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How to Transfer Photos to Wood

Learn how to transfer photos to wood in three simple steps! All you need for this photo transfer to wood is your favorite image and a medium. It’s easy! Don’t forget to watch the video in this post that shows you exactly what to do.

Skills Required: Advanced Beginner. A photo transfer to wood takes some knowledge of how to apply mediums as well as a little bit of practice.

NOTE: This tutorial uses a laserjet image and Mod Podge photo transfer medium. If you’d like to do a transfer with an inkjet image and regular Mod Podge, go here.

Learn how to transfer photos to wood in three simple steps

Hi, it’s David from Cheltenham Road with a quick tutorial on my favorite thing to do: a photo transfer to wood with Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium. This medium is easy to use and creates terrific results. In fact, I’ll show you how to transfer photos to wood in three simple steps!

Any painting of the wood is an additional step if you choose to do so . . . the photo transfer itself is simple as can be and makes great decor on its own. (get more craft ideas using Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium!)

Transfer a Picture to Wood

If you’re wondering how to transfer photos to wood, it’s a relatively simple process. You’ll print a photo out on a dry ink printer (like laserjet or an HP). You’ll paint a medium on the front of the photo, and then smooth it onto an unfinished or painted surface.

The image will need to dry on the surface overnight, and then you will wet the surface and rub off the paper, leaving the image from the ink and the dried medium behind. This particular medium will give your image a white background (as opposed to clear).

Choosing Pictures

If you follow my blog you know I’m all about vintage graphics, so I thought I’d use one of my favorite images and just do a simple transfer to a piece of everyday plywood. Black and white photos look great with this technique since there’s a rustic vibe, however, you can use color photos as well.

When you print out your photo(s), make sure they 1) they fit the surface you are transferring to and 2) any words should be backwards. When they are transferred to the surface, the words will be going the correct way.

Transfer Photos to Other Surfaces

The exciting thing about this project? You can use this same method to transfer photos to fabric or canvas. I’m showing you how to do it on wood, but don’t limit yourself. Oh, and if you want to learn how to transfer photos to glass, that’s an entirely different method you’ll see here.

Learn how to transfer photos to wood the easy way below!

DIY Photo Transfer to Wood

Wood board, image, image transfer medium, milk paint, and foam brush

Here’s what I used for this Mod Podge wood transfer:

  • 1/4″ plywood cut to 13 x 8
  • Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium
  • Matte Mod Podge
  • Folk Art Milk Paint: Plymouth Rock
  • Foam Brush
  • Damp rag
  • Image printed on regular paper using a laser printer or photocopier
  • Sharp craft knife
  • Brayer (useful but not absolutely necessary)
  • Silicone craft mat (useful but not absolutely necessary)

I started off with just a quick coat of the Milk Paint on the edges of the plywood. It dries super fast, so while it was drying I worked on my picture (painting is optional).

Since the photo has text, I reversed the image before printing it onto plain paper using my laser printer. Laser prints work as well as DRY ink toner prints (like HP ink). You may have to do some research or experiment to see if your printer has dry ink.

Photo transfer pictures to wood

For step one, I squeezed out a generous amount of the Transfer Medium onto the image . . .

TIP: I laid everything on my Mod Podge Silicone Mat which is great for this – you can use wax paper if you’d like but make sure to protect your work surface.

Spreading the medium across a photo with a foam brush

. . . . and, using my foam brush, spread it out until the picture was mostly obscured.

Brayer on top of the image smoothed onto to the wood

For the second step, I laid the picture (image side down) onto the plywood and smoothed out any air bubbles using my fingers and the brayer (the brayer is great but if you don’t have one use a rolling pin, a glass bottle, etc).

Make sure to keep a damp rag nearby to clean up any oozy extra transfer medium (like you see on the bottom edge of the plywood in the picture) as when it dries it dries pretty hard and it tough to get rid of.

And now the hard part: patience. I set my wood craft aside for 24 hours to dry.

Rubbing the paper off with a damp cloth

Once it dried I used a damp cloth to gently rub away the paper, revealing the picture (this is the third step!).

how to transfer a photo to wood

After removing that top layer, I let it dry a little and then did it again to catch any spots I missed or left-over paper fuzz. It’s better to rub gently and repeat the wetting process than to rub too hard and rub the image away.

Spreading the Mod Podge across a photo with a foam brush

I wanted a very vintage/beat up feel so I went in with my sander and sanded away the edges of the graphic revealing the plywood and once I was happy with the look I sealed the whole thing with two coats of Mod Podge Matte.

Now you know how to transfer photos to wood! Easy, sorta quick (if you don’t count the passive drying time) and inexpensive wall art!

photo transfer to wood

TIP: I’ve worked with Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium a lot, but if you’re new to it, do a little tester piece before tackling a big project. And please check out the extremely useful list of tips that Amy has compiled for working with Transfer Medium here.

Yield: 1 transfer

Photo Transfer to Wood

photo transfer to wood

Learn how to transfer photos to wood in three simple steps! All you need for this photo transfer to wood is your favorite image and a medium. It’s easy!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Active Time 20 minutes
Dry Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 30 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $5

Materials

  • 1/4″ plywood cut to 13 x 8
  • Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium
  • Matte Mod Podge
  • Folk Art Milk Paint: Plymouth Rock
  • Damp rag
  • Image printed on regular paper using a laser printer or photocopier

Tools

  • Foam brush
  • Sharp craft knife
  • Brayer
  • Silicone craft mat

Instructions

  1. Print the image to fit the surface using a dry ink or laserjet toner printer. Remember to reverse any words so that they will read correctly.
  2. Paint the surface with acrylic paint (optional) - we used FolkArt Milk Paint. Let dry.
  3. Place your image on a mat with the ink side up. Squeeze a generous amount of Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium onto the photo and spread with a foam brush.
  4. The medium should be obscuring the image. Be sure to get the corners well.
  5. Lay the picture image side down onto the surface. Smooth down, removing any air bubbles. A brayer helps here, as does a wet rag (see Notes section).
  6. Set aside for 24 hours to dry.
  7. Place a damp cloth down onto the back of the photo for several minutes. Start rubbing away the paper.
  8. After removing the top layer of paper, let dry a little and then repeat. It's better to rub gently and repeat the wetting process several times than to rub too hard and rub the image away.
  9. Once you're satisfied with the image, further distress the piece of you like.
  10. Add a coat of Mod Podge Matte (or two) on top and let dry.

Notes

Your best source for laserjet printouts is a copy store like FedEx Kinko's! But I'm sure you can order them online as well.

Make sure to keep a damp rag nearby to clean up any oozy extra transfer medium (like you see on the bottom edge of the plywood in the picture) as when it dries it dries pretty hard and it tough to get rid of.

Did You Make This Project?

Please leave a rating or share a photo on Pinterest!


Are you ready to see the video of a photo transfer to wood? Just click PLAY on the video in this post. In this example, you’ll learn how to transfer an Instagram picture to a wood block. I’d love for you to check out the following posts as well:

Kurt

Sunday 10th of July 2022

Thanks for these instructions. Has anyone discovered a clear (but color laserjet combatible) paper that can be used for this purpose. I'd prefer no white background on the final product. Thanks.

Amy

Monday 11th of July 2022

There's a clear version! https://amzn.to/3yWizNn

Kathy

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

Can you do this transfer with an actual photo?

Amy

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

Hi Kathy! Unfortunately not this method. Because the ink won't release from photo paper - and that's how the transfer is created, because the ink transfers to the medium.

Emer Gaffey

Monday 20th of December 2021

Hi I followed the steps and it came out perfectly but I did the final step and it came out white? Is this supposed to happen?

Amy

Friday 24th of December 2021

Hi Emer - the final step is rubbing off the paper. I'm worried you rubbed off the design?

Ben

Sunday 19th of December 2021

What kind of paper is best? I've been trying to transfer photos onto wood, but I can never get that last bit of paper off without destroying the photo underneath. It's a super frustrating experience. We just used whatever paper that comes out of the printers at FexEx. but that paper seems kind of tenacious and you never seem to get past that white opaque state to clear picture.

Amy

Friday 24th of December 2021

I just use plain white copy paper which is probably a little thicker than what comes out of the FedEx printers. 15 - 20 lb. or so? I'm wondering if a sponge might help you to rub off the paper without removing the image.

belle

Thursday 28th of October 2021

want to try first time to put a photo on a tile,can someone please advice me products to use

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