Image Transfer: The Pros, The Cons, And The Other Stuff - The Paint Factory

Image Transfer: The Pros, The Cons, And The Other Stuff

Tip of the Day:   If you want to turn a quick profit, don’t do image transfer.

Seriously.  Don’t even think about it.  For the time involved in getting a truly ‘authentic’ look (meaning to have the artwork appear to be original to the piece) you would weep a river of  tears if you did the math and found out your hourly pay.  Peanuts, my friends.  Sour, bitter tasting peanuts that almost elicit the gag reflex.  Very unpalatable.

But.  If you want to make a piece of furniture truly unique and stand out from the crowd,  do image transfer.

A good friend asked me why I still focus on this method.  She has a point;  my pieces appeal to such a small niche in the market that often it can take months and months to find a buyer.  My honest answer was ‘ It’s relaxing to me’.   I really  enjoy doing it.  I can spend hours upon hours  searching for the right image.  Magical.    And that ~ the simple JOY factor ~ is priceless.  So I spend my time doing image transfers, making peanuts very little money.  Firmly living in the belief that my life resembles a Shakespearean tragedy.

(such a melodramatic drama queen, am I).

So, what is image transfer?  Using the most simplistic example, think of it as a child’s fake tattoo.  tattoo

Image face down, and rub away at the paper backing.   All that’s left is the image on the surface.   Easy, right?

I’m not sure what my first image transfer was (possibly this small coffee table).  TopI used a vintage black and white photograph of downtown Portland.  The rust patina is achieved by using Modern Masters Reactive Iron paint and patina.   This was a small table, and therefore relatively easy to transfer.  My advice to you: Start small.   Get a feel of removing the paper before you go for a big image.  There’s nothing worse than having your confidence blown by taking on a project that’s too overwhelming.  Don’t do that to yourself.

Before I started playing with image Transfer, I dabbled with decoupage.   By ‘dabbling’ I mean  I’ve done two pieces using small sections of decoupage.  No big whoop de woo.

DrawerDecoupage is the much easier, faster version of image transfer.  Versailles decoupage dresserWith decoupage, you’re gluing an image directly to the piece of furniture.   And there are lots of adhesives to choose from.  Mod Podge is probably the most commonly used one.

With decoupage:  Apply a thin coat of adhesive on the piece of furniture, place the image face side up, smooth out any air bubbles, trim and then seal with several thin coats of adhesive.

The pros:  Easy Application. Inexpensive adhesive can be used.  Any size image can work (eg.  Posters).  Excellent chance that full image will be transferred to the piece.

The Cons:  While it’s a simple process to do, the biggest downfall is that you have to deal with the thickness of the image.  You can’t ‘remove’ the backing, and so the image can appear ‘bulky’.  You also have to deal with trying to blend in the edges of the paper to the rest of the surface.  It might not seem to be a big con, but if you’re tactile (like me) it bugged the heebeegeebees out of me.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this on a big piece of furniture.

I quickly realized that I hated disliked decoupage.

I did try to adapt the decoupage process, by using an engineering print.   Same concept, except with engineering prints you can get your image copied to ANY size – like HUGE – for pennies.  The cons to this method are that the image is grainy (which I actually like), but the paper is very thin and applying a big image to a piece of furniture without going crazy is hard impossible.  It really is a two person job, and because the paper is so fine there’s no wiggle room to readjust the image.  If instant commitment isn’t your thing, you’d be wise to skip this method.

Top

You have no idea how crazed I was after doing this engineering print  (It actually lives in Salem, Oregon now).  Good riddance to it, I say.

So, I quickly moved on to image transfer.  And that’s when I feel in love.  I’m not a natural painter.  I can’t freehand paint.  I leave that to the real artists.  I glue stuff on pieces.

But, I like to think I’m very good at it.  And still learning, thankfully.

The Pros: Because you remove the backing pulp, you don’t have to contend with the ‘edge’ problem.  You can retouch the image with paints to add depth, interest to the piece.  The only material that is being transferred is the image itself, so it leans itself to a more organic end product.

The Cons:  The image has to be reprinted with a laser printer, otherwise you lose some of the clarity of the image.  Laser printers are limited in size. The biggest print you can get is 11″x 17″.   Therefore, if you’re working on a big image, you have to piece the small tiles/blocks together.You have to work with the image ‘facedown’, so placement is paramount.  The last thing you want  (after spending hours removing the pulp) is to discover that the subjects face lies midway between two drawers.  It’s incredibly time-consuming and messy.  You usually end up losing some degree of the printed image (regardless of how careful you are), which will require you to handpaint over those areas (another part that I especially love).

But.  I love doing it.  All of it.

I’ve tried three ‘image transfer’ mediums.

CloseupThe Bath of Psyche (1890) was one of my first transfers using Mod Podge.  It’s ‘Cheap as Chips’ and readily available at most craft stores.  With Mod Podge you don’t need to have the image laser printed.  But it shows.   It worked, but it just wasn’t a clean and crisp transfer.   I love the image itself, but I hated the execution of it.  (I ended up painting over this).  Way to go, Diane (you tragic figure, you).Kathleen watermark

With  The Crystal Ball (1902) I experimented with Annie Sloan Decoupage glue.  I did go the extra step and  laser printed the image.  Much crisper, but I did lose some of the image that needed to be filled in later (this I believe is just the nature of the beast).  ASCP decoupage glue worked, but it’s expensive  and I wasn’t in love with the texture of the glue (every time I looked at the glue I was cruelly reminded of my cellulose stricken thighs. No one wants that vision while working). The Highboy took an entire jar of ASCP decoupage glue ($22.5o for a 125ml jar).  Golly Jeepers!

What I use all the time (what I’m comfortable using) is Artisan Enhancements Transfer Gel.  I’ve been using it for almost three years now.    It’s usually around the $32 mark for a quart size can.  And it lasts a long time! It can also be used as a decoupage medium.

I strongly encourage you to try out different products.   One shoe doesn’t necessarily fit all.  Don’t follow the hype, try stuff yourself.  Get a feel for what feels right for you.  This product is what I choose to use.

Here are a few examples of my pieces using Artisan Enhancements.

PicMonkey Collage2

 

 

PicMonkey Collage3

 

PicMonkey Collage1

I mentioned to  Artisan Enhancements that I was writing a post on decoupage/image transfer and they very nicely offered to send a one quart can of Transfer Gel to someone from my Facebook page!  Yeah!

So hop over to my page, Like it, and leave a comment.  I’ll pick a name from a hat in the New Year and you can try it out!!

And with that, I’ll say Happy New Year lovely people!  Looking forward to enjoying a colorful 2016 with you!

 

{insert catchy ending phrase here}

 

Diane aka The Paint Factory

 

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39 thoughts on “Image Transfer: The Pros, The Cons, And The Other Stuff

  • Avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 3:56 pm
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    Love your work! Thanks for a chance to win…..

    Reply
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    December 29, 2015 at 4:15 pm
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    Wonderful tutorial! Can’t wait to get started!

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    December 29, 2015 at 4:22 pm
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    Diane…hope you had a Merry Christmas
    I love transfers also❤️❤️❤️For all the reasons you have posted
    I call it my paint by number technique …as you explained …fill in the missing parts with paint after you transfer
    But….do you have a better way of putting all those 11×17 pieces of the image together for transfer
    If you could walk me through your technique on this I would really appreciate it
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Diane
      December 29, 2015 at 4:48 pm
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      Hey BB, if you come up with an idea of doing the 11×17 let me know! I just tape them together with pieces of tape before I adhere them.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 4:34 pm
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    Love seeing each of your brand new posts and projects! Love that you love what you do and that you share your constant learning!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 4:46 pm
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    You know I’m a big fan. Love your work!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 5:08 pm
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    So very beautiful!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 5:19 pm
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    My dear “paint idol” I would love to try your methods!

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  • Avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 5:20 pm
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    Great information! Thanks for sharing! Love your work!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 5:27 pm
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    I love that you share your knowledge and experience! Winning stuff would be good too! HeeHee! What beautiful work you do!!! The way you match the colors to the transfers is amazing!!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 6:26 pm
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    These pieces done by Diane are at the top of my favorites list. I just love them and hope to do some amazing transfers some day.

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    December 29, 2015 at 6:43 pm
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    I’ve tried image transfers-unsuccessfully-in the past, so I very much appreciate your tips! I would love to try your method; thank you for the opportunity to win!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 7:33 pm
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    Your pieces are works of art. You are so clever.

    Reply
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    December 29, 2015 at 8:48 pm
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    Thanks so much Diane…I also tape everything together….I thought you might know a better way
    Your pieces are fab ❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  • Avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 9:10 pm
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    Been following your fantastic work for a while…hope I win!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    December 30, 2015 at 12:57 am
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    Your work is so amazing, it’s peaceful to look at and so much Love is in your work; you are very gifted and The good Lord has blessed you abundantly…Happy New Year and keep posting your wonderful craft☺️

    Reply
  • Avatar
    December 30, 2015 at 7:28 am
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    I love the art you choose! Your work is beautiful! ❤️

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    December 30, 2015 at 10:06 am
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    I personally do not have the patience for image transfer….oh, how I wish I did. I have to resort to decoupage …sad face!!!! Your work is impeccable and love to see each and every piece!

    Reply
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    December 30, 2015 at 12:39 pm
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    I’ve admired your work from afar and I really appreciate your generosity in sharing your techniques and personal experience with each method. Note I just need to take the leap and try it myself!

    Reply
    • Diane
      December 30, 2015 at 5:56 pm
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      Seriously, what’s the worse that can happen? It goes wrong. That’s it. And then you scrape/sand it off and start again. And a new journey begins 🙂

      Reply
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    December 30, 2015 at 5:37 pm
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    Went through all your project pics you displayed. Just astonishing how good they are. I haven’t découpaged yet, it is my next step. My ultimate goal is transfer! Let I told you earlier, from restoration to paint to transfer! I think it is the goal! At 60 I would have never imagined I could accomplish this, lol. I am going to need alot of guidance everyone!

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    • Diane
      December 30, 2015 at 5:54 pm
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      Gloria, my Facebook page is chockful of supportive women. I think you just found your tribe!

      Reply
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    December 30, 2015 at 8:14 pm
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    I absolutely love your work! I have only chalked one item and now trying to work up nerve to begin an antique armoire that was my grandparents. Thanks for this tutorial; it helped alot!

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    December 31, 2015 at 9:47 am
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    How inspirational and thank you for sharing the details. I love that I can live vicariously through your trials and tribulations, and just go straight ahead to the successful completion of an image transfer….lol. Who are we kidding, I’ll still make lots of mistakes, pull my hair out trying to reposition, but will be more comfortable that my plight is not in vain, that with some – lots of – practise I might make some beautiful pieces as you do.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    January 1, 2016 at 3:15 pm
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    Your creations are so inspirational that they make me want to continue to try, try, try! You know this girl would love a go at a superior product, my earlier attempts at image transfer have been less than satisfying!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    January 8, 2016 at 7:37 pm
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    Love your work! I think I’ll try to use a photo of one of my paintings!

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    • Diane
      January 9, 2016 at 6:00 pm
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      There are so many possibilites. Good for you! Please let me know how it goes 🙂 Diane

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  • Avatar
    January 10, 2016 at 10:48 pm
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    Wow, Diane, your pieces are stunning and I have favorited your Esty store. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with transfers. I’ve been reading about how to do it but haven’t tried – yet! Your post here helps build my confidence for trying this new thing.

    I found your blog by clicking on a Google image of your Monet dresser. When I first saw it, I thought it was layers of distressed paint that looked like an impressionist painting, haha! It’s really beautiful. Loved your description on Etsy, too.

    I have a question: I notice on Etsy that you offer to ship your furniture. I have some furniture that I want to sell on eBay but haven’t figured out how to ship and quote a price in the listing. I’m talking sofas and I’m wondering if I have to take them to the freight company, get them weighed and measured, then take them back home, see if they sell and then lug them back to the carrier. Is this how it works. I hope not because that sounds very difficult! I asked this question in the Etsy forum and nobody had any info.

    Oh, and one other thing: What is the Madonna (mosaic?) on the top of your post?

    So very happy I found your blog. While I hate Facebook (but have an account), I will make myself log in there and check out your page. Might make me change my mind about that place 😉

    Best to you in your labors of love.

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    • Diane
      January 11, 2016 at 6:37 pm
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      Hi! Shipping? For big pieces I use a freight company (YRC). But I’m talking dressers etc (not sofas). You would probably need to crate them. For smaller pieces I use GreyhoundXpress (100lb max). I have started to use UShip more. Drivers bid for the job, and usually they blanket wrap. It’s by far the less expensive option. The Madonna on my page is an image transfer on one of my pieces. I’m awful at blogging, because I can’t write if I feel pressured with a time constraint. Who knew that in later life I would suddenly become a ‘princess’ unable to deal with such little demands 🙂

      Reply
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    January 31, 2016 at 9:09 am
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    Do you have a laser printer and do your own 11×17 printing? If not, how is the actual printing of the artwork accomplished?

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    • Diane
      February 3, 2016 at 4:43 pm
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      Hi Karen, I take my images to Office Depot to get them laser printed. Usually as long as an image is over 100 years old, the copyright has expired so there’s no problem with copying it.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    February 23, 2016 at 8:32 am
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    Where do you get your images?

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    • Diane
      February 24, 2016 at 2:38 pm
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      Everywhere 🙂 The cupid ones are postcards that I have. You can copy any image into a laser print.

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    March 22, 2016 at 6:59 am
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    How do you keep the image so clear when blowing up to size?

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    • Diane
      March 22, 2016 at 10:58 am
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      I do them in tiles, and then piece them back together.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    April 15, 2016 at 4:33 am
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    I love this idea! You do beautiful work! I am confused as to how you find your images to transfer and how you can get them so large. I have never

    Reply
    • Diane
      April 15, 2016 at 6:41 am
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      I started collecting images a few years ago. Anything can work (the Cupid is a postcard from The Louvre). Because you have to use laser printed copies, you have to copy in small tiles (11×17) and then piece them back together.

      Reply

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