Friday, October 24, 2008

Image Transfers...

...ephemeral, lovely, mysterious…

And dang hard to master.

There seems to be at least 20 different transfer techniques that I've run across and at least 30 different products to try, ranging from the ultra-cheap (clear packing tape) to the ultra-expensive (Lazertran). It all varies, depending on where the image came from (inkjet printer? laser printer? magazine?), where it’s going (paper? fabric? metal? clay?), and what you want to use it for (collage? T-shirt? art quilt?).

Sheesh, huh?

My own journey into the world of image transfers started about 6 years ago, when I was wandering the aisles of Michael’s, looking for inspiration (Do you ever do that? Roam the aisles of a craft store, not to buy anything, but just seeing what the possibilities are?). In the glue aisle, I came across Omni-Gel by Houston Art, made specifically for image transfers (makes a great collage glue, too). I read the bottle, and thought “Image transfers? What the heck is an image transfer?”

Oh-ho-ho, was I in for a surprise. I came home, Googled it, and found the Art-E-Zine web page all about them. Suddenly, this whole new world opened up to me, and my wheels began turning. I immediately went back to Michael’s, got the Omni-Gel, printed off some images on my HP Inkjet PSC 750, and set to work.

First, I tried printing off my images on just regular copy paper, and then followed the Omni-Gel process of making a gel “skin” of that image. But, when I wetted down the paper to remove it, the ink ran off of the transfer something fierce. I ended up with a grey-green ghost image, where it had originally been black.

So, next, I tried printing off my images on some HP Matte Photo paper* I had, and wow! It worked! The transfers came out beautifully. The ink ran a bit, but not nearly as bad as it had before. I still have one of my practice ones, shown below, from 5 years ago, and it's still as if I made it yesterday (but it's been in a drawer...hence, the wrinkles…I’ve since learned that HP ink fades considerably in UV light).

However, as beautifully as it finally worked, it bothered me how much it all cost. The Omni-Gel was $10 for an 8 oz. bottle (which I used most of in my practice tests), and the HP Matte Photo paper was $15/50 sheets at the time. I’ve since learned that’s not too bad at all, as far as costs go, but at the time, it bugged me. It also bothered me that it was so hard to get inkjet images to transfer, where you needed special paper, special products, and lots of practice, while there were so many ways to get laser, toner and magazine images to transfer easily. On top of this, just looking at all the image transfer techniques on that Art-E-Zine page just made my head swim with possibilities. I wanted to try them ALL.

So, I set out on a quest, to find my own Holy Grail of Inkjet Image Transfers: the One True Process that would be reasonably priced, relatively easy, and could be used with my inkjet printer.

I’ve learned so much on this quest, the main one being that it doesn’t really exist, the One True Way to the Perfect Inkjet Image Transfer, lol. There are just WAY too many considerations for there to be only one True Way. There’s only the process that works best for what you have, what you need, and what you can afford. But, now I’m hooked, and I wanna know how each process works, when stacked against other processes/products.

And so, because I’m going to test this stuff anyway (especially Inkjet Transfers), I wanted to share the results with you. These experiments aren’t meant to be how-to’s, because there are gazillions of tutorials out there that can explain it far better than I can. Whenever I can, though, I’ll give links to tutorials that I used to run my experiments. My main idea is just to show you the results. It’s helped me so much to be able to compare different products and methods, side-by-side, and I’m hoping that it will help you, too.

But, before I jump into my 1st big Inkjet Transfer experiment, I wanted to point out a few places that have helped me tremendously in learning about inkjet transfers.

Inkjet Transfer Yahoo Group - A group started by fabric artist Lesley Riley, with detailed instructions in their Files section for all kinds of different ways to transfer inkjet images to your fabric, metal, paper, etc. This is the group that taught me about why my HP inks ran so horribly in my first inkjet transfer (because they’re dye inks, and therefore, water-based), as well as why my HP Matte Photo paper worked better than regular copy paper (it’s the clay-coating on the paper). There's continual discussion and advice about printers to use, types of papers or transparencies to print your image on, as well as information about laser and toner copier transfers. Very active, helpful group with no posting requirements.

Art-E-Zine's List of Image Transfer Techniques - This is the list that got me started on this path 6 years ago, when I made my 1st successful image transfer using Omni Gel. Includes techniques for several different mediums, like Polaroid film transfers (expensive medium, but gorgeous results), polymer clay and laser/toner transfers.

Heart-A-Day's Squidoo Lens on Image Transfers - Another excellent resource. She has a great list of tutorials, books and videos that show how to make transfers, step-by-step.

In the next post, I’m going to show you the results of my 1st big Inkjet Transfer experiment, where I compare 2 different papers with 3 different mediums, from images printed on an HP PSC 1350.

*As an aside, HP has changed the packaging on the original Matte Photo paper I used, so now it’s called HP Everyday Matte Photo Paper. I can’t tell you, though, whether it’s the same formula they originally used. It feels the same to me, but because I no longer have my HP PSC 750, I can’t do a true comparison between my 1st transfer with the old paper, and this newly-packaged paper.


Gayle said...

Very informative post. Thanks for all the info and links--I've got a few more ideas on how to transfer now. (I love the look of your blog also!)

DellaLuna said...

You're so welcome, Gayle! Just so ya's know, I didn't design this Blogger template...the folks at Smashing Magazine did. I do love it so, it reminds me of Anahata Katkin's art. :D Thanks Smashing Magazine, for this cute template!

s figal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
s figal said...

quick question: will an original image printed with pigment inks on high gloss photo paper work as well, or do I need the (clay-coated) matte paper? thanks for all the information!

DellaLuna said...

You know, s figal, I don't know the answer to that question. I was always told, when I was first reading transfer tutorials, to use matte papers (specifically, the now out-of-production JetPrint Imaging & Photo Matte paper), so that's what I got, back in the day. I've never tried a transfer from high-gloss photo paper.

I would encourage you to join the Inkjet_Transfers Yahoo group, and ask the same question there. I'm sure someone else there has tried it, and can tell you the answer. They're here:

But it couldn't hurt to try it, if you've got all of the materials already (like Golden Gel Medium, or Liquitex Gloss Medium & Varnish). If you don't, I'd ask the group first, before going out and getting a bunch of stuff, only to find out you need even *more*.

Anonymous said...

Your Art Alchemist blog is simply awesome! I've often had difficulty understanding written instructions for making transfers, etc. because the author is not explicit enough for me. However, your instructions are incredible--clear, easy to understand, logical, and answer all of the rambling questions that pop up in my head. Thank you for the time you put into this effort. I'm eager to start experimenting.


p.s. Have you considered publishing? I'd buy your book!

DellaLuna said...

Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Marilyn! I'm so glad the posts help - that's what I was hoping for. May your transfers transfer like they're supposed to, and come out right the first time (few times?). :D I think that's the official "Inkjet Transfer Blessing". *grin*