Homemade wall art (i.e. DIY Photo Transfer Onto Wood)


There’s a pretty simple-sounding project that Google will generate 234830528343 How-To results for, and that’s superimposing images onto wood.

The process is fairly straightforward (You can check out pages like Photojojo‘s or Wholly Kao‘s  for full, more fleshed-out instructionals):

  1. Print the reverse of an image on a LaserJet (NOT Inkjet — ink will more often than not bleed) printer.
  2. Brush on matte acrylic gel medium — more is better than less, but a thin layer should do.
  3. Firmly adhere onto a slab of wood, making sure to get rid of all the air bubbles trapped therein — use fingers, a credit card or a brayer.
  4. Dry overnight.
  5. Wet the paper.
  6. Rub off the fibers with your fingers — gently.
  7. (Some people like the “vintage” look yada yada. If you do, sand it.)
  8. Seal everything with a sealant of your choice, be it the same gel medium or Mod Podge (I used glossy Mod Podge).

Here’s what (most) How-Tos don’t tell you about photo-to-wood transfers:

  1. Don’t expect to be able to rub all the paper off: You’ll inevitably be left with a good amount of paper fiber fluff on your piece. (That said, your Mod Podge/gel medium sealant should help reduce the visibility thereof.
  2. Don’t use small, detailed images: …unless you’re going for the ruined-art look. Any more sizeable chunks that happen to rub off (and they will) smack in the middle of the image will look just awful — and not in that “artistic license” “faux-vintage” way.
  3. Don’t use images with all-over color: Same reason as above. 
  4. If you have big areas of near-white hue — be it blue, green, or what have you — remove it beforehand: It’ll show up as a weird tinge on your wood and won’t look pretty. On that note, larger areas of color seem to work better for this project (especially since it’s the ink that the gel medium is adhering to, duh!)
  5. Did you know that some gel mediums are toxic?!: (Sorry, I’m really paranoid about toxic things.) Thankfully, Liquitex Acrylic Gel Medium, which I used, is labeled as non-toxic.
  6. If you mess up once, give up: …on that particular slab of wood. I tried sanding down my block of wood to from scratch. Scratch, my ass. The image refused to stick to the wood, no matter what I tried. (Admittedly, this might just be my own incompetence at sanding. An even sand should produce the surface you need.)

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Hypocrisy (i.e. DIY Painted/Distressed Picture Frame)

Shabby Frame

I’m not really sure what all the hype about vintage is. Before you dismiss me as a hater, let it be known that I harbor as much nostalgia and wide-eyed wonder about Renaissance and Victorian as much as the next froofy romantic obsessed with anything from “the old days”. However. I think the whole idea — especially in DIY furniture — of always necessarily distressing and glazing everything and its mama (especially when you don’t really need it) strays far from personalized and instead comes across as cliché. When it gets to that paint when you’re sanding and glazing just because, you know, that’s the “in” thing to do, face it: you’re just a conformist.

That said. I find myself often intrigued by the techniques involved in achieving “antique, vintage” looks with paint. And since I’d just gone on a picture-frame-purchasing spree at an A.I. Friedman sale, I figured I’d test some out myself.

I like more of a clean look when it comes to painting and generally prefer the look of immaculate finishes than aged. But ruining my clean painting job turned out lovelier (if I say so myself) results than expected and was, hey, even fun.

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