Over the weekend, I tried my hand at photo transfers. I learned one method of photo transfers a few years ago using contact paper, but a friend of mine showed me a new way of transferring photos onto another surface. It was so much fun and so easy that I thought I would share it here with all of you.

Here are the materials you will need:

  1. Color photocopies of your photos. Do NOT use color print-outs from your home printer — this does not work. Head to Kinko’s or some other copy service and have a color copy made. I spent $0.58 American and got 3 photos copied on to one page!
  2. Various types of paper or other surfaces onto which you will transfer your photo. I used watercolor paper and acrylic paper. But you could use card stock, wood, cork board, whatever!
  3. Paint remover and a jar or container to pour some of it into. I used this kind and it worked great!
  4. A paint brush.
  5. A plastic spoon or something else to rub along your photo to make the transfer.

So here’s what I did…

1. I chose a few of my Polaroid photographs to use for the transfers.
Here are the originals.


2.  I made color copies of these photographs. Since the copies were both on the same page, I cut each one out, making sure to leave about an inch of white space all around the borders.

3. I chose the surface on to which I would transfer the photos. I chose one watercolor paper and one acrylic paper as they both have a different type of texture.

4. I then placed one of the color copies face down onto the paper, and taped each corner down with masking tape.

5. Next, I poured some of the paint thinner into a small container — you don’t need very much.

6. Then, using my paintbrush, I dipped the brush into the paint thinner, and then painted over the entire back of my photo copy. If you don’t want to transfer the entire photo, you could just paint over the portion of the image you do want to transfer. I decided to transfer both of my photos in their entirety. This is what my transfer looked like at this point — this is the color copy, face down on the paper, and completely covered with the paint thinner. You can see the entire image because it is wet with the paint thinner.


7. I let the paint thinner sit on the image for about 5 minutes. Then, I took the plastic spoon and gently rubbed over the entire surface of the image. This is when the transfer process is actually happening. If you want your entire image transferred over, rub over all of your image. You could also choose to select only sections to transfer. Whatever you want transferred over to the new surface, make sure to rub over those sections of the copied image.

8. Then, I slowly lifted off the color copy, and voilà!


As you can see from these two examples, the paper or surface onto which you do your photo transfer affects the way your image looks. You can see the first transfer is a bit bumpier with a sideways pattern emerging from the grain of the watercolor paper versus the smoother, up and down pattern in the typewriter image from the acrylic paper.

I think this is a fun technique to try with your images. I’m planning to use these transfers as notecards to send out to friends (I love snail mail!). I’d also like to use some photo transfers in my mixed media work with paint and collage.

What about you? Have you done this photo transfer technique or others in the past? Is this something you are going to try for yourself? Please share any transfers you try with us in the Mortal Muses Everyday Beauty Flickr pool. I’d love to see them!

Meghan of Life Refocused