Image Transfers

Image transfers are not an exact science, but it’s still worth experimenting with the technique.  Their imperfections lend themselves well to mixed-media, because you invariably paint over, partially collage, or add elements to that original image.  First, I have to give a shout out to McElroy & Wilson’s book, “Image Transfer Workshop.”  This quick reference guide to “all things transfer”, offers a wealth of information on just about every type of image transfer technique out there.  I decided to try out two types of paper, using different mediums on a variety of surfaces.


Challenge 1: Ink-jet image transfer onto 140 lb. watercolor paper, using Golden matte gel medium.  Pros: Quick transfer time of 5 minutes or less. White background surface allows for colors to appear brighter.  Cons: Image will be splotchy…virtually impossible to transfer a clean, sharp ink-jet image.  Difficult to apply enough gel medium and/or get it evenly on the surface.


Challenge 2: Toner-based (magazine image) transfer onto 140 lb. watercolor paper, using Golden matte gel medium.  Pros: Once again, the white background allowed for the colors of the tropical drinks to come through, true to the original image. Color is more saturated on toner-based than ink-jet images.  Cons: Must wait 24 hours to complete the transfer process.  Difficult to get ample gel medium distribution for clean transfer.

Challenge 3: Toner-based transfer onto unpainted plywood, using Golden matte gel medium.  Pros: The heavier the substrate used, the better it holds up to the rubbing with water during the transfer process. The plywood also held the gel medium better and resulted in a cleaner end image.  Cons: the color of the plywood background dulled the colors in the image.

Challenge 4: Toner-based transfer onto illustration board, using gesso. Pros: The bright white background and heavier-weight surface allowed for the true colors to show through. Cons: The gesso dried quicker and resulted in wrinkling the paper when water was applied during the transfer. Similar splotchy end image to the gel medium.

And there you have the results…fresh from my little artistic laboratory, if you will!  This is definitely a technique where trial and error will come into play.  You can always use successful transfers collaged into other artwork, or partially paint over the failures. Experiment with these and other transfer techniques, until you find ones that are consistently usable.  Now if you’ll excuse me, Egor wants one of those tropical drinks!  

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