Figuring out fall–and printing photos

Fall always seems to catch me off guard. I feel it coming weeks ahead so I make pies, I eat apples, I can things in jars…and then it’s 40 degrees and my brain freezes and all I can think to cook are pork chops and potatoes and eggs–not all at the same time, mind you, but I’m in withdrawal from fresh greens and raw vegetables and dinners that take under 20 minutes to put together and eat while it’s still light outside. I’m struggling with my usual fall cooking inspiration, trying to figure out what my body wants other than to simply start hibernating. In the meantime, though, I found another really cool art project. Maybe I’ll actually hang some of the art I’ve made this summer soon!

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Clockwise from top: black and white image with an inkjet, color copy with an inkjet, color image on a laserjet

While I’m dealing with the change to fall, every store I walk into seems hellbent on insisting that Christmas is right around the corner. I will fight them until December 1, but if you’re the type to think that far ahead, this project would make a great Christmas gift–it’s easy to make very personal but it’s also inexpensive if you want to make several to give to friends and family.

Vintage-y Photo Transfers to Canvas
I love art projects that don’t require buying a frame before I can hang them. Inspired by this post.

Photo printed on plain paper
Pre-stretched canvas
Gel medium (I used Liquitex Glossy Gel Medium)

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First, print your photograph. Print shops offer laser black and white or color printers, and I have a color inkjet–using any of these options will provide you with a slightly different look, and given the minimal cost, I suggest trying a variety and seeing which you like the best. My personal favorite for a vintage-y look was a color copy of a black and white image on my inkjet. No matter what type of printer you use, you do need to use plain paper, not any kind of photo or other textured paper.

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If you use an injket printer, expect some bleed-through when you lay it over the wet medium.

Paint a layer of the medium onto the front of the canvas; it should be thick enough that it covers the canvas completely but not so thick that the paper will wrinkle too much from the moisture. Lay the picture down over the medium and smooth it out, trying to avoid large wrinkles or bubbles in the paper. Allow to dry for a few hours or overnight.

Once the paper and medium are completely dry, moisten a clean sponge and wipe it over the back of the paper. Don’t be afraid to really get the paper wet, you eventually want it to dissolve with a bit of pressure.

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Once you wet the whole image, you can see that it all reappears.

Begin to rub at the paper with your fingers, it should start to come off of the canvas, leaving the image behind. If you used an inkjet printer, expect your fingers to start changing colors as you rub the paper off, and that some ink will appear to run on the image. Continue to wet the paper and rub it off; the final image will be imperfect and it’s ok if a bit of the image rubs away in the process.

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Starting to peek through.
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More image exposed.
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As I said, this was a color copy of a black and white image and the ink tended towards a reddish tone as it dried. Personally I liked this, but if you want a true black and white, use the black-ink-only setting or a laserjet printer.

Once all of the paper has been removed and the canvas is still slightly damp, coat the entire piece, including the sides in another layer of the gel medium. Allow to dry and admire your handiwork!

3 thoughts on “Figuring out fall–and printing photos

  1. Christina, this is really cool, I will definitely have to try it. So the ink is penetrated into the canvas? (from what I’m understandding the paper is removed/disolved?). What is the largest canvas you have worked on for this process?


    1. I think the ink somehow soaks into the gel, so when the gel dries, the ink stays there while you dissolve the paper layer. It’s pretty nifty 🙂

      The largest I’ve done was an 8×10 canvas. The larger canvases are a little more challenging to rub the paper off of just because there’s a little less tension on the canvas or less to press against. I’ve seen some other canvases that are more like flat boards, though, which might solve that problem.

      Let me know if you try it and how it works out!


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