Inkjet Transfers to Wood

Color Image on wood board

You can’t feed a piece of wood through a stock inkjet printer, and if you could it’s likely the nature of the material would result in less than optimal prints. But [Steve Ramsey] has a tutorial on inkjet transfers to wood over on his YouTube Channel which is a simple two-step method that produces great results. We really love quick tips like this. Steve explains the entire technique while creating an example project – all in under 2 minutes of video. We don’t want to get your hopes up though – this method will only work on porous absorbent surfaces like bare wood, not on PC boards. We’ve featured some great Inject PCB resist methods here in the past though.

The transfer technique is dead simple. [Steve] uses the backing from a used sheet of inkjet labels (the shiny part that normally gets thrown away). He runs the backing sheet through his inkjet printer. Since plastic coated backing sheet isn’t porous, the ink doesn’t soak in and dry. He then presses the still wet page onto a piece of wood. The wet ink is instantly absorbed into the wood. A lacquer clear coat seals the image in and really make the colors pop. We’d like to see how this method would work with other porous materials, like fabrics (though the ink probably wouldn’t survive the washing machine).

Click past the break for another example of [Steve’s] work, and two videos featuring the technique.

inktransfer1

23 thoughts on “Inkjet Transfers to Wood

  1. In a previous job we printing watch faces straight from an inkjet and found a thin coat of cheap white car primer accepts ink very well

  2. cool work. I did something similar to this back when I was into leatherworking. The main difference was I had an old HP printer with a thickness adjustment that would allow for direct prints on the leather sheet. Looked as good as a print on heavy paper and once sealed with wax was even mostly waterproof. My work was for a leather dice holder and a cover for my D&D books. I’ve thought of trying it again to make a couple of leather mugs for the Ren Faire this summer.

  3. WOOOOOd!
    I saw a long time ago a cheapo transfer technique for plastic and acrylic using inkjet photo paper with a laser printer and then aplying heat, it was interesting but I doubt it would have worked on wood…

  4. just buy water slide decals for inkjet. works great and are so thin you will not notice the holding layer after you coat with a protective clear.

    Plus you get a far cleaner print, no soaking in to cause streaking or color changes.

  5. Google “pinball playfield inkjet direct”. Pinball playfield manufacturing has tinkered with the inkjet on wood concept.

  6. Can this damage the printer in any way? I am worried about the print head becoming coated in ink or the backing papers coating.

    1. If you’re worried about that you could always run a cleaning cycle or two on plain paper after each time you do this.

    1. I posted a youtube line with time offset t=372 (8:16), but it seems to start the the beginning above. Oh well. Just skip forward to 8:16 (or watch it all if you are into carpentry).

  7. I think the charm of this lies in the fact it doesn’t look perfect. I like the distressed look of this method. I think if the images were of perfect fidelity, it would look cheap. This is supposed to look like it was screen printed or stamped on, which is how you would normally do these kinds of things, you know, art?

  8. ” – this method will only work on porous absorbent surfaces like bare wood, not on PC boards.”

    You don’t need to transfer on PC boards with inkjet like you do with laserjet.

    I’ve been printing with Future Acrylic Floor Polish (now branded as Pledge), with an inkjet directly on copper clad boards for some years now. It can be fed up to one inch thick stuff to print on with the regular ink too. Takes about 4 hours to modify a printer to do so.

  9. My girlfriend has been doing somthing like this for a number of years. I dont know the exact process but she uses Modge Podge and Elmers glue to make a nearly perfect transfer onto ANY surface. Not just porous ones. A quick search on Google for “modge podge ink jet transfer” gave me a fair amount of results. Might want to check that out if this method is limiting to some of you.

  10. A bunch of years ago I did something similar.
    I printed to the same slippery side of a 8 1/2 X 11 inch label backing sheet but using a laser printer. That results in the image on the shiny side of the sheet that can be scrapped off with a finger nail. You simply lay a peice of clear tape over the image (packing tape or whatever) and burnish it using a finger nail or whatever you have.
    You can then peel it off and the entire image is now stuck to the tape which you can then trim and stick to something. The only issue is if your image is mostly solid, it will not stick well wherever theres toner so make sure you have a border around it when you trim the tape.

  11. Print on the rice paper with a laser printer. As the rice paper is very flimsy, tape it on regular paper, but remove it after printing. You can trim around whatever you printed… nor not. Just place the rice paper on the wood and coat with epoxy. The rice paper should become invisible. It should work with other coatings like varnish, but test it on something ahead of time. This is often done on boats.

    You could try it with an inkjet printer. However, laser toner is fused to the rice paper and doesn’t run when wetted with epoxy.

    1. PS – this works under FG (fibreglass) cloth too. Place the rice paper on the wood, cover with FG cloth, and coat with epoxy. The FG becomes invisible when wetted with epoxy. For a smooth surface, a fill coat is used to fill the weave of the FG cloth after the first coast has cured.

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