Before I show you the results, I wanted to tell you a little bit about the printer I used, the technique I used, the products I used, as well as the conditions I work under. If you just want to see the results without all the "theory", just scroll down to where the pictures begin. :D
It's an HP PSC All-in-One 1350. This experiment is the only time I'll be using it from here on out. There's something wrong with it, where the printer's not reading that there's a color cartridge in it, and after 2 color cartridges failing, I don't want to invest any more money into it. So, after this, my experiments will be done on my new Epson Workforce 500 (It has a document feeder for scanning! But, it doesn't print on transparencies...well, not yet anyway *rubs hands with glee and laughs evilly*).
The most important thing to know is that most inkjet printers from HP, Canon, Lexmark, and others, use dye-based inks. Dye-based inks are water-soluable, and that's what makes it so hard to achieve easy, good results with inkjet transfers. That's the whole reason we need special papers, special products and lots of practice. The HP 1350 uses dye-based inks.
Epson, and now Kodak, make printers that use pigment-based inks (HP makes some, too, but for now, they're for their high-end printers. The name of the ink is Vivera, but, heh, there's Vivera dye inks for their low-end printers, and Vivera pigment inks for their high-end printers. Confused yet?). This means the inks aren't water-soluable. Using pigment inkjet prints means your options open up considerably when it comes to transfers, because you don't have to worry about the inks running from water-based media (like acrylic gels and mediums).
From what I understand, pigment-based inks also last longer when it comes to inkjet prints, and aren't subject to the considerable fading that happens with dye-based inkjet prints. If you'd like to know more about this, you can visit Wilhelm Imaging Research, where you'll find extensive tests done on numerous brands and printers.
I used both JetPrint's Imaging & Photo Paper and HP's Everyday Matte Photo Paper to print my images on. Both papers have clay coatings on them, and so the ink rests in the clay coating, and not so much in the fibers of the paper (from what I understand). That makes it easier to release the inks off of the paper and into your medium, without having the inks all wash away when you try to remove the paper.
Jet Print's paper is the old Great White Imaging & Photo Paper, and per rumors on the Inkjet Transfers Yahoo Group, may no longer be in production. Because I can't find the JetPrint Imaging & Photo paper in stores in a Google search (and the company's website is down), I think it really may be gone.
Product 1: Golden's Regular Gel - Matte. Originally made for artists to extend and mattify their acrylic paints, this medium has shown a variety of different uses. It's basically heavy-body acrylic paint without any pigment, or clear acrylic paint. It's acid-free, and makes a great collage glue, too. There's not a lot of moisture in it, so it doesn't warp and wrinkle paper as other glues do. It also turns out to make a great transfer medium.
You can visit the Golden Paints website for more info on the varieties of gels & mediums they have. Also, their instructions for image transfers are here: http://www.goldenpaints.com/artist/directransfer.php.
Most places tell you to use the Glossy version of this gel for image transfers, because the colors show through much better in the glossy versions. That's true, I've found...the colors are more vibrant. That's because acrylic gels are glossy by design, and in order to make an acrylic gel matte, the manufacturer has to add "matting agents", which is basically itty-bitty specs of "white stuff". So, when you use a matte gel, it will dry more translucent than transparent, and thereby, tone down the colors in your image transfer. However, I'm not a big fan of glossy, so I got the matte version.
Product 2: Liquitex's Gloss Medium & Varnish. Basically, this is a glaze medium, thinning agent and acrylic varnish, all rolled into one. It's glossy and pretty liquidy...about the consistency of liquid starch. I tried using one of the Liquitex's gel mediums for a transfer, with horrible results (the inks just washed away), and when I read their website, I found out why. They don't recommend their gels for image transfers, but instead recommend this medium. The instructions for image transfers are here: http://www.liquitex.com/techniques/transfer.cfm
Product 3: Elmer's Squeeze 'N Caulk - Clear. Claudine Hellmuth recommended this product for laser/toner print transfers in her book, Collage Discovery Workshop. It's relatively inexpensive, at $5 for 8 oz. I've found it makes a great collage glue, too, because it's got some latex in it, so the paper remains flexible, with minimal warping. However, I can't tell you if it's archival or not, since caulk makers don't seem to worry about whether they're acid-free on paper *grin*. It dries to a glossy finish.
I can't link to the technique, because it's in Claudine's book. But, I did the exact same technique I used for the Golden Gel and Liquitex GM&V, which was to brush a coat onto my printed image, let it dry, brush another coat on, let that dry, wet the back of the transfer to remove the paper more easily, and peel and rub away. What's left is a transparent "skin" with the image embedded into it. You can then glue the image onto whatever substrate you want.
I live in Colorado, which is a very dry climate. Everything here dries super quick. Just wanted you to know that, because results may vary depending on humidity.
Here are the scans of each transfer. The images on the left started out on the HP Everyday Matte Photo Paper and the images on the right started out on the JetPrint Imaging & Photo Paper. You can click on each image, to see larger versions.
Here's the original image:
Golden's Regular Gel - Matte:
Liquitex Gloss Medium & Varnish:
Elmer's Squeeze 'N Caulk-Clear:
Just a little note...the transfer on the right has a whitish cast because I laid the transfer down on a page of my art journal that had gesso on it, and the caulk picked up some bits of gesso. That stuff is STICKY! So if you try the Elmer's caulk, you shouldn't have that whitish cast.
I would say so far, JetPrint's Imaging & Photo Paper outperformed HP's Everyday Matte Photo Paper, in it's ability to release the ink into the medium. It was also easier to get off, since it's not as thick as HP's paper. I didn't really like how the green spread all over the transfers, but it's better than a lot of it washing away, which is what happened with HP's paper.
Sigh...too bad they seemed to have stopped making it. I encourage you to join the Inkjet_Transfers Yahoo Group, though, because people there are testing all kinds of papers, looking for a substitute. If anyone's going to find it, it's those folks. :D
It should be noted, however, that the HP paper was developed to work on HP's printers, where the main goal is for the inkjet print to stay in the inkjet paper. So, the HP paper may work better on a printer not made by HP, when it comes to inkjet transfers. Also, because the paper is thicker than the JetPrint paper, it took more water and more time to rub the paper off, which may have allowed more ink to wash away.
And among the three mediums, Golden's Regular Gel - Matte, outperformed the other two mediums, as far as its ability to retain the color in the medium. All three transfer mediums made strong skins, all were easy to apply, and they all dried at about the same rate, so all other things being equal, the ability to retain the bright colors of the original image made the Golden's Gel come out ahead.
The Liquitex GM&V did about the same as the Elmer's Caulk, as far as color retention goes, but I like the Liquitex medium itself a lot better. I like how the Elmer's caulk is stretchy and strong, but it is seriously, seriously sticky. I did this experiment about two months ago, and the Elmer's transfers still have an ultra-sticky surface (FYI, they've been sitting in my art journal, though, so it's possible they just need to be out in circulating air for a lot longer). If I wanted to use these transfers, I'd have to coat the caulk with another medium, just to tone down the dust-magnet-ness of them. Plus, I like the Liquitex medium because it's so multi-purpose (glaze, varnish, Pearl-Ex medium, thinner) and I can get it easily at Michael's.
I'll be repeating this experiment in my next post, only this time, I'll be using my Epson Workforce 500, with Durabrite pigment inks. I'm also going to add transfers from a piece of plain ole copy paper, to see if that makes a difference. Stay tuned!