Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Art of the Image Transfer

I have been using Image Transfers in my paintings more frequently of late. As such, I am often asked about this technique. While I have blogged about it in the past, I will try to be more comprehensive in my post today.

The Art of Image Transfer - a tutorial:

Step 1 - Choose / Create an Image

 In this case, I have chosen a recent drawing of a sea anemone. I created the drawing in my sketchbook, photocopied it, and then cut out the portion I wanted to use for the image transfer. Any image can be used (newspaper clippings, photographs, etc.) and even the original drawing could be used if a photocopier is not available and I didn't wish to keep the original drawing. I prefer images with plenty of white areas since I like to add color to those areas during the application process. An inkjet print will not work (the ink will bleed), but a laser print will.

Step 2 - Tape Image Cut-out to Suitable Work Table

I have recently added the taping step as I found it easier to coat the images with gel if they weren't susceptible to moving during the process. Any tape will do. In this case I just looped regular clear tape to create the double-sticky surface. It is also wise to choose an appropriate table. I like using my plastic folding table (shown here), but I have also used formica countertops (much to my family's dismay) and coated metal pans (aka, my palette pan). I do not recommend plexiglass. I would think glass would work too, but I haven't tried it.

Step 3 - Coating Paper Image with Acrylic Soft Gel, Semi-Gloss

I coat my paper images with a thick application of gel using a paintbrush. I prefer my paintings to be textured, showing all those lovely ridges and bumps of the process. If you prefer a smoother surface for your work, you may want to either use a palette knife for gel application or several thin coats of gel using a paintbrush, waiting for each coat to dry before adding another layer. I have also unsuccessfully tried the gloss soft gel when I ran out of the semi-gloss. I may be missing some technique to using the gloss vs. the semi-gloss. If you find success with it, please share!
freshly applied acrylic gel on several images

after gel has dried
Step 4 - Removing Gel Coated Image from Surface

After the gel has COMPLETELY dried (you can use a hair dryer to speed it up), remove the gel coated image from your work surface. The gel should not have any cloudy (aka still wet) areas when being removed.

(note, I'm holding the camera with my left hand while I remove the image with my right)


Step 5 - Trimming Image

While you certainly don't have to trim the image (and sometimes I don't), I usually prefer trimming off the excess gel. This can be done either before or after soaking off the paper. I prefer before (pictured here). 

No, I'm not a lefty usually

Step 6 - Soaking the Paper off the Image Transfer

After letting the image sit in a dish of water (a pie plate is my preferred dish) for at least 15 minutes (the longer the soak, the easier to remove the paper), remove the paper by rubbing it off the gel image. Try to remove as much as possible. Let it dry if you want to make sure all the paper has been removed. Spots of white will indicate paper is still attached.

(I wisely found my son's music stand to help video the process this time)

Step 7 - Image Transfer Application to Artwork

This step can work in a variety of ways. I prefer to apply a thin layer of paint to the back of my image (the side where the paper was attached) with my color of choice and then paint some more of the gel to the desired location on my artwork. I then press the image (paint side down) onto the artwork and smooth out any extra paint/bubbles starting from the center and working my way out. I add another layer of gel over the top and along the edges to make sure it adheres well. It's easier is you are applying to a surface where you can easily press down (wood, paper), but if you are using stretched canvas, you will just need to reach around and apply pressure from the back while placing your image. Today I've chosen a round cradled birch board on which I've painted a coat of raw umber (dark brown) and then gold. You can also paint over the image (preferably after the gel has dried), but I would recommend an isolation coat (2:1 gloss gel and water, as recommended by Golden) and then possibly a top coat varnish to finish off the painting and ensure good adhesion of the paint to the gel image transfer.


"Finished" Image after "dried" - needs a bit more work and a little more drying time, but here you go!
(on another note, I'm also experimenting with crackle medium on this piece)

Examples of my Artwork using Image Transfers

"We'll Meet Again in the Old Ginkgo Tree"
various flower image transfers in tree branches
"Trilliums for Ruth"
Image transfers of the trillium flowers 
Image transfers of some insects - butterfly, dragonfly, etc.

"The Running Tree"
Image Transfers from digitized photographs of running shoes
"Rainbow Tree, No 14"
bumblebee image transfer

"The Ride Home"
Corvallis Fall Festival Poster Art, 2011
bicycle image transfer and several transfers inside the tree

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