Print on wood is the latest DIY craze that is gaining popularity at a rapid rate! It is a cool, unique way to customize your wood-working projects, such as signs, plaques, gifts, crafts, etc. Right now, you may be asking yourself, ‘what exactly is print on wood DIY and how do you do it’?
What is print on wood DIY? Print on wood DIY is a way to make wood-working projects your own by using different printing techniques to transfer pictures or photos, images, logos and text onto wood. Most of the methods are fairly easy and cost-effective and use simple household and hardware supplies including acetone, polyurethane, solvent, paper (carbon, tracing, graphite or wax), stain, lacquer, clothing iron, computer, printer and soft ware.
Now that you know what print on wood DIY is, let’s take a closer look at this fun and creative way to customize your next wood-working project. We will discuss how to transfer designs, what supplies are needed, what the required methods are, why digital techniques are popular, how to stain or finish printed wood and what pieces can be made using it. So, if you’re ready to learn more about print on wood, then let’s get started!
How Do I Transfer a Design to Wood?
Printing images on wood is easier than you may think. There are ten basic ways to do so. But first, gather the necessary supplies (depending on the method you use) which include:
- Smooth, light-colored wood
- Acid brush
- Foam brush
- Water-based gel stain
- Nitrile gloves
- Paper towel
- Clothing iron
- Key (or credit) card
- Inkjet or laser printer
- Citrasolv solvent
- Freezer paper
- Wax paper/parchment paper
- Overhead transparency sheets
- Lesley Riley TAP kit
Method One – Transfer Using Acetone (Nail Polish Remover)
This technique simply uses acetone to transfer the toner onto the wood producing a black-and-white image. Begin by laying the printed image onto the wood, creasing the paper over the edge to secure it in place. Next, dip a lint-free cloth into the acetone and place it over the image, pressing down firmly. Do this a few times until the image has completely transferred onto the wood. Don’t forget to wear gloves as acetone is harsh and can irritate the skin. This is a quick and easy way to do print on wood, especially if you are a beginner.
Method Two – Using Citrasolv Solvent (Cleaner and Degreaser)
The second technique uses a common household product (Citrasolv) to transfer images (black-and-white work best, colored images appear hazy) onto wood. Simply place the printed image face down onto the wood. Moisten the back of the paper with the Citrasolv and then rub off the paper. This method is easy to do but does not provide a bright, vivid color image.
Method Three – Using an Iron
The third technique uses a clothing iron and that’s it! Place the black-and-white or colored printed image onto the wood, creasing the paper over the edge to secure it in place. Then, iron over top of the image slowly and smoothly to keep the design from moving. You must press down firmly and use high heat for the image to transfer, especially if it is colored. This is a cheap and easy way to do print on wood, however, if the iron isn’t hot enough, the image will look blurry. Be careful using this method so as not to burn yourself.
Method Four – Using Polyurethane (Minwax)
The fourth technique involves using water-based polyurethane. Begin by brushing the wood with the polyurethane. Press the black-and-white or colored printed paper down firmly onto the polyurethane, smoothing it out gently to avoid air bubbles. Allow the wood to fully dry for about an hour or so. Once dry, wet the paper and peel off as much as possible. Remove any lingering pieces with a toothbrush. Paper removal is more difficult using this method but it also provides an excellent, high-quality image.
Method Five – Using a Water-Based Gel Stain
The fifth technique uses a safe, water-based gel medium brushed thinly over wood. Press the black-and-white or colored printed paper onto the gel surface, smoothing out any air bubbles with you finger and a key card. Let the wood dry completely for one to two hours. Once dry, scrub the paper with a wet toothbrush to remove it. This method is more work, takes longer to do and can leave a rough surface behind but it does create an amazingly precise image.
Method Six – Using Freezer Paper
The sixth technique uses freezer paper sheets to transfer images (black-and white work best, colored ones appear hazy) onto wood. Begin by printing an image of your choice in reverse on the glossy side of the paper. Give it time to dry (a few minutes or more). Then, place the image onto a smooth wood surface face down. Use the back of a spoon to burnish the image onto the wood. This method is easy to do, but the wax paper method below creates a brighter, more vivid colored image.
Method Seven– Using Wax (or Parchment) Paper and a Basic Printer
The seventh technique uses wax paper and a basic printer. Cut a piece of wax paper the same size as a standard piece of printer paper. Next, find a high-resolution image you like and then reverse it using a photo program on your computer. Place a sheet of wax paper into the printer and hit ‘print’. Put the printed image onto the wood, holding it securely with one hand and swiping across it using a key card with the other hand. Once image has been transferred, remove the wax paper.
This method is great for either black-and-white or colored images transfers. You can also use empty Avery label sheets cut to size for better printing accuracy. Try using a spray clear coat lacquer to finish the design and make the colors pop!
Method Eight – Using Overhead Transparency Sheets
The eighth technique uses transparency film to transfer black-and-white or colored images. Begin by printing the image with inkjet onto an overhead transparency sheet. Rub the sheet onto the wood. Let the ink dry for a few minutes. Finish with a non-water based polyurethane to keep the image from smudging. This is a fairly easy and cost-effective method. However, it may not produce as clear and concise an image as some other techniques.
Method Nine – Using Lesley Riley Transfer Artist Paper (TAP) and an Iron
The ninth technique uses black-and-white or colored images printed onto specially-designed paper and then transferred to the wood using a hot iron without steam. To begin, print a picture onto the specialty paper using mirror imagery for anything with text. Place the image face down onto the wood and then use a hot iron to transfer it. Finish by removing the paper. Check out more about this unique print-on-wood technique at https://lesleyriley.com
Method Ten – Using a Laser Printer
The last technique is for ‘tech friendly’ hobbyists and uses a specifically-designed printer to transfer black-and-white or colored images onto wood. The set-up is fairly straightforward, if you follow the instructions included with the printer. This is the most costly of the print on wood methods but provides the sharpest and best images possible. It can be difficult, however, to replicate colored images but those done in a solid black font look incredibly clear and concise.
What Printer Can Print on Wood?
There are a number of digital inkjet printers that are great for colored print on wood projects. They are easy to use, allowing you to print high-quality photos, logos or text directly onto any wood piece up to 6”thick. These printers can copy complete-color images onto wood signs, plaques and so much more! They are available at local online retailers such as Amazon.com and best of all, can be delivered right to your front door.
Another option is the Glowforge 3D laser color printer. It uses ‘a beam of light the width of a human hair to cut, engrave, and shape from a variety of materials’, including wood (https://glowforge.com). There are so many design options guaranteed to print perfectly every time! Detailed photo instructions makes it a snap to use! It is easy to set-up and has an overall rating of 4.5/5. Go online and check it out today!
What are the Advantages to Using Digital Print on Wood Techniques?
Digital print on wood techniques have many advantages and are being used nowadays for everything from furniture and flooring to wall panelling, cabinetry, fixture and displays. The main advantages to using a digital printing system include:
- Design Flexibility and Creativity. It offers an unlimited array of design options from woodgrains and colors to patterns, logos and photographs.
- High-Quality Imagery. High resolution images and pictures can be re-created to perfection with an almost ‘photo like’ appearance.
- Improved Production Capability. Batch sizes can range from one to one hundred (or more) and can be done both quickly and easily. A fast turnaround time gets these DIY projects onto the market faster, if you are making them to sell for profit.
- Versatility and Enhancement. Images can be transferred onto a wide range of wood materials including both natural and fabricated types. It can also give low-cost materials such as plywood a high-priced appearance (by enhancing them with printed exotic grain patterns, for example).
- Limited Supplies and Preparation Time. Unlike other print on wood methods, digital techniques require very few supplies and very little set-up and/or clean-up time.
- Wide Range of Color Options. A wide range of bright, vivid colors can be achieved and transferred with ease using a digital technique as opposed to other standard print on wood methods.
What Kind of Paper Do You Use to Transfer Pictures to Wood?
Carbon paper is most commonly used to trace or transfer pictures and patterns onto wood. This type of paper is often used in manual typewriters to create a second copy of whatever is being typed. The blue or black ink on the back of the paper rubs off onto any surface it comes into contact with, including wood.
Tracing paper can also be used for print on wood projects. It has a low opacity which allows light to pass through. Originally designed for architects and design engineers, it is easily available online at Amazon.com or in craft shops or office supply stores.
Graphite paper is a type of light-weight paper with a waxed coating on one side. The graphite side is placed against the wood to create a gray-colored image. It is available in sheets or rolls online at Amazon.com or in craft shops. The scraps are great for retracing smaller, more intricate patterns and can be used several times over.
Parchment (wax) paper can also be used as a type of transfer paper. It has a slightly waxy coating that enables the image to transfer easily without smudging. It is an economical choice and is just the right thickness for any standard inkjet printer.
How Do You Trace Designs on Wood?
An ink pen trace on carbon paper is the easiest way to transfer pictures, logos or text onto wood. This method of print-on-wood is not so much a complete color photo image transfer but rather a black-and-white transferring of patterns, outlines or drawings. It is an excellent way to trace out images on larger woodcraft patterns. To use this method, simply follow the steps and instructions listed below:
Begin by choosing the design or image you want to transfer.
Put the design or image onto the wood surface and secure it with several pieces of masking tape.
Slide the carbon paper with the blue or black side facing down onto the wood.
Using an ink pen, trace over the lines in the pattern. As you do this, the paper is making an exact copy of the design or image onto the wood.
Once each line has been traced, carefully lift a few pieces of tape leaving at least one to secure the pattern paper to the wood.
Check to see that you have completed the image or design to your liking.
Finish the image with paint, stain, markers (such as Sharpie’s), etc.
Can You Stain Wood After Photo Transfer?
You can leave the wood unfinished and natural or you can lacquer or stain it after doing a print on wood project. Apply stain or lacquer to the edges after sanding the parts you want to finish. Use a lint-free cloth to lightly apply the stain. Then, follow the application with a swipe of dry cloth to remove any excess product. Be sure to allow the finish to dry completely before handling.
What to Make Using Print on Wood?
Print on wood techniques are great for so many things from signs and plaques to gifts and crafts. Try using it for the following projects:
- Transfer a group, couple or individual photo to wood and give it as a Christmas, birthday, anniversary, graduation or wedding gift.
- Make an exclusive ‘welcome’ sign for your home (either indoor or outdoor).
- Make a personal name sign for a child’s room.
- Create a plaque with a favorite quote inscribed and display it in your home or office.
- Design a special logo sign for your business to be displayed either inside or outside the building.
- Create a unique address sign or vintage farmhouse for your house.
- Create a family photo wall with print on wood photos of each family member.
- Make customized picture frames for your photos.
- Design a unique kitchen, coffee or end table for your home.
- Make a distinctive head or footboard for your bed using an image or design of your choice.
In conclusion, print on wood DIY is a fun and unique way to customize any wood-working project. There are a variety of ways to do this, most of which are fairly easy and cost-effective. The technique is used for many hobbies or projects including signs, plaques, gifts, crafts, etc. Whichever method you choose will depend upon your woodworking and creative design skills as well as your available resources.
Now, off you go to make your next DIY masterpiece using any one (or more) of the methods outlined in this article. With patience and practice (not to mention creativity and imagination), you too can become a print-on-wood master. Good luck with your future woodworking endeavors!