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Two Ways to Transfer a Printed Photograph to Wood

Sometimes, taking photographs is only half the fun. Learning how to transfer photos to wood is a unique and relatively simple way to display your photographs.
Here, I’ll take you through two ways to transfer your own beautiful prints on wood. It’s up to you to choose which final look suits you best.
A photo of a brightly colored coastal town, resting on a wooden board - how to transfer laser print to wood

How to Select an Image

The images you select to make a photo transfer to wood are limited only by your imagination.
You can choose to incorporate colour images or print in black and white. Add text to your design or stick with images alone. You can print to the edges of the wood or leave some room for the image to breathe.
It’s really up to you!
Open your selected image in an image editing program like Lightroom or Photoshop and resize the image to the dimensions of your piece of wood. The printing size you can achieve is limited to your printer (typically A4).
You can divide your image in your photo editing software and print a larger image in A4 segments that you can then fit together during the transfer process.
NB: When you place the image down, you are flipping it horizontally. This means the image will turn out in the opposite way than it was printed.
Two identical photos of a brightly colored coastal town, resting on a wooden board - preparing to transfer photo to wood

1. The Mod Podge Method

Mod Podge is a craft glue and sealer that can be used in a whole myriad of ways. The Mod Podge method to transfer photo to wood takes longer than using label backing paper but delivers slightly more detailed results.

What You Will Need

  • Mod Podge (bought at most craft stores)
  • Sandpaper
  • A paintbrush
  • An image laser printed on a piece of copy paper
  • A piece of wood (plus several extra pieces for testers)
  • A cloth or sponge
  • Something to scrap the bubbles out of the image

A man sits at a wooden table, before him is two identical photos of a brightly colored coastal town,glue, paintbrush, sandpaper and other materials to transfer laser print to wood

How to Prepare the Wood

Just like with the label backing method, preparing the surface of your piece of wood will help your image to adhere more effectively.
Get your sandpaper out and sand the surface of the wood in an even circular motion to remove the very top layer of the wood.
Then carefully wipe down the wood to remove any dust particles.
A man sits at a wooden table, sanding a wooden board to prepare the surface for to transfer photo to wood

How to Transfer Photos to Wood

Take your printed image and cut it to the dimensions of your piece of wood.
Then apply a thick layer of Mod Podge to the image and place it face-down on the piece of wood.
A man painting a wooden board with glue for photo transfer to wood
Apply pressure to the back of the image firmly, smoothing out wrinkles and air bubbles. Let the image dry completely.
I usually leave the image to dry for 24 hours.
A man preparing a wooden board to transfer laser print to wood

Revealing Your Image

After the Mod Podge has completely dried, it’s time to reveal your work of art!
Take a damp cloth or sponge and start rubbing at the paper gently to expose your transferred image.
A man rubbing a wooden board to transfer photos to wood
Be sure not to rub too hard or you’ll completely remove the image from the wood.
A man preparing a wooden board to transfer photos to wood
And here we have our final image. Looks great. All we need is a little wiping after the image has completely dried out.
The final image - colourful coastal town photo transferred to a wooden board
After this, you may want to use some sandpaper to fade-in the edges.
Close up of sanding the photo transfer on the wooden board - how to transfer laser print to wood
And voila! Here is the final image. The texture from the wood starts to show through the photograph, making it unique and different every time.
A man holding a wooden board with a colourful coastal town photo transferred to it
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2. The Label Backing Paper Method

This is probably the easiest method to transfer photos to wood. We’ll use the backing paper of a page of labels to create a ‘stamp’ for transferring your image.
You can grab your own on Amazon for a fairly low price.

What You Will Need

  • Several pieces of unsealed wood (one for your final image and several testers)
  • Sandpaper
  • A cloth
  • A piece of label paper
  • A printer
  • Keycard

How to Prepare the Wood

To help give the ink an adequate surface to transfer to, you’ll need to sand the wood back to roughen it up a little. Sand your piece of wood in a circular motion until the very top layer of wood has been sanded off.
Give your piece of wood a wipe down with a slightly damp cloth to remove any wood dust. Traces of dust could affect the transfer process.

How to Print Using Label Paper

Once you’ve resized your images to transfer, it’s time to get printing! Take out your piece of label paper and peel off the adhesive labels, leaving only the backing paper. Load this backing paper into your printer, shiny side orientated for printing.
Because the printed image may come out lighter or darker than the image on your computer screen, it’s a good idea to make a tester first. Press print and carefully feed the backing paper into the printer.
Once printing is completed you’ll see that the plastic seal of the backing paper has prevented the ink from being absorbed into the paper as it would with normal copy paper. Instead, the ink sits on top of the plastic, creating your transfer stamp.

Transferring the Image to Wood

Take your piece of wood and lay it on a flat surface. Press your ink transfer face-down against the wood, pressing firmly and smoothing any bubbles. Avoid moving the transfer or the wood or your work will smudge.
Grab your keycard and slowly run it over the back of the ink transfer, making sure every part of the backing paper makes firm contact with the wood surface.
Once you are happy you’ve transferred all the ink from the backing paper to the wood, carefully peel off the backing paper and have a look at the results.
If the transfer is looking too dark, use your photo editing software to adjust the brightness and contrast of the original image and repeat the process until you’re happy with the final image.
And here’s a video showing you this second method in more detail:

Conclusion

And there you have it! Two ways to transfer photos to wood. Give them a try, and show us what you come up with!
Looking for more great creative photography tutorials? We have a great step by step guide on how to create cool cut out photography or magical still lives with smoke.

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