Transfer Prints

How to Transfer Prints from Paper to Projects.

Here you will learn how easy it is to transfer prints from paper to your craft projects.

This technique gives you do much freedom. You can use prints from your home printer, so the possibilities are many Photos, logos, text, images – use your imagination and this tutorial to create something wonderful!

If you prefer to watch a video, you will find one at the end of this blog.

What you will need to transfer prints:

  • A project to transfer the print to.
  • PVA Glue (eg Mod Podge, Builders Glue, White Glue)
  • A Print on Paper. If you are printing it, make sure to reverse the print before printing.
  • Paintbrush . Glue applicator
  • Water sprayer
  • Ruler and Pencil to make your registration marks

Before you Start – Prepare the surface of your project.

Wooden / Porous Surfaces

Make sure it is sanded and sealed. You can use PVA to seal it with, or a primer of the background colour you will be using. Use a clear sealer if you want woodgrain or other textural features to show through your transfer.

Glossy / Plastic Surfaces

give these a light sand to create some tooth for the glue to stick to. A light sand with 120 – 180 grit sandpaper should do it.

Once you have prepped the surface, you will need to think about what colour will be behind your transfer.

The lighter the colour, the clearer and cleaner the transfer will appear. 

The image above shows an example using the same image with three different background colours. The white is ibviousy the clearest. The grey darkens the image, so if you go too dark, the image will not show up so well

This isn’t always a bad thing and will very much depend on the image you are using and your design. A large, bold black text, for example, will handle a darker background colour better than a delicate, multi coloured image.

As you can see in the image with the yellow background, this worked well with the design because all the colours in the image are blues, greens, yellow and blacks and a little pink in the sky. It looks rather like a warm  sunset behind the parrots.

Had I used a red background, it would have turned yellows into orange, greens into browns etc., Not what i was aiming for!

For this example, I am applying the transfer to a wooden tissue box cover. I would like the woodgrain to show through, so I am using a white shellac primer to seal the wood. I then sanded it back to reveal the wood grain and smooth off the surface.

Prepare your print


What Kind of Prints can I use as transfer prints?

You can use almost any print that has been printed with ink onto paper, and has not been sealed with a varnish, sealer or film.

  • Professional Prints
  • Posters
  • Newspaper / Magazines
  • Prints from Home Printers ^
  • Wrapping Paper
  • Books
  • Paper Packaging
  • Decoupage Paper



Since inkjet printers use a water soluble ink, so pleas make sure you test your print first. You can do this by dripping a little water on it. If it runs, your printer does not produce prints suitable for this technique.

For  this project, I am using a print on regular 80gsm paper from my colour laser printer.

Consider the edge of your print.

Prints with a hard edge are easier to work with. Prints with a gradient or abstract background will need special consideration.

If you are butting your print up to a framed edge, cut your print to the size within the edges (Image 1 Below)

I will be framing this parrot transfer with a moulding, so I am not too concerned about messy edges as they will be covered. (Image 2 below)

If you will not have anything around the edge of your print, to help make the edges look better, you can do one of two things.

a) Cut away the background (Image 3 below). In this case, you may wish to mask off the background area of your project. This will prevent getting glue on it when you apply the image

b) You can also soften an edge. (Image 4 below). Cut your print to any shape you want, but allow a little extra around the edge. Then carefully tear out your shape to final size required, or simply sand the edges later on, after it has been applied and dried.

How to Apply Transfer Prints

Right – you now have a print, something to put it on and your materials. Finally – let’s get on with applying transfer prints!

Step 1 – Registration Marks

Place your print PRINT SIDE DOWN on your surface to be applied to. Mark light registration marks on the back of the print and the project to help you locate it correctly later on. You an use as many marks as you like. The marks on the paper will get rubbed away later. Sand away or paint over the marks on your surface.

This step can be skipped if you are using Edge Type 1 (See above).

If you are not covering the edge of your moulding as in Edge Type 2 above, you may wish to draw around the edge of your image or mask your background off using masking film or tape.. This will help you place adhesive in the right place an prevent glue getting on your background area.

Step 2 – Apply adhesive

Apply a thin layer or PVA glue in the area that your image will be applied to. Make sure you don’t miss any bits. If the print is not glued down, it will mean you have a blank patch there instead of the print later.

Step 3 – Wet the Print

Wrinkles also cause blank patches. Sometimes this can be a cool effect, adding to the aged look. But I like to do any such aging later on, and aim for a complete image transfer.

To avoid bubbles, you can wet the paper down first. The water will be absorbed by the paper and the paper will swell slightly. Placing the image on the wet glue will cause the image to absorb the water in the glue, and this can cause the paper to wrinkle.

Using a spray bottle of water, wet down the image thoroughly on both sides.

For larger images or images with thick paper, you may wish to do this before Step 2 so that the glue doesn’t start to dry off before your image is ready to apply.

For smaller images or images on thin paper, you can skip this step as it’s pretty easy to get bubbles an wrinkles out anyway.

Step 4 – Smooth it Down

For larger images, you can use a squeegee, old credit card or a spatula with the sharp corners sanded off. For smaller images, you can just use your thumb. 

Holding the image in place (as it may want to surf around on the glue a bit), use the squeegee from centre to edge to push any air bubbles or excess glue out.

This is also the time to sort out any wrinkles if you have any. Make sure it is all evenly glued down. Yo should have no bulges of glue or air under the print.

Step 5 – Clean up the Edges

You’ll probably find that glue has squeezed out around the edges

Using a damp cloth, clean this up, trying not to get any on the back of the print. Glue on the back will make it harder to remove the excess paper later on.

Step 6 – Let it Dry

Allow th glue to fully dry before movign on to the next step. If the glue is not dry, you may remove the image you are transferrign during the next step.

Step 7 – Remove Excess Paper

When your print and glue are both completely dry, take your spray bottle and wet the paper down again. Leave it for a few minutes to completely soak in. Warm water can help speed this up.

Now, gently rub at the paper. You will slowly see the image start to appear underneath. Keep rubbing until it has all be rubbed away.

Brush off any little clumps of paper than form as you are rubbing.

Leave it to dry, and then inspect it. Don’t worry if you still see paper over the image and you image is cloudy looking, I rarely manage to get all the paper off the first time. When it’s wet, the last bits of paper are transparent so they are hard to see. 

Make note of where the paper needs removing, wet it down and rub away again. Keep repeating until the image is clean and clear.

The image below shows before paper removal, then midway after I have let it dry to see how much paper is left, then the finished transfer.

And that’s it! You have a transferred image.



Sealing the Transfer

To protect the print, seal it with any clearcoat. You can use PVA, but I prefer to use a clear acrylic or polyurethane varnish. Whatever is suitable for the surface the print is on will be fine for the print. I’m a fan of Polyvine products, and you can have a lot of fun experimenting with their aging varnishes to create that perfect vintage look.


Here is a video showing you the transfer process:

I hope this has been helpful, and will b=inspire you to transfer prints of your own. If you try out this technique, don’t forget to show  off your results on the Chic Mouldings Facebook Page, or tag @ChicMouldings on Instagram.