I love the way image transfers look in a garden journal! They remind me of vintage seed packages, all color and promise with a hint of mystery thrown in. Here are some recent garden photos, reproduced using a very simple homegrown transfer technique:
These transfers are fun and very simple. Best of all, they use no toxic (or smelly) transfer agents and you can get truly lovely results regardless of your drawing ability. Test-drive this technique on some loose paper before using it directly in your journal, to get a feel for the materials.
All you need to begin is some cardstock or watercolor paper, a jar of acrylic gel medium (available for around $8 at any art supply or hobby store) and some deli parchment (often used to wrap sandwiches in, available at $14 per thousand sheets at restaurant supply stores). Here are the supplies:
1. Take a photo with your digital camera and upload it into your computer. Open the image in whatever photo editing software you have, convert it to black and white, and push the “Contrast” scale up as far as it will go. This will ensure brilliant whites and rich darks. This might also be a good time to point out that your final result will be a mirror image of your original photo, and if that poses a problem you’ll want to flip it before printing.
2. Deli parchment is usually 12 by 12 inches. Trim it down to 8.5 by 11 inches and put it in your printer. Now print your image on the parchment, on the more textured side. (It’s hard to get the ink to dry on the slick side.) Cut out the image to make it easier to handle during the transfer process. Here’s an image printed on parchment, all cut out and ready to transfer:
3. After dipping your index finger into the jar of acrylic medium, spread a thin layer on your journal page. This needs to be very, very thin. It should feel as if you are applying hand lotion to the paper. Then lay your image, ink side down, on the fresh acrylic medium.
4. I simply use the pad of my index finger or thumb and tap firmly all over the back of the parchment to transfer the image to the paper surface. Experiments with a roller or with rubbing motion resulted in blurred images, so I tap! You’ll feel the parchment gently adhere to the gel medium as you go. Once you’ve thoroughly worked over all the areas of your image, lift one corner of the parchment and slowly pull it away from the paper. Voila! Your image now appears on your journal page.(Note: Don’t wait too long to lift it away, however, since gel medium also happens to be an excellent glue.)
5. As soon as your gel medium is dry to the touch — probably five minutes or so — you can tint your transfer with colored pencils, watercolor, brush markers… whatever you can think of. Go light on the wet media, since your printer ink may be water soluble. Here is the final result from the tomato transfer in the photo above:
Of course, you don’t need to limit your image transfer adventures to images from the garden. They make terrific Christmas cards and, in my opinion, are lovely enough to be framed — the “old-fashioned” feel of the final result works especially well with old family photos. I made this one from a photo of my grandparents:
I snapped a photo of a stone angel in a New Orleans cemetery, and it made a dramatic transfer image. A Christmas card, perhaps? Your only limit is imagination…
If you liked making image transfers, you might also enjoy my posts on carving your own rubber stamps, painting an endangered butterfly or step-by-step botanical drawing in pencil and watercolor. Now, go have some fun!