Tutorial for Transferring Photos with Matte Medium

Tutorial for Transferring Photos with Matte Medium

I wrote a post on my personal blog about transferring a photo to a Gelli plate print a couple of weeks ago. I was asked a few questions about how I did it so I thought I would do a mini tutorial on the process. I have read about this technique several times online but recently saw a video that showed the process so I finally tried it. You’ll need a black and white photo printed on light weight computer paper from a laser printer, a painted background paper (watercolor paper or heavy mixed media paper work best), matte medium, credit card, brush and water.

Photo Transfers with Background Papers

Here are a couple of photos of birds that I took and turned into black and white designs in Photoshop. The background paper is heavy card stock which was mono printed on a Gelli plate. The printed backgrounds work best if they are completely covered with paint. If they aren’t, paint a layer of matte medium over the paper to cover all bare spots and let dry. I did cut away excess paper so there is less to remove later. This does occasionally leave a visible line at the photo papers edge.

Applying Matte Medium to Background Paper

Now cover the background paper with a thin layer of matte medium. Also cover the printed side of the photo with a thin layer of matte medium (my photo of this process was really blurry so I didn’t include it.)

Applying Photo to Background Paper

Quickly place the photo face down on to the background paper. Use a credit card or old motel key to press the photo tightly against the background paper and remove any air bubbles. Have a paper towel handy to wipe off any excess matte medium from the credit card. You want to avoid getting the matte medium on the back of the photo paper. Let the matte medium dry completely.

Wetting Photo Transfer Paper

Once the matte medium is completely dry, add a small amount of water to the back of the photo paper. As the paper gets wet, you will see your printed design beginning to show. Let the wet paper sit for a minute or two and then begin rubbing the paper off. In my experience, the paper comes off in two layers. The first layer comes off very easily but the second layer takes a bit more work. Rub gently with your fingers (not finger nails) to remove all the paper. It helps on the second layer to rub in different directions and even in circles to remove the last of the paper from your printed design.

Rubbing Off Paper

Here you can see that the first layer has been removed and I am working on the second layer of paper. Just keep rubbing gently to remove all the paper.

Paper Removed

Here I have removed all the paper from the photo transfer.

Paper Removed from Photo Transfers

Here are a couple more with the paper removed. If you look closely, you can see in the center of the two designs, I did not apply matte medium and the background paper was rubbing apart. This can be prevented if you apply a layer of matte medium to your background paper before you begin. Since I was making cards, I was able to cut this area off before making my cards.

Here are the two bird cards. The one on the left was actually supposed to be placed lower on the background so that the bottom branch would be right at the edge of the finished print but I goofed so I have a funny flat bottomed branch.

And here are the other two cards. I painted in the birch trees with a little white paint. The photo on the left was some trees with berries in a parking lot that I took against the sky. The birch trees were a sketch that was put into Photoshop and a filter of “palette knife” was used. If you have writing or want your photo to be seen as originally printed, you need to remember to make it into a mirror image before printing.

If you give the process a try, I would love to see the results. Come on over to the forum and show us what you created.

14 thoughts on “Tutorial for Transferring Photos with Matte Medium

  1. i always wondered what gel medium was used for! would photocopies work as ive got an ink jet printer?
    love the images, such a nice way to add dimension!

    1. Thanks Nikki – gel and matte medium are used for lots of processes in painting. So this is just one way to use them. I think that photocopies would work but I haven’t tried them. It works because of the toner that makes the image on your paper. I’m pretty sure most copy machines work with toner so it should be the same as the laser printed paper.

    2. ahha yes now i think of it i used some sort of blending pens over photocopied images for a similar looking effect at school years ago, so im guessing its the same kind of ink! awesome! thanks again for sharing your knowledge and skills Ruth! xxx

  2. Very cool process and results. I’ll have to put this on my to do list. 🙂

  3. This is actually one thing I have done! I used full colour laser copies, though. It actually works pretty well with acrylic paint too instead of gel medium and even packing tape works, and you can use magazines to transfer. I like how yours turned out, Ruth 🙂

    1. I’m not sure if I do. I did find one the other day actually, but it was a naked lady 🙂 I’ll have a look and see what I can find, I’m sure I saw some when I tidied up recently.

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