An Image Transfer is the process of transferring an image from one surface to a receiving surface using a type of medium. There are a number of different methods one may use to achieve this process. Decoupage is not considered an image transfer as there is no actual transfer of an image. The image is simply glued on to a receiving surface.
When considering what is the best method for an image transfer, there are two key factors that one should consider.
1) The size of the image transfer. This is the most important factor. There are some really effective transfer processes but not all work the same and this is especially the case in transferring an image that is larger than an 11 x 17 sheet of paper. You will see why this is important in just a bit.
2) Toner/laser Printers are harder to locate at a size larger than 11 x 17.
Some prints shops are able to print larger than 11 x 17 but these are generally in black and
white. There may be some architectural firms that still have larger toner based printers
but I have yet to find one.
3) Most transfers involve the removal of paper.
There are some companies that produce large image transfers that involve rubbing off
or burnishing the ink on to the surface. They are really lovely but there are only so many
images available. Most of these transfers are manufactured overseas and not something
any of us can just do.
4) Thickness of paper.
Thicker paper is easier to manipulate. The larger prints work best at 27 or 29 bond paper.
If you are a little more experienced the thinner paper of course works too but has a
tendency to tear if you are not careful.
5) There are a number of different mediums one can use for the transfer process.
Most find a medium they like and stick with it. In determining your medium, you need to take in to account as to whether or not it dries clear or white. If your medium dries clear, it is best to paint the receiving surface white. This ensures your image will stand out.
If you use a clear medium and do not paint your surface then the surface colour will come through.
If transferred to wood, any characteristics such as grain, discolouration or knots will be
quite visible in your final image.
Clear drying mediums include: modge podge, gel mediums, transfer gels and varathane.
White drying mediums: gesso
In summary, if you choose a clear drying medium then you should paint the receiving
surface white unless of course you are going for a particular look. I have probably
forgotten to mention some but these are the standard mediums used in a paper removal
Back to the size of the transfer. If you are choosing a project that requires an image smaller than 11 x 17, then use a toner printer. And your options are colour and black and white. Simple. Just when you go to have your images printed make sure to ask if they have a toner printer. Again inkjet works but you will end up with a faded image.
There are two other options when printing smaller images.
1) Citrasol or Orange Solution. There is no paper removal in this process. The image is placed
ink side down and the solution is dabbed on with a cotton ball then burnished with a spoon.
The ink is pushed off the paper and on to the surface. Inkjet does not work for this at all.
This application is only good for small projects.
One must be careful not to saturate the
paper with the cleaner or the ink will bleed out. This is also best used on smooth wood
surfaces or a chalk type smooth surface. If there are any grooves in the wood or paint brush
marks on the surface the solution will tend to bleed into the crevices. Again, only used for
small transfers on smooth, flat surfaces. Toner prints only.
2) Most will use the process of splitting the large image up in to 8 x 11 size pieces and then
print them off on either a toner printer or on inkjet then head to store with a toner copier.
These 8 x 11 sheets are then trimmed and taped back together and the process continues.
If you want to try a great site for chopping up your images, Blockposters.com is super.
I am too lazy to trim and paint most days. I decided to go full in and had artwork created for the
sole purpose of image transfers. This has been quite the adventure. Lots of trail and error. The artwork I have had produced is available on my site and at most times, available in the shop.
An important side note: most printers will not print artwork unless it is your own. If prints are made and the copy right has been ignored, these companies are at risk of being slapped with substantial fines. There are plenty of royalty free artwork sites on line. Etsy has some super talented artists. Most allow for this sort of application for resale. One cannot resale their downloads though. In the end the artwork is always the owners.
Another important note: any image with text will appear backwards on a transfer so the image must be reversed before being printed or you will have your text backwards.