How to Transfer a Photo to Wood

Image Transfer to Wood

This is an easy way to add some style and texture to your photos. Using this photo transfer technique there will be some loss of quality and some photos will work better than others. You’ll want to choose images with high contrast (dark areas and light areas). Any photographs with lots of detail or made up of mostly mid-tones may not work. The final product will have a vintage look and feel, almost like an old postcard. I chose some clean baltic birch plywood without much noticeable grain pattern so the focus would be on the photos. This is one of those art projects I’ll be experimenting with more and trying to come up with creative pieces using this simple technique. Let me know in the comments down below if you have any cool techniques you’d like to see me try!

Tools and Supplies Used

transfer photo to wood

color laser printer

Step 1: Print Your Photos

I begin by importing all my photos into Lightroom and do some post processing. I cropped mine square and did some Instagram-like adjustments. In the transfer you will likely loose some saturation and contrast so keep this in mind. You will also need to mirror your images as the transfer will reverse your photo. You will need to print your images on regular paper with a dry toner laser printer. Ink jet printers will not work with this technique. If you don’t have a laser printer you can take your files to a local copy shop such as Kinko’s.

matte gel medium

Step 2: Matte Gel Medium

Cut your photos to the size of the board. Using a gel medium coat the printout and the wood with a foam brush. Make sure all area are covered.

transfer photo to wood

Step 3: Place the Photo

Position an place the photo face down on the wood.


Step 4: Squeegee

Squeegee out as much of the gel as you can. A plastic scraper or an old credit card works great for this. Let this dry completely for 4 – 8 hours.

wet towel

Step 5: Wet Towel

Once completely dry you’ll then want to lay a wet towel on top and let the water soak in for a good 10 minutes. This will soften up the paper for removal.

transfer photo to wood

Step 6: Wash Away the Paper

We can then take the photos over to the sink and start gently rubbing away the paper. A sponge does help and you don’t want to rub away all the paper just yet because it may start to wear away the image. Once you can start to see the image set it aside to dry again for an hour our so.

transfer photo to wood

Step 7: 2nd and 3rd Rinse

And then you can come back and gently rub it down a second time, let it dry and then one final rinse and rub down. Allowing it to dry between rinses loosens up the paper making it easier to remove without rubbing away the image.

spray lacquer

Step 8: Spray Lacquer

Once that 3rd rinse dries you may still see a tiny bit of haze but a nice wet coat of spray lacquer will take care of that and offer a bit of protection.

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