How To Transfer A Photo To Canvas

How-to Wednesday!

My partner took this photo the other day during our outdoor egg hunt.  I was struck by the neat textures of the fence, the graffiti, the reclaimed window frames on the brick wall and the cool filter effect of our little guy’s red jacket.

I thought how cool that would look blown up on canvas.  So rather than buying the seeming never-ending Groupon deal for said service, I googled how to make my own.

Apparently it’s not hard and all you need is:

  • Blank canvas
  • A laser printout or photocopy the same size as your canvas (use plain old printer paper)
  • Gel medium (I used glossy because that’s what I could find in the acrylic paint section of the neighbourhood art supply store)
  • A fine spatula or foam paint brush to apply the gel medium
  • Water bottle

Step 1

Apply a thick coat of the gel medium to the canvas.  Cover the entire canvas in an even coat (hint:  good lighting is key to ensure you haven’t missed any spots which seemed awfully easy to do).  Apply your printout, image down and smooth away any bubbles.  Let this dry completely, minimum 4 hours, though I read overnight is best.  It’s during this drying process that the gel medium reacts with the toner to pull the image from the paper like voodoo magic (or chemistry if you’re being technical).

Step 2

Once completely dry, spray the back of the paper  with water and then very gently begin to rub the paper away.  This is pretty time intensive and a bit messy.  Rub gently applying even pressure or you’ll rub the image and medium away too, leaving blank canvas (experience is speaking here).  Apply more water as required, the idea is to saturate the paper so it comes away easily.  And you’ll find that the canvas will dry only to reveal more paper.

Step 3

Close up of the canvas.  Final image coming soon!

Cover the image with a thin layer of gel medium to seal the image.  And Ta-Da!  Photo on canvas, complete with a neat weathered look.

A couple of notes:

Choose an image, whether black and white or colour, that will lend itself well to an imperfect transfer.  The result is a kind of rustic, weathered look.  Also don’t forget to mirror the image you plan on using before you print as it will go facedown on the canvas.


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