cloth and light pressure to try to get the fuzzy’s off. You can also seal it with Mod Podge or a spray on sealant to give it a glossy look and hide the “fuzzy” parts.

  30. I have a spray painted wood surface, do you think that a photo transfer will work on top of that??

  31. Hi Morena, I saw this process on a utube. I have done crafts for years, I got really excited and jumped right in. After looking at some other videos I am now a little scared. I printed several photos at photo store, so now I am confused. I need to copy a photo from a copy of photo to regular paper? Please respond ASAP. Thank you, Denise

  32. Hello,

    I tried this and let it dry overnight, and the image isn’t transparent. I used modpodge photo transfer medium. It came out white…. I am really embarrassed I couldn’t do this simple project… please help! jcollma@yahoo.com

  33. Is there anyway to speed up the drying process??

  34. Can I use an actual photograph or do I have to have a photocopy of it? I’d really like to make a 12 x 18 print. I don’t think I can get a copy in that size but can have the photo printed in that size. Thanks for your help.

    • Melissa, I have experimented with both glossy and matte photos, and neither worked for me. The glossy print was just glued to the wood….there was no transfer. The matte print mostly worked, but there were sections that did not adhere, so the end result wasn’t attractive (ie. a missing nose!). You can make large color prints at copy stores, like Office Max, pretty inexpensively.

  35. Hi Morena,

    I have an ink jet printer that has a color copier also, and I’m assuming that part of it is ink jet too, so is there a difference between using that or taking it to the a store’s copier machine like you recommended? Thank for the tips, your crafts are so cool.

    Best,
    Tami

    • Thanks, Tami! An ink jet copy won’t work: the ink will smear when it gets wet with the transfer medium. If you have a laser printer, that would work. You can test your image by dropping some water on it to see if the ink smears or not.

  36. Hi,, just wondering can you order the transfer solution on line or what kind of stores sell this?

    Thanks!!

  37. What kind of paint would you use behind it if you didn’t want the wood showing through? I am doing this on dark wood but the photographs are black and white so I was thinking of painting a cream color where the pictures will be transferred so that you can still see them well but I don’t know if I should use acrylic or? Thanks!

  38. So, I want to do this for my daughter’s wedding. I have an old piece that is actually several pieces of wood put together… It is the “floor” of an old swing that my daughter used to swing on when she was little. What I’m trying to get across is that the wood is not “solid.” Will that still work?

    • Michelle,

      I think it would work. I would experiment on a practice piece first, but I think this is doable, as long as you’re careful to press the image firmly into the uneven spaces. What a great gift idea!

      • I found this great tip for transfering to old wood from another site. you can get better results by applying a layer of gel medium going with the grain of the wood on the old swing, let it dry, then another layer going across the grain, then a layer or two on the face of the actual photo itself, and then a final layer [going with the grain] on the wood to glue the photo down. this will help greatly help the photo transfer on your old swing…

  39. Love this idea! Do you think if I were to do this on a blank wooden puzzle it would work?

  40. Hi! So if I were to say do two layers of transfer would that work? Like first I transfer a book page then once i completed that I redo the whole process adding a picture on top. Could that work out do you think?

  41. How long does the transfer solution need to dry for once you have pressed the photo firmly on the wood?

  42. Love this! I’m going to be giving a try for sure!

  43. Thanks for the clarification Morena,

    I’m off to get my photo photocopied as I only have an inkjet printer at home.

    Take care,
    Tracy

  44. Hi Morena,

    I really like this idea and have done it before but am going to try again. You mentioned you photocopied the photo. Did you print it at home with an inkjet printer or laser and then take it to get photocopied in colour?

    Thank you,
    Tracy

    • Thank you, Tracy!

      I used an actual 8 by 10 photograph and made a color copy of it at my local library. You could also print it at home and make a copy. As I mentioned in the tutorial, don’t use your ink jet printer copy…the ink will smear when wet! You can also use images from books and magazines and transfer them.

      • Would a page from a magazine work even if it’s glossy? or would you make a copy of that as well?
        Thanks :)

        • Danielle, a page from a magazine would work!, even if it was glossy. I don’t think a magazine cover would work, because I think it would be too slick, but I have experimented with pages in magazines and books, and they work. If it’s an image I want to use again (like in a book I don’t want to destroy) then I make a color copy.

      • Hi, When you copy the photo, do you use regular paper or photo paper

  45. Great idea!

  46. I think it would be nicer if you use software to reverse the image of the print you plan to use so that the finished product is not reversed image. If you flip the print, then the final product will look like the original image.

  47. Lisa Moerbe says:

    I too love that it looks like its part of the wood ! The photo transfer liquid..you buy at like a Michaels or local craft store??
    I also love the way you sanded the edges once applied, it really gives it a cool stylized look. There is an app on a smart phone that decorates the edges of a snap with that sort of “rough border”…
    Just really neat,..thanks for sharing!

  48. Kat Chavez says:

    I have tried this a thousand times I feel like and when every I rub I guess I rub too hard and the picture starts to come up? I can’t figure out what I am doing wrong. I feel like there is always still a layer of paper left on the board….I haven’t used the mod podge photo transfer product yet I have used Liquidex gel medium…d you like the podge better?

    • Hi Kat! I have done this with gel medium and the mod podge medium, and they are very similar to me. I’ll have to try them side by side sometimes to see which turns out better. The first time I tried this technique I did rub too hard. Also, if you wet the surface too much you can lift too much of the image. Try practicing on smaller pieces of wood, and make sure to use a LOT of the transfer medium…almost to the point that you cannot see the image…and be sure it dries completely before you start. I hope that helps!

      • I finally gave up on this technique. I guess either I wet it too much or didn’t put enough transfer medium on to begin with, but after some mediocre successes and a few failures, I just decided to stick to decoupage. BUT. After reading this, maybe I’ll give it another go. :-)

Trackbacks

  1. […] got  your bottle of Mod Podge out? Then try this photo to wood transfer project by Crafts Unleashed. Just as […]

  2. […] What was I thinking? Next time, I’ll definitely be following this tutorial (link below). Wood transfer photo at Crafts […]

  3. […] Crafts Unleashed taught us how to transfer photos to wood for a new way to display our pictures. […]

  4. […] I love transferring images onto different surfaces. And how gorgeous is the look achieved by using this method? Morena shares the how to over on Crafts Unleashed. I can see all sorts of applications for this for gifts or mementos or as the tutorial suggests, even for repurposing furniture. I could see some fabulous coffee tables. Check out the tutorial here. […]

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