Hey there, friends!
By FAR the questions I get asked the most are about the insanely easy image transfer method that I show in the majority of my videos - and I'm no gatekeeper! So here's my not-so-secret weapon for image transfers that has saved me tons of time and materials in my creative projects. Whether you're into linocut printmaking, wood-burning, or any other art form that requires image transfer, this method is truly a game-changer.
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- Jelly Gouache, Acrylic Paint, or Ink (Optional for staining before carving)
- Inkjet Printer
- Sticky Label Backing Paper or Sticker Release Paper
- Surface of choice (Linoleum, wood, etc.)
View my up-to-date Image Transfer Supply List here.
View my up-to-date list of Linocut Printmaking supplies here.
View my up-to-date list of Digital Art supplies here.
Staining for Enhanced Contrast
Before I get to the image transfer for my prints, I begin by staining my linoleum. I prefer using Battleship Gray linoleum and to create more contrast for easy carving and visualization I stain it with either jelly gouache, acrylic paint, or ink diluted with a little bit of water. This step is optional but I highly recommend it for any carving medium. Once I apply a thin layer of stain, I set it aside to dry while I set up my transfer.
Here's where things get interesting. I utilize something unexpected for this image transfer method: the backing paper from sticky labels. Don't worry; you don't have to purchase these yourself. You'd be surprised at how many people discard these in offices. Just check with your friends, family, or anyone you know who works in an office, and they'll likely have plenty to spare.
There are also specialty sticker release papers available that work in the same way.
Printing with Precision
To begin the image transfer, I place the sticky label backing paper directly into my trusty inkjet printer. Remember, this method specifically works with inkjet printers, although there are alternative approaches available for laser printers. To ensure precise results, I design and finalize my artwork in Procreate on my iPad. This way, I have digital versions of all my prints and a handy backup plan in case of any mishaps.
Next, I export the design to my computer with a transparent background. While I personally prefer formatting my designs in Adobe Illustrator, you can use any editing software of your choice. To control the amount of ink transferred, I adjust the opacity, keeping in mind that every printer behaves a little differently. Finally, I print the design directly onto the shiny side of the sticky label backing paper, where the ink stays wet and ready for transfer.
This is important: Linocut or printmaking designs are mirrored on the block in order for the final print to turn out in the correct orientation. So printing your design as-is onto your transfer sheet will work for printmaking purposes. If you are using this transfer method for woodburning, painting, or other creative projects that require the design to appear correctly on the surface itself, make sure that you mirror your design before printing so it will transfer correctly!
The Magic Moment
Now comes the exciting part—transferring the design onto the prepared linoleum block. Carefully place the printed sheet onto the linoleum, making sure to hold it firmly in place. You can lift the edges to check if any areas require additional pressure. Once you're satisfied, press down on the entire sheet to ensure a solid transfer. For any excess ink, simply press a paper towel on top to remove it gently.
Set and Carve
After the transfer, it's best to allow the ink to set for approximately 30 to 45 minutes, or longer if you can resist the urge to dive into your project immediately. This waiting period ensures the ink doesn't smudge while you work.
If you're pressed for time, you can head to a well-ventilated outdoor area and spray a layer of workable fixative onto the surface. Keep in mind that if you add a layer of fixative to seal the transfer, your carving surface may be harder than linoleum alone. Adjust your pressure and sharpen your tools accordingly.
Once the ink has set, grab a pencil or marker and clean up any areas that may require a bit of touching up. And just like that, you're ready to carve your masterpiece!
This image transfer method has truly revolutionized my creative process, saving me valuable time and resources. Remember, if you decide to give this technique a try, I'd love to hear about your experience. Don't hesitate to spread the word to fellow artists seeking a more efficient image transfer method as well!
Whether you're exploring linocut printmaking or venturing into other artistic realms, you now have a powerful tool at your disposal. So, let your imagination run wild, and let's make some incredible art together! Grab some more inspiration from my Resources Page.
Stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and creative adventures. Until next time, keep creating!