5 Ways to Print on Wood | DIY Image Transfer

5 Ways to Print on Wood | DIY Image Transfer

What’s up guys, I’m Brad Rodriguez from Fix This Build That and today, I’m gonna show you five different ways to print on wood. I’m gonna show you four DIY methods, and one method that is totally cheating. And the results were pretty cool. That’s not even the best one. Let’s check them all out. For the five different ways I’m gonna use a printout for each one of them so we can compare it and I can show you the results. I got my logo on here, I’ve got a little picture so if you want to do a picture you can see how that looks. And some text so you can kind of see how it works for all those different scenarios, and that’s gonna be what you might want to use for yours. The first way that you can print on wood is acetone. I’m going to show you this. Again, this is all based around laser printed. So this is all toner. This is not inkjet. This method will work for inkjet though. Just not as well. To transfer the ink I laid the mirror image print out on the wood and I creased the paper over the edge to hold it in place. You could also use tape here. I used a plastic hotel keycard wrapped in a shop towel then I dipped it in the acetone. Then I just firmly pressed the keycard down onto the wood and let the acetone soak into the paper. And I rubbed the towel back and forth along the surface Now it doesn’t take long at all and the ink is transfer it over. Then the paper just peels right up. There’s no stickiness and it reveals the image. All right, so that’s the acetone here. You can see the picture quality. It turned out pretty decent like I mentioned but on the picture It’s a little bit bad. Whenever you have a lot of that dark text it’s also not the greatest. But with the little text it looks actually pretty good for just the line text. So that’s okay. So pros, It’s very quick. It’s clean It’s cheap. On the cons you know you’re dealing with the harsh chemical. Acetone is a little bit nasty and Obviously the picture quality would also be a con. Let’s move onto the next one. All right, the next way to print on wood is to use a clothes iron Now you probably don’t want to use the one in the house that your husband or wife is using Don’t do that. Go ahead and grab one from Goodwill this one I think I got was two bucks, and I use it for edge banding. But the idea is that we have toner from a laser printer. We’re gonna use heat to transfer that to the wood Let’s see how it’s done The clothes iron method is extremely simple. I just put the paper down and I creased it over the edge like I did before. Then I literally just iron the paper just making sure that it didn’t move around while I was doing it. I tried to press down hard and I had the iron on high But I still don’t think that it was enough heat. When I peeled off the paper it did not look good. All right pros and cons for the clothes iron. Obviously for the pros it is very cheap. Almost everybody’s got an iron that they can use and it is quick and efficient. The cons, picture quality not great. It does okay on text. It might be better if you had a hotter iron or a more isolated heat source. And also just from a con perspective you can burn yourself you can scorch the wood That brings some variables that you might not want in the shop. All right let’s move onto the next one. The third way to print on wood is to use a water-based polyurethane. I’ve got polycrylic here I’m gonna put this on. I’m gonna put it on the wood, Put it on top and let it dry and then we’re gonna remove the paper and the image should be below. Let’s see how it works. I brushed on the polycrylic with a small acid brush trying to get a thin film that was wet but not puddling. I think less is better than more in this instance, and you really don’t need a lot. Then I press the paper down into the wet polycrylic and I smooth the paper from the center outward to remove any air bubbles. And to firmly seat the paper into the polycrylic before setting it aside to dry. It’s been about an hour and the polycrylic looks pretty dry so I got some water and a stiff toothbrush, and I’m just gonna remove this paper off the back using some water to loosen it up. I found the easiest way to remove the paper is to wet the whole back first and then peel off as much as you can by hand before scrubbing. Then it’s just gentle scrubbing with the toothbrush until all the papers gone. I wiped off the wood with a shop towel, then I looked at the results. Got the polycrylic done and this looks amazing! Really good job of transferring the ink, very dark and the picture is almost perfect. So this one did a really good job. I’m a little bit surprised actually. So for the pros obviously image quality is gonna be first and foremost Great quality on that transfer. It’s gonna look awesome. Also, if you’re a woodworker you probably already have some water-based poly on hand. The cons, it takes a little bit longer because you have to let it dry It’s also a little mess and I’m gonna have to go in here and clean this up a bit. But all-in-all, this is a great option. All right let’s see the next one The fourth way is one that’s probably the most popular that I’ve seen a lot of YouTube videos on is using an acrylic gel medium. Tthis one is a liquitex. I’ll have a link down below in the description to this one as well as all the different materials that I use in this project. But this is basically for acrylic paint But when you put it on the surface it will also transfer that ink onto the wood, so let’s see how it works. The gel medium goes on similarly to the polycrylic except it’s a gel versus a liquid. So I found a foam brush worked well to distribute the gel ecause the brush just left too many ridges. Now again here less is more I press the paper into the gel and then I pushed out all the air bubbles with my fingers and then with the keycard since the gel is just a little bit thicker, and it was not as easy to move as that polycrylic was. Then again I set it aside to dry. Okay, this one is dry and let this sit as well. The process is gonna be very similar to what I did on the last one for the polycrylic. Just gonna put some water on here, some warm water, and get it off. I only let this sit for about an hour to an hour and a half. You don’t need to do it overnight from my test. Let’s see how it turns out. The only thing different from the polycrylic was when scrubbing the gel medium it seemed to grab a lot harder. I think this is because the gel is thicker and then there’s just more of a buildup on the surface. So maybe thinning the gel with water before application could help. Alright the gel medium turned out great the quality is great. Just like the polycrylic. Looks really good really dark great transfer. The only thing about this one is that this paper is really sticking to it, so especially if you left this overnight. It would be extremely hard. This is about an hour and a half, and I still have a lot of paper left on here and I scrubbed it a little longer than I did the polycrylic. So for the pros, I’m gonna say excellent transfer quality. You know it’s fairly easy to go on but it is messy from a con perspective and is also a lot harder to get off. So I’m gonna go back into this clean it up a little bit, and I’m gonna get you to number five. I’m gonna do a little cheating. The fifth way that I’m going to print on wood is not DIY, but it is awesome, and yes, it is cheating. It’s gonna use a CNC laser. Let’s check it out This is my Full Spectrum hobby laser. It can engrave wood plastics leather, and the setup is really easy. I just put the wood in the machine, I line up the little red positioning dot and then just press print similar to printing on your own printer. Now the laser starts its path and it isn’t fast, but it sure is fun to watch. Now I got this laser from Rockler Woodworking, and it’s an older model now but I’ll have a link below in the description if you want to check out what these things are all about. Alright, so the laser print obviously it turned out great because that is laser controlled the logo looks really awesome. Everything is really finely defined the only drawback of the laser on on using it on pine is the density between the wood is not consistent. So it burns deeper in some areas Which you kind of see on the logo there. But again everything turns out really nicely. The obvious pros of the laser is it’s super accurate and the text looks amazing. But the downfall obviously is the price, okay? But if you’re getting that to print on wood you’re not just gonna be doing that you’re gonna be doing other things like making boxes Stuff like that. It’s a great tool to have I’m fortunate to have one and you might be able to get access to one at a local Maker Space So you don’t have to go out and buy one necessarily. Alright, I’ve got all five of these methods laid out in front of me I’m gonna give you a close-up and show you how each of them look compared to the other. Then I’m gonna put some finish on them and we’ll see how that changes things too so when you look at them. I think that the polycrylic would definitely be my first choice. The gel medium my second just because there’s a lot of extra effort on that one. Then acetone if you wanted something super quick and easy. Clothes iron, wouldn’t do it. And if you’ve got lots of money then I go with the laser. I’m gonna put some lacquer on here, and we’ll see how these change After I put the finish starting to change my mind a little bit. I tell you what, number one acetone it really darkened it up. I like the look of it. The clothes iron, what can we say that’s really not good at all. Polycrylic still by far my favorite one. Blacks are super crisp and also the finish on it is very very smooth. Gel medium this one changed my mind after the finish you can see here It is not very smooth at all. The finish brought out all the little bumps from the leftover paper And which means I would I had to spend a lot more time cleaning that off to get a really nice finish. I’m gonna knock that one down behind the acetone now. The CNC laser turned out great but it doesn’t darken up with the finish, and it’s not that black if you’re really looking for it. It’s much more of a burnt wood look or a pyography look. There you go guys now you know five different ways to print on wood and how each of them turns out. I’m going with the polycrylic I really enjoy that one the finish on it is great And it’s a nice combination between being easy as well as having a good product at the end. If you’re not subscribed to the channel already I’d love to have you as part of the team and until next time Get out there and build something awesome!

100 thoughts on “5 Ways to Print on Wood | DIY Image Transfer

  1. If you want a detailed write up you can see it here: http://fixthisbuildthat.com/print-on-wood-5-ways-diy-image-transfer/

    Also, all prints were mirror image from a laser printer and normal multipurpose copy paper. I do not own an inkjet printer anymore so couldn't test those methods.

  2. I use 8 1/2 x 11" Freezer paper, just print your image and transfer by same method as the card. Love the poly one here I'll have to try it.

  3. Good job. Your shop looks very organized. How about doing a photo on a CNC router using software like photoVcarve and some stain?

  4. I like the poly acrylic method best. The cleanup didn't look too bad. I was just wondering if by scrubing it, some of the ink would diminish. I did not like the laser printer method because the ink was not dark enough to my liking. This was a great video.

  5. I tried the Polycrylic method but the ink only half-way transferred and was easy to rub off. Is it possible I didnt use enough Polycrylic? Does anyone have any other suggestions I could do?

  6. Thanks for the video.

    I acquired a color Laserjet recently for this. Tried the polycrylic and I can't seem to get these results. Not sure if the heat/humidity is affecting it, but one test had the paper come off completely, no transfer. Another few sets I would peel and chunks of paint kept to the paper, ruining the project. Another sort of worked, but I had to keep going back to the wet/peel slowly to get so much of the paper residue off.

    What pieces of wood did you use? What grit were they sanded down to? Should it be rough like 80-120, smoother like 220+?

    I also tried the gel medium via Modge Podge. Works, but man is it ever a massive pain to peel material off.

    You ever try transfers with wax papers? Might try this route soon.

  7. Wow! Thanks for sharing! Was just thinking about how to put a photo of my ancestors on a piece of wood! 😁

  8. This video is amazing! I was looking for something totally different (transfer ink on cardboard, not wood) but I stayed and watch your video until the end cos it´s greatly done. Either you´re a natural or a pro. Maybe both. Well done!

  9. Another method to consider if you're doing a thick clear finish is printing on rice paper and embedding it into poly. The rice paper becomes transparent and anything printed on it remains sharp and crisp. Look for other videos for Rice Paper Under Fiberglass, which is commonly used on skateboards and surfboards. You don't need to use fiberglass and resin, the same method works under poly but requires extra coats to make the finish thicker than the rice paper.

  10. I tried the polycrylic technique 8 times, and every time it failed. When I took the paper off with a toothbrush the ink came off with it. I was applying no pressure and followed your video to the teeth….. any ideas?

  11. Hey there! Question, I see that what you printed isn’t backwards. And I saw u lay it down, face-down. How did it not transfer backwards?

  12. I use Liquitex liquid matte medium (instead of a gel). Whenever you use this transfer method it will always have a bit of a paper haze after the first "scrub". Just dampen a cloth, your fingers (or your toothbrush) and GENTLY rub in circular motions to remove as much of the remaining haze as possible. The areas that need the most attention, I find, are larger black areas. Finishing with a matte, satin or gloss varnish will bring the photo to life.

  13. Acetone is produced in nature and our bodies. Therefore it is not nasty, and is actually considered a Green Solvent.

  14. Acetone looked like the quickest and easiest method. Quality was lesser than the poly and gel med, but my intention is to be able to transfer cutting lines quickly and easily, not make wooden business cards. 😂

    It's a shame the iron was so terrible – would have been a great option if it worked. Have you considered retrying, and jacking up the steam setting on it? I imagine water would transfer some of the ink. That, added with the added heat might play well together. Still not great for the wood itself, but I'd be interested to see the results.

  15. Two other possible ways use photographic technique: potassium ferricyanide "blueprinting", and gum bichromate printing. The emulsions for these methods can be googled and mixed up at home under a red safelight, and are painted on, and the paper print acts as a negative. You expose the contact print to the sun, and wash off in water to develop the image.

  16. Um… Maybe it was the lighting? The laser one showed nothing when on the table.. The poly looked best, then acetone. For pyography acetone will do.

  17. For those, who have no access to Polycrylic, you might consider using acrylate lacquer. It will do the trick. Experimented with lacquer by Tikkuryila. Same outcome.

  18. hey, why the white part of the paper never stays in the wood? only the black part? is it because of the paper or because of the toner?

  19. Tried it with inkjet…… Not even 1mm of ink was transferred
    Borrowed a laserprinter and got some acrillic, better result

  20. I tried the polycrylic technique multiple times and it does not nearly come out as clean as it does here. Its nearly impossible to rub off the paper without rubbing off the ink. My work looks patchy, clearly seeing the remaining paper and the exposed wood.

  21. Hopefully one of these will work for an upcoming model airplane build. The plane is no longer made but ive been able to print a pdf of the plans. The wing ribs are where i need image transfer the most since there so many of them. Thanks!

  22. does the Polycrylic also have to be with a laser printed image? i dont have a laser printer but this is the 2nd instance recently where i've noticed a laser printer is needed for something i wanted to make

  23. anyone here that can tell me which one worked the best with ink printed? I have a ink printer and want to do this for the bookshelf i made to customize the outer design

  24. i would think dampening the wood and or using the steam setting with the clothes iron may do the trick..and fresh printed ink will likely transfer to a cleaner image. and almost any wood/craft glue that drys clear will work like gel medium and works on most fabrics just as well😉

  25. Has anyone tried the polycrylic on painted wood instead of bare wood? Does the poly mess up the paint? I want to have a white background on my wood. Thanks!

  26. I've actually watched this video a few times and I have 2 questions 1 the iron on method seems like the Woodhead ridges in it and the transfer of work better on the high spots and nearly completely missed the low spots so I wonder if it was plained in dead flat if that would work better the other question is with the acrylic how would that affect staining the wood or blending with other parts of the word that needed to be stained

  27. How about polyacrylic, but instead of printing onto paper, print onto OHP transparency plastic? That might solve the problem of the paper coming apart as you try to remove it from the work.

  28. "it might be better if you had a hotter iron or a more isolated heat source" Like a pyrography pen with a transfer tip that's made for that?

  29. Hello Brad, thx for the great video!I tested your method but instead of polycrylic I used wood glue, and the result was very satisfying

  30. I've done quite a bit of toner transfer on copper clad board for making custom PCBs. I've had a hard time getting it to turn out correctly. I would print on magazine paper and iron it on then soak it in cold water. It was just inconsistent. At the time, a 20% fail rate was acceptable, but it's just not acceptable now. I haven't tried on wood, but I imagine it's the same. I'll try the polycrylic method sometime. I hadn't heard of that.

  31. I tried the acetone method a few times, always new prints from a laser and doesn't work. In the video I noticed a few edits so I have to imagine he did something in between. I was so excited to try this… oh well.

  32. PRO TIP: use cheap 20 lbs copy paper to print on. I keep a nice heavy 24 lb. bright white quality paper in my laser printer. I used this for my image without thinking and This made the removal of the paper from the wood much more difficult and time consuming than it needed to be.
    So, just use cheap ordinary 20 lb. paper. Trust me. I refer to the polycrylic method.

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