Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rub-on Transfers - Results of some experimenting

In my last post, I was prompted by Zom (from Pinch Me to See if You're Dreaming...fabulous blog, go check her out) to ask the question "Ok, how well do these rub-on transfers hold up to abuse, or being painted over?" So here is the experiment to answer that question. Because I use mostly acrylic and craft paints, the experiment is focused on how well these transfers do with acrylic mediums.

The Products:

I transferred my rub-ons onto 4 different acrylic painted surfaces, and then one set of images I transferred onto uncoated paper. These were all done on the back of a piece of Canson Acrylic Paper (my pad of paper looks like what's in the link, but Canson has changed it to look like this now).

Here are the four acrylic mediums I used:

The Process:

(This is lengthy, so if you want to skip it, I recommend heading to the Results section, and looking at the pictures.)

I wanted to see if transferring these rub-ons to various acrylic mediums would alter how well they stood up to abuse. So, I tried a craft paint, a high-quality acrylic paint, gesso, and matte medium. I chose to try craft paint vs. a high-quality acrylic paint, because craft paints use fillers and non-pure pigments, and I wanted to see if that made any difference in how well the transfers held up. Again, like in my previous post, I also transferred the rub-ons onto plain paper, with no medium under-coating, to see if that made a difference as well.

First, I printed out the same, highly-detailed image onto one Apollo Color Laser Printer Transparency Film (Product Number CG7070), 20 times (so I would have extra), using my Epson Workforce 500 all-in-one printer. Then, I painted three swatches of each acrylic product onto the back of a piece of Canson Acrylic Paper. Canson Acrylic paper has a canvas-like texture embedded in the paper, and the front is coated with a gelatin-like substance. I used the back of this paper, so the gelatin coating wouldn't interfere with the results. I wanted a thick, canvas-like paper that would withstand the "wetness" of acrylic mediums, to prevent any wrinkling when I painted on the mediums. Plus, I wanted to see what these transfers would look like on a rougher surface, while I was at it. :D

I cut out each individual image, and rubbed one onto each of the three acrylic-coated surfaces, as well as rubbing three transfers onto the plain, uncoated paper. So, we have a total of 15 transfers to examine.

For each acrylic medium, and the ones on plain paper, I left one of the transfers alone, so we could see what it looks like if it's not touched. I smudged the 2nd transfer on each medium with my finger, to see how much ink would come off. You should know, I rubbed VERY hard with a clean finger, because I really wanted to put these transfers to the test. I painted the 3rd transfer with matte medium, to see how well these transfers behave with a very wet acrylic medium.

Ideally, it would have been better to use one transfer, and then smudged it (and then taken before and after pictures), and then used another transfer, and then painted it with the Matte Medium (and then taken before and after pictures), but I just didn't think of it at the time I did this experiment. Just wanted to mention that. :D

This is all easier to understand when you see the pictures, I promise.

The Results:

Here is the image that I used, as it looked printed out onto the transparency film:

And here is the first set of results, on the Delta Ceramcoat Fleshtone, the Golden Heavy Body Titan Buff, and the Plain, Uncoated Canson Acrylic Paper:

(click on image to enlarge, to really see how these turned out)

And here are the second set of results, on Golden White Gesso, and on Liquitex Matte Medium:

(click on image, please)

There are two transfer results for the "Plain paper, Matte Medium Undercoat, Matte Medium Overcoat", in the first results image, because my first transfer came out so light. I just wasn't rubbing hard enough to get it transferred. So, I did a second rub-on transfer, and did the experiment on both, just to see what would happen.

As far as rubbing on the transfers, it was easier to get the ink off the transparency on the Delta Ceramcoat paint, the Golden Heavy Body Titan Buff and the Golden Gesso, with the Gesso being the easiest. I had to rub hard on all of these transfers, but it seemed I didn't have to rub as hard, or for as long, to get the ink on to those three mediums.

Here are the results for which transfers looked the best when just left alone (not smudged and not painted over with Matte Medium), ranked from best to worst:

  1. Golden Gesso - White
  2. Delta Ceramcoat - Fleshtone
  3. Golden Heavy Body - Titan Buff
  4. Plain, uncoated side of Canson Acrylic Paper
  5. Liquitex Matte Medium

These results are a bit skewed, because what really mattered was how well I held the transfer still, and how hard I rubbed. Therefore, the Plain, uncoated paper looks all smudgy, but that's because the transfer moved while I was rubbing. So, take those results with a grain of salt. While I think the Golden Gesso really did outperform the rest, how hard you rub and how still you hold the image while you're rubbing, THOSE are the things that matter the most.

Here is how the transfers performed when I rubbed them with my finger, ranked from best (no smudging) to worst (look at all that smearing!):

  1. On plain, uncoated side of Canson Acrylic Paper (tiny smudges)
  2. On Golden Heavy Body - Titan Buff (tiny smudges)
  3. On Golden Gesso - White (obvious smudging)
  4. On Delta Ceramcoat - Fleshtone (total grey halo, lots of smudging)
  5. On Liquitex Matte Medium (total grey halo, lots of smudging)

And here is how they are ranked, from best to worst, when painted over with Liquitex Matte Medium:

  1. Golden Heavy Body - Titan Buff (no smudging -those greyish lines in the picture are a shadow, created by the brushstrokes, since the paint wasn't totally smooth)
  2. Delta Ceramcoat - Fleshtone (no smudging)
  3. Golden Gesso - White (no smudging)
  4. Liquitex Matte Medium (some streaking)
  5. Plain, uncoated side of Canson Acrylic Paper (wow, now there's some serious smudging)


Personally, I was surprised with how well these transfers held up. Yes, painting matte medium over the plain transfer resulted in a smudgy, grey mess, but otherwise, overall, they did pretty good. Of my results, I was also surprised to see how poorly these transfers did over Matte Medium, in just a plain transfer, in being smudged and in being re-painted with more Matte Medium. I can't even begin to fathom why that would happen, but, ok, lesson learned. Don't do these transfers over Liquitex Matte Medium.

It looks like your/my best bet is to try these transfers over an acrylic paint or gesso, and then paint over them with matte medium (or perhaps another acrylic sealer, like gel medium or gloss medium), to ensure no smudging. I honestly don't know how well other sealers will work, but if I try a different medium, I'll let you know (I'm a Matte Medium kinda girl).

Ok, so will some of you go out, and try these rub-ons with the transparencies that you have, on your printers, to see if this works with other brands? I'm really curious if other combinations of inkjet transparency film and inkjet printers will let you do rub-ons. Heck, I'd love to see if this would work with laser transparencies and printers as well. Come Play with Me!

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...

So , I could just print something from photocopying on a transparency and that would be a lazer transfer - right? Then I could transfer it like a rub-on? I bet it would have to be fairly fresh though.
I have tried to use photocopied transparencies to transfer, but I think they were too old and didn't work (it was over a year ago).

I haven't tried the inkjet because the transparencies cost too much in Australia.

Thanks for sharing your results!

DellaLuna said...

Yes, Zom, that's exactly it. I'm talking about any kind of toner transfer, photocopies or laser printers. I know that some photocopy toner is easier to transfer with other methods than other photocopy toner, so the copier can make all the difference.

And oy, yes...those transparencies are so expensive. Like I said, way back in another post, I bought the color laser printer transparencies because they were on sale dirt cheap ($12 for 50 transparencies...someone had brought them back), even though I didn't have a color laser printer. That's why I never got the "right" transparencies for inkjet transfers...I just couldn't afford them. I wish we could just buy a few at a time, really.

Just FYI, I just tonight tried doing a rub-on transfer from a laser printer (I have a Samsung ML-2010, which is like a baby black & white laser printer), on the same transparencies, and it worked very well! I'll be putting up the results in my next post, and then putting those transfers through the same test I did on the inkjet.

And yes, I think the fresher the print, the easier the transfer. I forgot to mention that the transfers I did in the first blog post about it were only about an hour old, but the transfers I did in this experiment were 2-3 days old. I seem to recall it being easier to rub off the hour old transfer. The laser print one I tried was only about 5 minutes old, and that was so, SO much easier (and clearer, but the print itself was clearer).

If you do try this, will you let me know how it turns out? I'm very curious to see what printers and what transparencies this does or doesn't work on.

DellaLuna said...

And just to repeat this, I can't guarantee this is going to work, with other transparencies and other printers. I can only tell you what worked for me, with my printers and with these transparencies.

I just don't want anyone to go out, buy a pack of expensive transparencies, try this out, only to see it doesn't work. That's why I'm asking people to try this on transparencies you already have, if you have them, just as a test, just in case it *might* work. If people report back to me what combinations do and don't work, I can put a list together, so we can all be more informed.

If this was some cheap material, then I'd say "Have at it, go buy the stuff", but transparencies for any home printer just aren't cheap.

My friend, Zura, had another good idea, which was to see if copy centers, like Kinko's/FedEx, or the Document Center at an office supply store, will sell you some of their laser or inkjet transparencies that they use, without them being printed on. I've never tried that, but it couldn't hurt to ask. Just wanted to pass that idea along.

Ann Tracy's said...

thanks so much for taking the time to do these experiments and then posting such clear, concise results... I've been thinking of trying some transfers of my digital work onto small canvas... and now I'll have to give it a spin..

Mary Lynn said...

I have printed an image from my computer, using my inkjet printer, onto the wrong side of a transparency, let dry a bit,and rubbed it onto a painted surface, heat set, and coated over with medium, or, you can pour on some embossing powder to the transferred image, and heat set. Are you printing on the right side or the wrong side of a transparency? If it is on the wrong side, as I did, you can print on a piece of acrylic, which is what the transparency is without the coating, and when you are done, wipe off any left over ink, and reuse the wrong side again.

DellaLuna said...

You're so welcome, Ann Tracy! I'm hoping it helps. And please, let us know how your transfers turn out! I'm sure you know this already, but if you need any help, the inkjet_transfers Yahoo group is an excellent resource. And that Squidoo lens that I linked to in my second post will give you tutorials on just about every way on earth to do a transfer, lol.

DellaLuna said...

Mary Lynn, these transparencies I have from Apollo are coated on both sides, so I'm printing on the right side, that's holding the ink in place. That's why there's no beading of the ink. That's also why there's more of a "rub-on" feel to these, and it seems you don't have to do the transfer right away. These transfers I did in this experiment were 2-3 days old when I rubbed them off (although I still think the fresher the print, the easier the transfer).

I've tried doing "wrong" side transfers on my old HP printer, but found the ink beaded up too much. I have yet to try that technique on this Epson, but I will be trying it in the future. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I can use the back side of these particular transparencies again, because on some of my rub-ons, I'm rubbing off the coating from the back. I'm afraid to run them through the printer again, with the coating coming off (don't want those little bits getting in my printer heads).

When you say "heat set", do you mean you're just running over it with a heat gun, to make sure the ink is thoroughly dry?