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.

Wingspread Mixed-Media Art Doll

Wingspread Art Doll

Wingspread Art Doll

Meet “Wingspread,” a mixed-media art doll that I created, using several different techniques to transfer or attach my original photographs and designs to the soft stuffed cotton doll. Most of Wings’ body is decorated with fragments of my Golden Butterfly” photo collage. I used Transfer Artist Paper (TAP) to transfer the Golden Butterfly design to the doll.

Wingspread Art Doll - back

Wingspread Art Doll - back

Here’s Wingspread’s back.  The back of her (his?) head is a TAP transfer of my mandala design that I made from my photos of a monarch butterfly wing and a peacock feather.   This is the image:

And here’s a closeup of the wings on the back:

Anise swallowtail butterfly wing on lutradur

For the large wing on the right side I printed my photo of an anise swallowtail butterfly’s spread wing on lutradur coated with Golden’s Digital Ground. I stitched the wing to the center of the back. I also added a small metal wing, and a dangle of pearl, metal and glass beads.

Wingspread’s headdress is made from beautiful black and white striped hen feathers from Barred Rock hens. They are affixed to the head through another piece of lutradur, which I printed using my photo collage of the open wing of a Barred Rock hen.

Wings wears a colorful bowtie, which I made from my original design fabric.

Wingspread is a bit over 20 inches tall, including the feather headdress.  I love art dolls, and it was so fun to make this one, incorporating my butterfly photos and designs, and using so many different techniques and products.   You can see more pictures at my Artfire gallery.  Have you ever made an art doll?  What materials did you use?

Lavender and rust art quilt – finishing and framing

When last we met, I had printed and quilted an art quilt from a blended collage of my photographs of a lavender flower and a piece of rusted machinery.  Here’s a photo of the quilt, and this is the post about the process :

Lavender and rust art quilt

Lavender and rust art quilt

Finishing and framing a piece is always a challenge for me. Since I used new techniques and products for the quilt (more about that later!), I wanted that novelty to be reflected in the way I framed it.  Rooting around in my supply closet, I found wooden framing stretcher strips about the right size.  When assembled, the frame was a bit larger than the quilt.  To finish the plain wood in a manner that would reflect and honor the quilt, I printed some of the elements of the lavender and rust collage onto Transfer Artist Paper (see my earlier posts about TAP), and ironed them onto the front of the frame.

TAP on frame

TAP on frame

My next challenge was how to attach the quilt to the frame.  I decided to use some kind of ribbon that I would sew to the quilt and thread through screw eyes attached to the inside edge of the frame.  It’s not easy finding good screw eyes! My local fabric store didn’t have anything I liked, and I had to visit three hardware stores to find the size and color that I wanted. I put screw eyes in each of the four sides of the frame.  This is the top right edge, showing the screw eye:

Ribbon and screw eye attachment

Ribbon and screw eye attachment

I decided that instead of using premade cord or ribbon, I would make it myself.  I started with the image that I used for the quilt and designed ribbons, but rescaled to be much smaller because the ribbon would have to fit  through the screw eyes. I printed it on the fabric that I had used for the quilt and doubled the fabric over so both sides would have a pattern.  I cut thin strips and stitched down the center of each to hold the sides together.  I threaded them through the eyes and tied knots, working with each to get the quilt centered in the frame. This is a closeup of the ribbon at the center right side of the frame:

Ribbon tied through screw eye

Ribbon tied through screw eye

And this is the quilt tied to the frame at the six eyes:

Quilt in frame

Quilt in frame

The last challenge: how to hang the framed quilt? I didn’t want to string a wire across the back because that would show through the gaps. I couldn’t use a sawtooth because the gallery that I show my work in (a plug here for the Pinole Artisan galleries) doesn’t allow those. I decided to echo the screw eyes used on the inside, and put two at the top of the frame.  I made another long ribbon, threaded it through the eyes, doubled it over and stitched it together. The framed quilt now hangs flush against the wall from a hook or nail. This is it:

Hanging framed art quilt

Hanging framed art quilt

If you’re wondering about the back of the frame, it’s nothing fancy. I finished it by painting the plain wood with a few coats of white gesso.  I solved the eternal question of how to sign an art quilt (many people print labels on fabric and sew them to the back), by signing the gessoed surface with a pigment ink pen. This is how the back looks:

Back of the quilt

Back of the quilt

If you’re interested in learning how to print on fabric, check out my online class at CraftEdu.  I also offer the class with captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Lavender and rust art quilt

Transfer artist paper on lutradur

Some people on the inkjet transfer yahoo group (inkjet_transfers@yahoogroups.com) were wondering about using Transfer Artist Paper (TAP) on lutradur.  Lesley Riley’s new book on lutradur says that TAP works on lutradur (and she invented TAP, so she should know!)  Since I’m having such a great time experimenting with lutradur,  I had to try these two interesting products together. I picked one of my current favorite photo collages as my first attempt.   I took a photograph of koi swimming in a pond at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, and blended it with my photograph of a bonsai wisteria tree. This is the digital image:

Koi and wisteria collage

Koi and wisteria collage

I printed the image on TAP using the recommended settings (media set for plain paper, resolution at fine quality).  The TAP print looked great, pretty much what like the image looks like on treated inkjet paper. I cut an untreated piece of lutradur inches larger than the image, because if it turned out well I figured I might do something fun with the edges, like use a heat gun to curl them.

I heated my iron to the highest setting.  I put the lutradur on my ironing surface, which is relatively hard and not as padded as a normal ironing board.  I cut the excess TAP from the edges of the image, as recommended. I positioned the TAP printout face down onto the lutradur, and placed a piece of parchment paper on top of the TAP. Pressing down firmly, I held the iron in place for about 10 seconds, then moved the iron to another spot until I had covered the entire surface. I peeled up an edge and saw that it had transferred completely. I checked the other edges and had to place the TAP down and re-iron a few spots.

After making sure the entire transfer had adhered, I peeled the TAP paper off.  I think the transfer is beautiful! The color and resolution are nearly as perfect as an inkjet paper print. I love the way the translucency of the lutradur allows light to shine through the image, and how the filaments and texture complement the image. I also think the abstract nature of the image, with its rich tones, worked really well on the lutradur.

This is the result:

Koi and wisteria on lutradur

Koi and wisteria on lutradur

This is a closeup of the bottom left edge, to show the filaments and texture of the lutradur, and how well the rich color transferred:

Closeup

Closeup

And another closeup of part of the transferred image:

Closeup

Closeup

I think if you pick the image carefully, a TAP transfer to lutradur is a great option. I’m not sure how well fine details will transfer, but I think that this abstract image with its rich colors worked great.  Considering that in order to print this image directly onto the lutradur I would have to coat it with Golden’s Digital Grounds (see my other blog posts on that subject), using the TAP was certainly quicker and easier.  When I decide how to finish the piece I’ll post an update.

Transfer Artist Paper on cotton

I previously wrote in my post about Photos on Wooden Boxes about using Lesley Riley’s new Transfer Artist Paper (TAP), available from her at http://www.transferartist.com   I just tried TAP on fabric.  I have resisted making t-shirts to sell because I was never sure whether the iron-on transfers would last, how they would wash, etc.  I have ordered some t-shirts made with my designs through my zazzle shop, http://www.zazzle.com/GardenDelightsArts* and the shirts are great.  They have a large variety of shirt styles and sizes.  I even sold a couple of children’t t-shirts the other day at the Pinole Artisan Gallery, so hooray for that!  Anyway, I bought some blank onesies (infant garments that snap at the bottom, very cute even to those of us who are childless) and decided to either sew some of my designs onto them, or to try using iron-ons.  Since I wanted to test out the TAP transfers anyway, I decided to use them for some of the onesies. 

Printing: I reversed the images because they’re transfers and you have to place them face down on the surface, of course.  I printed them with my Epson 2400, using Ultrachrome inks.  Per Lesley’s instructions, I printed on the plain paper setting and the medium quality.  The prints looked great – just as good as they would on normal inkjet paper, with full color saturation and detail.

Lesley’s website says to either wash the fabric right away (after transferring), in which case the colors will likely fade, or to wait a couple of days, and possibly the colors will fade less.  At least that’s how I read her instructions.  She also mentions that when she waited a couple of days, there was a line through the image where the cloth folded during washing. 

I pre-washed and machine dried the onesies.  I printed 6 images on 2 sheets of the TAP paper.  Following Lesley’s instructions, I cut out the image close to the edge to avoid having excess polymer transfer to the fabric.  I set my iron to the cotton setting.  As instructed, I used my ironing board which has a thin pad.  I put a piece of parchment paper on top the TAP transfer and placed my iron on top of it.  I held it there for about 10 seconds without moving it.  Then I peeled up an edge of the paper, saw that the entire transfer had worked, and peeled the backing entirely off.

On a couple of the transfers the edges were a little rough.  I think that’s because I didn’t hold the iron in that spot long enough, and the transfer was a bit incomplete.  My fault, but nothing that will affect the finished shirt too badly.  I was surprised that the holes in the iron didn’t cause a problem. Lesley mentions that the holes MAY leave untransferred spots, and I’d assume they would — but I did pick up the iron and place it in different spots, so maybe that’s why I didn’t have a problem. 

The transfers aren’t too stiff, just a tiny bit, but Lesley says that the stiffness will decrease as the item is washed.   I decided to wait until maybe tomorrow to wash them.  I really like the saturated colors and don’t want them to fade too much.  Here’s a photo of one of them taken right after I did the transfer:

Lars, photographic transfer to cotton using TAP paper

Lars, photographic transfer to cotton using TAP paper

I was very impressed that the shades of grey throughout the photo were transferred, as were the vivid colors of Lars’ eyes and ears, and his collar.  I’ll let you know what happens after I wash and dry the onesies tomorrow.

Okay. I machine-washed and dried the onesies.  Consistent with Lesley’s results, the transfer faded a bit, and the hand is a bit less stiff.  The colors are acceptable, and I would feel confident selling items I made with the TAP paper.  I’ll continue to test them.  I’ll make a t-shirt for myself and see how it fares after normal wear and washing.  Here’s the onesie with Lars on it, after washing and drying:

Transfer with TAP, after washing

Transfer with TAP, after washing

Photos on tiles, part 1

I’m going to add photos to this post, but for now I’ll just write, so please check back to see samples of what I’m writing about. 

I’m intrigued by placing my images onto unusual surfaces.  Tiles are attractive to me because there are so many uses — they can be hung individually or as a set, displayed on a shelf, used in a backsplash, etc.  I guess professional tiles are generally made by dye sublimation, but without that expensive technology, I explored ways to get my inkjet prints onto the tiles. 

First about the tiles — I started out with plain white enamel tiles.  I next tried the larger clay tiles, and then tumbled tiles, which were a little harder to find.  Home Depots have some tiles, but I’ve found that different stores carry different products, so you’ll have to check.  I once found a tile store pretty far from my house that had the most gorgeous marbled tiles.  Click here to see a photograph of a naked lady lily on a marble tile.  Lesson to me – when I see something I like and am pretty sure I’ll use, get enough!  The tumbled and marbled tiles are slightly smaller but thicker than the normal enamel size, so you may not be able to fit them into some of the products made for the standard sizes, like boxes, ready-made frames, stands, etc. 

Okay, now for the fun part. The best way to get an accurate image (one that looks nearly like it would on a piece of inkjet paper) onto most surfaces you can’t get through a printer is by using lazertran.  It’s a great product, basically a waterslide decal.  They make different kinds, but I use the inkjet.  Much more about lazertran in another post, coming soon.  And by the way, you can get a lot of information from their website

A fun but less accurate method for transferring to tiles is by using heat transfers.  I need to go back through my books to let you know where I learned about this.  Please check back, because I always want to give credit to my sources.  You can use the heat transfers made for t-shirts.  I use the epson transfers, because they work best with my printer.  I know you can get cheaper generic ones, but you might want to experiment to see whether the results are as good as the ones that are made by your printer manufacturer.  You just print the image onto the heat transfer (backward if there’s type or you care about the original orientation of the image), and place it face down onto the tile (put the tile on a hard surface, not a soft ironing board).  Cover the transfer with a piece of parchment paper to protect your iron from any ink that squishes out the sides, and hold the iron (highest heat) on the paper, pressing down hard.  You don’t want to move the iron around because the image will smear.  If you have a normal iron with holes, you should pick the iron up and move it so the holes are in a different place.  You’ll need to hold it there quite awhile.  The tile will get VERY hot so use an oven mitt or heat glove if you need to touch the tile.  After a few minutes, pick the iron up and peel a tiny piece of the edge to see if the transfer has adhered to the tile (be very careful touching the hot tile).  You can put it back down and keep pressing until as much of the transfer adheres as you want.  There will be spots that won’t transfer, and I’ve found that a slight ghost image always remains on the transfer paper.  You’ll have to experiment with the kinds of images that work best with this method.  For myself, I like to use photos that I’ve softened for a dreamy effect.  Details don’t transfer very well.

Here are some examples of the heat transfers onto the tumbled marble tiles.  You can see that there are gaps in the image, which as I said works well with some images. 

Four examples of tumbled marble tiles with inkjet images

Four examples of tumbled marble tiles with inkjet images