Last Autumn we shared a Canvas Transfer DIY. We've received hundreds of questions about this project, so today I want to share a follow up with more details and Q+A. I hope it helps any of you who ran into trouble creating your own canvas portrait…
Here's how I transferred my photo to canvas: 1. Supplies needed- stretched canvas (I chose an 8×10 size), gel medium (I used this kind from Liquidex), paint brush and the image you want to transfer (laser copy) and a spray bottle filled with water. Remember, your image will print reversed. 2. Completely cover your canvas with gel medium. Use a heavy coat. 3. Press the photo copy onto the canvas and let it dry for several hours or overnight. 4. After your image is completely dry, use a spray bottle to wet the top of the paper. 5. Rub the surface with your fingers until pieces of the paper start coming off. When pieces start coming up your image will be revealed. This step takes patience and is messy! Be careful not to rub too hard as this can remove your transfer on accident. Continue until all the paper is removed and the image is completely visible! 6. Cover your canvas with one more coat of gel medium to seal and protect the image.
Note: You can expect an imperfect transfer. I think the imperfections are absolutely lovely! It's best to choose an image that is not incredibly detailed to work with. Each transfer is different. The more you experiment, the better! (DIY reposted from our original tutorial)
Here are a few questions that readers asked….
Q: Can I print my photo on photo paper?
A: No. A photo printed on regular photo paper (like what you would get from any 1 hour photo) will not work. The reason is that in steps 4,5+6 you need to be able to rub the paper off from the canvas. Any photo with a plastic feel on the back will be water resistant. The best thing to print your photo on is regular printer (or copy) paper.
Here's an example of how regular photo paper will not work…
Q: What is a laser copy? Can I just use my home printer?
A: The method we've had the most luck with uses laser copies. Inkjet printers (home printers) can also work, but if you choose to use them be sure to print on regular copy paper, not photo paper.
(as you can see, it's not perfect but it does work to use an at home inkjet printer)
There was some confusion about what a laser copy is. It's the kind of copy machine that you could use (for cheap!) at any copy shop, office or public library…
I've personally had several successful projects using a laser printer, so that's what I would recommend! I take photos in and blow them up to fit the canvas side. I always print in black and white because I think that a contrasty black and white transfer looks better than color.
Q: I don't have Liquidex, can I just use Mod Podge?
A: No. Although I've heard of readers using it with success it didn't work well for us. We tried the gloss and the matte varieties of Mod Podge. The results were the same with both types. It's normal for the transfer to have imperfections, but with Mod Podge it was much more than usual. Mod Podge is awesome, but it's not ideal for this project. Here's an example of what happened…
What we DO recommend for this project is any gel medium that you would but at the art store. We usually use glossy. Liquidex or Golden work great. I know they are a little pricey, but it's worth it for this project. 🙂
Q: There is a white film covering my photo. What did I do wrong?
A: You didn't do anything wrong, it's just not done yet. If your transfer looks like this (below) it simply means you need to keep rubbing the paper off!
A lot of people get nervous when some parts of the image wear off and don't want to finish. If you look at my finished example at the top, there are some spots that wore off during the process, especially around the edges. This is totally normal and should be expected. Use a spray bottle and rub gently until the paper is completely removed. Then gloss the photo with another coat of gel medium while the surface is still slightly damp.
A few tips…
-This method for creating your own canvas is perfectly imperfect. The results will never be precise. They are unpredictable. I personally love the look of the finished product. If you prefer a more perfect coverage, you can get canvas portraits made at Sam's Club and other places that print photos.
-Your transfer will come out backwards, so if there are any words on your photo you need to print the photo out backwards.
-Many of the questions I receive are asking if you can substitute supplies or method for the same result. We don't know. We've tested some things here, but for the best results we recommend sticking closely to the tried + true method that we've developed with trial and error. We certainly haven't tried every possible combination of supplies, but the method we recommend has worked for us time and time again!
I hope these tips have been helpful! Please send me a link if you try this tutorial for youself. XO. elsie
I’ve done this project years ago with ModPoge and the Liquitex definitely works better. You can also transfer images to wood this way. Perfectly imperfect. I love it!
I saw this and HAD to try it! Loved it! Followed the directions to a “T” and it worked perfectly. Except……I think I left the photo drying too long. Is that possible? I had left it drying overnight with plans to rub off in the morning but I was called away and didn’t get to it until the evening. It rubbed off fine but it looks a bit pinkish or really faded, not like your example (I printed in black and white) like maybe some of the black was soaked up and rubbed off. I’m definitely going to try again but was wondering if there is a length of time you should definitely rub if off by?
get I print a photo from my face book onto regular copy paper and then take it to a place where they have a laser printer and make copies
Thanks a ton for sharing your experience!
Thank you so much for this tutorial, I love it! I wanted to let you know that I tried it and posted about it today with a link back to you. I can’t wait to do more!
Oh my goodness! This is so cute! I will have to try this for sure! Thanks for sharing!
hi! i was wondering if the laser copies could be made in different sizes? as big as a 11×14? i’d like to buy the stretch canvas in 11×14 but don’t want to find out the hard way that the laser copies could not be made in any size! thanks!
Can it be done with multiple pictures on one canvas?
This looks like a fun project! My craft skills are a bit lacking so I have to ask about the Liquitex: Do I use the Matte Gel Acrylic Medium or the Gloss Gel Medium? They are the two options I have to chose from on Amazon.
I can’t wait to try this. Thank you for sharing 🙂
thanks so much for the tips! can it work on other backgrounds or just canvas?
I tried this the first time today and it looks soooo adorable.
A little hint for readers from Germany who couldn’t find Liquidex at any local store, just like me:
I used “aqua Mattlack für Serviettentechnik von Marabu”.
It worked well for me 🙂
Hi everyone! Elsie I’m a huge fan of your blog. You updated this tutorial right as I was trying to do it. Got great results! Check out my post on my new blog to check out how mine turned out plus some things I learned: http://goldenfrenzy.com/photo-transfer-to-canvas/
I remember trying this transfer method with different kitchen cleaning products and it did work. I was trying to find a low cost version using everyday household products. I think it may have be a paricular brand of window cleaner or surface cleaner. It was a really fun experiment.
Guys, this is a tute in the same vein.
I tried it, and if I had a more reliable and higher quality printer this would have been amazing.
Also the gel medium technique works on fabric.
I love your blog so much! Your posts are so helpful & i love the tips. Thanks so much for sharing!
So Cute! i can’t wait to try this!
I have been doing this for years now as a way to display my photography in an interesting way. I have a few more tips that I’d like to share. While printing on canvas is fun think of other unique things to transfer your image on, I like to use found and salvaged wood. Also, clear matte medium by golden or even clear silicon (like the kind used in bathrooms etc.) also make a great medium for transferring the photo. Golden brand items can be found in any craft store and clear silicon in any hardware type store.
Fantastic! My man is addicted to collecting antiques and this is the perfect way to take something new and give it a weathered vibe. Can’t wait to try this one out!
I really love this project, and it’s great that you add in more details and clarify things!
I tried this last december, and this is my result:
I’m lucky because my boyfriend owns a laser print, but when I wanted to make a birthday present for him, I tried it with an ink copy and failed – you can see that here: http://blog.kathastrophal.de/2012/07/04/quick-update-kurzes-lebenszeichen
I think that with ink copies, you never get that finished feel.
Looks creative because you are the one who will file pictures that you wanted to do as canvas.I guess for me I will find pictures of our whole family including my grandparents.