Friday, June 19, 2009

Rub-on Transfers - Happy Accident

So, I was messing around with my Epson printer the other day, trying to get it to print on a transparency, and made a new discovery (well, new to me, maybe not new to others) - the transparencies I have make great rub-on transfers. Read on for the story, as well as some pictures of the results.

See, the folks at the inkjet_transfers Yahoo Group, per artist Leslie Riley, recommend that you print your transfer onto Apollo Inkjet transparencies, instead of on paper. These transparencies have a special coating on them, that not only allows the inkjet ink to settle down on a surface (without smearing), but also will let you transfer the image cleanly. You lay down your transfer medium (I've seen Golden's Soft Gel medium, Golden's Matte Medium and Elmer's Squeeze n' Caulk- Clear all mentioned) on the surface you want to transfer to, lay down your image printed on the transparency over the medium, burnish, and then lift. Much easier than using paper, because you don't have to wait hours for the medium to dry all the way, and there's no rubbing and removing paper.

Only, it's not quite as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot of practice. You have to find the right amount of medium to use - enough so that the image will transfer, not so much that your image will slide right off when you're burnishing (although some recommend using a brayer, to prevent slipping). The amount of medium has been likened to the amount you use to butter toast, but, heh, I use a LOT of butter, lol.

Then you need the right transparency film, and these aren't cheap. I've seen people recommend whatever version they make for your printer (from Apollo - and NOT the quick-drying kind), as well as, specifically Apollo Inkjet Transparencies CG7039 (can't find this particular product on the ACCO website, so this is a link to a store. This may not be in production anymore). Some people also recommend 3M's Multipurpose Transparency Film #CG6000 for inkjet transfers (still in production, it looks like).

I think my problem is that I have the wrong kind of transparencies. I decided to try Apollo's Color Laser Printer Transparency Film (CG7070), because it was on major sale at Office Depot. I bought this about 2 years ago, and on ACCO's website, the product number is now CG7070E, so the formula may be different now.

Now, I used to be able to get transfers to work, via Leslie's method, with my old Canon printer, with these transparencies. But I couldn't get them to work with my HP printer - the inks would slide all over the place, and if my surface had any kind of bump, anything around the bump wouldn't transfer. Since I didn't have the "right" transparencies to begin with, I just figured that was my problem, and didn't do much more experimenting. I just stuck with the old tried-and-true paper methods.

But, the other day, I was having a discussion with someone on the inkjet_transfers Yahoo group, about how I couldn't get transparencies to print on my Epson anyway, and this prompted me to try again. See, my Epson (and possibly all Workforce Epson All-in-One's), won't read transparency film coming through your printer. It thinks you're out of paper. So, you need to tape a carrier page (just a piece of plain copy paper) to your transparency, and then your Epson will "see" your transparency, and print on it.

Well, the last time I tried to print on one of these transparencies I have (after having taped it to a carrier page), back in October, the ink smeared horribly. I had told it to print on "Glossy Photo Paper", figuring a transparency was a glossy surface, and it printed it on it's 2nd highest ink setting. I didn't think about it at the time, but that was using a LOT of ink. And the other day, I wondered if I tried it on the "Plain Paper Setting" (uses less ink), on high-speed (so it wouldn't smear), if it would print out correctly. I figured it would be good to test it, on transparencies that didn't work for transfers anyway, to see if I could even get a decent print.

And it did, it worked! Eureka! Now, if I could only get it to do a transfer? Well, that wasn't working so well, again. I think I need to use a lighter touch with my medium, because it was smearing again. And because there are bumps in my art journal (I glue in a lot of paper), it slid all the more easily. The transfer won't lay down completely flat, because it's a plastic film. Arg!

But then I noticed something. The ink on my transparency image looked like those rub-on tattoos and rub-on transfers you see. I wondered if the ink would just rub-off the transparency, if I burnished along the image with a popsicle stick.

And wouldn't you know it, it worked! Here's some pictures as proof:

Ornament on Apollo Color Laser Printer Transparency Film (CG7070), pre-transfer

Ornament on new sheet of paper after transfer

How the ornament looks now on the Transparency Film, post-transfer

You do have to rub pretty-hard, and as you can see, not every bit of ink is going to transfer. I also recommend cutting your image out from the rest of your transparency, if you have multiple images printed. As you can see, some of the ink from the other ornaments transferred to the new sheet of paper.

I've only tried this with black-ink images, so I don't know how well color inks will work for a rub-on transfer. Also, the product I have, CG7070, is now CG7070E on ACCO's website, so the formula may be different now. And this is from my Epson Workforce 500, with Durabrite inks. So, while I can't really say "Oh, go out and buy these transparencies, it will work for you and on your printer", I can encourage you to try this out, with the printer and transparencies you already have. It may work the same for you.

In case you're wondering, those images are free Photoshop brushes from various sites, that I have gathered over the years. Photoshop brushes are a great way to find free clip-art images, that you can resize and recolor to any size and color you want.

ETA: From some of the comments and emails I've been getting, I realized I wasn't being clear about something on these rub-on transfer experiments. I've been printing on the "right" side of the transparency, the side that's a little bit rough to the touch. This is the side that has the coating, that allows the ink to stay put on the film, without it beading right off. This is also the side that's recommended when doing Leslie Riley's technique for inkjet transfers. That's why I was so surprised that it worked - I didn't need a wet medium for me to be able to rub the print right off the transparency.

I do know that there is a technique where you can print on the "wrong" side of the transparency, the smooth side with no coating, and then immediately do a transfer onto your substrate. I've had problems with this in the past, where the ink would just bead up way too much for me. I have yet to try that technique with these printers, but I've added it to the list. But, it's another reason why I was so excited that these worked - the need to transfer immediately seemed to be taken away. Of course, I've noticed that it's easier, when it comes to the rubbing, to do it sooner than later, but it's not necessary. I was able to print off a whole slew of images onto one transparency that I can save for later.

Just wanted to make sure I'm being clear. :D


Zom said...

And how did you find the image on your paper? I mean, it looks good but it doesn't smudge off or anything?

I think it is time for me to do some more transfer experiments. I have just been doing the packaging tape transfer because it works. The trouble is that you can't add anything over the top.

DellaLuna said...

I love how packing tape transfers are just so easy, but then you have this shiny surface, that yes, won't take any other medium on top of it. I hope you'll try some different ways, and tell us how it's going. It's so cool when it works, but it can take so much practice to master a technique.

Excellent question, about the smudge factor. I got so excited that it worked that I didn't even think about how well it would incorporate in art. I'm doing some experiments with it right now, so I'll be doing another post about it. It does smudge some when I rubbed it with my finger. I'll show you how much in my next post, along with the other stuff I'm testing with these. :D

Zom said...

I love your scientific and thorough approach.

Zura said...

I'm loving this blog, girl!! Fixing to go do some link love on you :)

DellaLuna said...

Oh, thank you Zura! I appreciate link lovin'. :D

I'm rubbing like a crazy woman, testing out how the transfers work on plain paper, craft paint, Golden acrylic paint (aka, good paint), Golden's Gesso, and Matte Medium. I'm going to see what happens when I leave the transfer alone, when I smudge it with my finger, and when I paint over it with matte medium.

I have noticed that it's slightly easier to get the transfer off of the transparency on the paints, than it was on plain paper. I think the acrylic must grab the ink, aiding the transfer. I guess this could be called a "Dry Transfer", since I'm actually employing the same method Leslie Riley uses, only everything is dry instead of wet.