top of page

DIY Photo Transfer to Wood, Metal and Glass



With the holiday season coming, here is a diy for the perfect gift. Transfer a picture of your beloved ones onto any object.

Here we transferred a picture of my mom along with a poem. For the support we used a wood piece bought at Michael’s.

There are quite a few tutorial on the internet showing how to transfer a photo or a printout from paper to wood, but after trying a few, I ran into problems. After trials and a little more reading, I finally understood the right way to do it. It is pretty simple and quite straightforward. After the how-to below, I added a Q&A section that may help you if the instructions aren’t enough.


1. The photo to be transferred.

It has to be printed with a laser printer (color and B&W work) on a regular sheet of paper, (not photo paper or cardstock) and you have to mirror the image before printing it, i.e. flip horizontally the image with an image software or a free online image editor. If you do not have a laser printer, Staples or Office Depot can print it out for a small fee.

2. Acrylic Gel Medium (Matte).

This can be found at Michaels and other craft stores, in the acrylic paint section (not in the crafts paint). Make sure you take a gel and not the liquid version. There are several bands and they all work. I used Liquidex. No problem using a different finish too (gloss, etc.).

3. A piece of wood.

No restriction here. As long as it is large enough for the photo and reasonably smooth. You can find some at craft stores or hardware stores, but you can also use reclaimed wood for a more rustic finish.

4. Wood stain with rags or brush.

This is to stain the wood. This not mandatory. I used a Danish Oil (Watco) with a Medium Walnut to give a warmer tone to the wood.

5. Varnish Spray (matte or gloss).

This is not mandatory either. This is only to protect the finished craft and seal the wood. I used a Krylon Matte Finish Spray (hardware stores).


1. Prepare/print the photo/text for printout. Remember to flip it before printing it. The printout has to be a mirror version of what you want to see on the wood. Keep in mind that the support is wood with its own details and texture: it will work before with a clean contrasted image. Also remember that the white areas will be “blank” i.e. showing the wood texture.


2. Apply a layer of gel medium to the wood (or to the paper, both works). The gel medium has to cover everything, but should not be too thick. You still have to be able to see through it. Not too thin to ensure a complete contact with the wood. But don’t worry, there is no exact amount and it will most likely come out great.2nd step: apply gel

Position the printout on the wood, printed face against the wood and gently smooth the paper to ensure there is no bubbles. Don’t press too hard on the paper or it may tear (wet). You can use a credit card to lightly push an bubble out, moving from the inside to the outside of the paper. You can wipe the excess of gel medium with a wet sponge.

3: put the picture to be transferred


4. Let it dry! Overnight is a good idea. At least 8hr and possibly more if you have a thicker layer of gel medium.

5. Using a sponge wet the paper (read soak!). Some tutorials will tell you to be careful not to use too much water. It really does not matter and too little water will make this harder! Working from one edge, rub the paper with the sponge or your fingers. Be patient and do not rub too hard or it may damage the transfer. For me, it work better doing it once, waiting for it to dry and repeating the process to get rid of the remaining paper. The final result should feel smooth.

scratch the paper with a sponge


6. Let it dry!

7. Apply the stain (if desired).


8. Apply the varnish (if desired).



1. Can you Mod Podge Photo Transfer instead of Gel Medium?


Yes, BUT be aware that the Mod Podge product will leave a white film on the wood. It will not dry transparent as the gel medium and the wood grain may not be apparent. It somewhat defeat the purpose… Below is an example:

2. I rubbed the paper, but some areas are blurry, whitish?

You need to wet it more and rub it more…

3. It is all clean, but some area are white!


White areas are showing if not completely dry or rubbed

The gel medium is probably not dry? Wait a few more hours, it will likely disappear (example below). If not, see 2!

4. I don’t have a laser printer. Can I use an ink-jet printer?

I haven’t tried, but I read that it somewhat work. The result is generally blurry and it can get messy. I would not recommend it. You can transfer with an ink jet printer using non-stick paper… Here how: cut a piece of nonstick paper a little smaller than a sheet of paper and tape it to it. It has to be perfectly flat or it will smear when printing. Print your photo/design on the “non-stick” side. Remove the paper backing and press firmly the print out (ink side against wood). Use a credit card moving from the inside to the outside to finalize the transfer and remove carefully. If you move, it will smear. Let it dry and protect it with a varnish/sealer. It will not be as striking as a laser printout, but it works well is your looking for a fade-out antique look.

5. Can use any kind of varnish, stain or sealer?

Pretty much. The transfer is very stable, but keep in mind that the dry gel medium is a layer on top of the wood, already somewhat sealing the wood. So not everything will go through. If you are looking for a special finish, it may be better to apply before the transfer. But if you rub it in, go easy.

6. Can I stain or paint the wood before the transfer?

Yes, absolutely. This method works on almost any surface even textile, glass and metals!

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Pinterest App Icon

Subscribe for Updates

bottom of page