Monday, 11 January 2016

Transferring Images

I think of my sketchbooks as "pieces".  Sometimes they are themed as a trip, but more often, just a few months of activity.  I would never consider cutting a page out - not even the uncompleted or messed up pages, not to mention if they have been used on two sides.  The problem is that original sketchbooks are nearly impossible to display and besides, I don't have the time or patience to do larger paintings from the sketches. And maybe more importantly, my reworked stuff seems to loose the energy of the on-site work.

I have found that, with a good scan, my little sketches (5 1/4 "x 8" - 13 x 20 cm.) enlarge quite nicely and I would love to try something poster size. In fact if it got grainy, I'd probably enjoy the effect.  

But here's my recent discovery - transferring images with the use of acrylic medium. These are not "reproductions", as the colour is subdued, but the result is nonetheless quite faithful and fully in the spirit of sketching.

I did a batch recently and used small wood painting panels , that are commonly sold in art supply stores, or ordered online.  They are made with a nice light blond coloured plywood surface (birch)  a 1 1/2"- 3.8 cm frame and are very inexpensive.  

So, here is the recipe:

1. Make laser prints 
LASER prints, not inkjet prints.   I went to Staples as I don't have a laser printer with my scans saved as mirror images (the other menu term, is "horizontal flip") at the same size as the panels I am using.

2. Copy Images 
Brush acrylic medium onto the panels and place the copy face down, then use a credit card to flatten the paper and squeegee out the excess gel.  Acrylic medium is sold in art supply stores as a white gel usually used to mix with acrylic paint colours.  Let dry for a full 24 hours.

3. Remove paper 
This is the  most delicate part of the operation.  It took me a few tries to get it right.  Staples had loaded the printers with really nice thick glossy paper, which made great prints, but it was a tad heavy for the reverse paper-making process of soaking and removing. I was initially too aggressive in scrapping off the paper and took off portions of the image.  However I was able to reuse the panels by sanding them clean and starting over.  Resist temptation to over soak.  If immersed for any length of time the glue used in the panels is likely to let go or the grain of the wood may "raise", leaving a bumpy texture which would detract from the clarity of the image.

Remove paper by wetting it under hot water and rubbing it off gently with your fingers.  Wet the paper thoroughly under the faucet and let it stand and soak for a couple of minutes.  Then hold it under a trickle of warm water and very gently roll shards of paper off with your fingers.  Think of the paper as being several layers.  Work slowly and let the panel sit occasionally so that the water can soften the layer under the colour emulsion.  I found that I had to let the panels nearly dry several times in order to see the last little bits of paper film , but that with re-wetting, these came off with no scraping of the image.

Now I'm trying to decide whether to paint the side frames of the panels or just leave them as the unfinished wood.  

cost:  $4 each.  


  1. Thank you...I feel the same about my sketchbooks - I would never cut anything out. I definitely plan on trying this !

  2. Cool idea John, they look great, I'm going to try it too.

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