Image Transfer to Wood

I’m putting the finishing touches on my latest online class for CraftArtEdu, which is all about using heat transfers to decorate wood with your own images.

Pocketwatch owl boxUsing inkjet heat transfers (also known as t-shirt transfers) is my favorite transfer technique for wood. It’s easier than most other techniques, the results are usually more predictable, and it doesn’t require special equipment or obnoxious chemicals.

Transfer to wood veneerThere are a lot of different inkjet transfer products. I usually use Transfer Artist Paper (TAP) or the Epson iron-on  paper (using the brand manufactured for your printer gives better results than most of the generic products). You can experiment, printing the same image onto two different brands of transfers.

Reverse your file

The first rule of transferring is to reverse your file. There are some exceptions, but for most transfer processes you place the transfer face down onto your surface, so you need to flip the image.

In the class I go step by step through the process, give you lots of tips and a troubleshooting guide, and discuss many different iron-on products. I’ll let you know when it’s finished and live on CraftArtEdu.com.  Have you used heat transfers onto fabric or any other surface? Ever try it on wood? Let me know what you think! If you’re interested in seeing a preview of the class, click here.

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Digital collage on art board

How were the holidays for you? I had two 4-day weekends, bliss!  Between the nature walks that my husband and I took, a couple of holiday parties, and a lot of cleaning-up of my workspace, I only managed to get a bit of artwork done. While organizing my towering piles of craft books I unearthed an 8×10″ gessoed wooden art board and decided to transfer one of my digital collages onto it.

I had designed the collage a few weeks ago.  I started with a photo of a fallen tree with insect trails etched into it. I took the photograph on Albany Hill, a small local hill where monarch butterflies overwinter.  We went in November to see whether any monarchs were there. We only saw a few, sadly — we had seen many more there in previous years.

This is the photograph of the tree:

Fallen log

Fallen log

I blended the photo of the tree with a photograph of a fern that I took during a walk we took in Muir Woods.

Fern

Fern

In blending the photographs, I worked to make the colors vivid, and kept the fern image subtle so you only see a tracing of it.

Fallen tree fern collage

Fallen tree fern collage

I liked the collage, but put it aside and hadn’t decided what to do with it. When I pulled out the art board, I thought it might work well.  Before printing it though, I had an idea. There are a number of designs I have produced from elements of my photographs with a great kaleidoscoping program called Kaleider. I mostly use them for my Garden Design Fabrics that I sew into fabric vases, purses, light switch plates, etc.  I generally don’t use them in my mixed media artwork or digital collages, but I wanted to see if blending one of them with this collage might work.  I found one of the designs that had strong simple lines. Coincidentally, the one I chose to try first was a design that I made from a photograph I took on the same walk we took on Albany Hill, of another fallen log.

This is the kaleidoscoped version of elements of that photograph:

Log albany hill kaleidoscope

Log Albany Hill kaleidoscope

I very much liked the effect when I blended them!

Fallen tree fern collage with Albany Hill log

Fallen tree fern collage with Albany Hill log

Okay, enough explanation about how the blended collage came into being (people often ask me how I make my designs and it’s hard to explain without showing the originals, so I wanted to go into some detail here where I could show them).  On to my process for the transfer to the board. I’ve written much about using transfer artist paper (TAP), a polymer paper that I’ve had very good results with transferring onto several different surfaces.  This would be the first time I’ve tried to transfer onto a gessoed wood board. I printed the collage onto the TAP using the recommended settings: plain paper and medium quality. I printed it on the Epson Workforce 500, which I use for the workshops I teach. The durabrite ultra inks are pigment and have worked well with the TAP.  I forgot the first lesson of printing a transfer: REVERSE the image. Oops, but the collage is abstract so it didn’t really matter.  I placed the TAP on the wood board and began to iron it, using the iron’s highest setting. I could hear the transfer hissing a little, which I’ve come to learn means that it’s working. I peeled up a bit of the TAP and checked, and was delighted to see that the transfer was indeed transferring.  After a few more passes of the iron, the entire transfer had completed.  As with my other TAP pieces, there’s a very pleasing texture caused by the polymer.  To protect the print, I applied two layers of varnish and then went searching for a frame.  I unearthed an old wooden frame of exactly the right size that I had found at an estate sale. I think it complemented the collaged board beautifully! Here it is, see what you think:

Albany Hill digital collage

Albany Hill digital collage