This tutorial covers one method and two photo papers and several mediums to transfer images to polymer clay. I have tested more than ten different transfer mediums and many transfer papers and have found the six liquid mediums and the two photo papers below to yield the most consistent transfers to polymer clay. I have also chosen these as they each give a slightly different finish.
Kato Liquid, Translucent Liquid Sculpey and Fimo Decorating Gel are made from polymer clay. Polymer artists use liquid clays to transfer images as well as using them with many other polymer clay techniques. The liquid clays work with both the laser and the Epson Glossy Photo paper for Inkjet printers used in this tutorial. However, the Strathmore Glossy Photo Paper works only with the Tranz It! as the transfer medium.
Omni-Gel is marketed as glue and as a transfer medium especially for paper. Picture This is a liquid transfer medium marketed especially for transfers to fabrics. Trans It! by Judikins is a transfer medium that is new to the market. These last three products work only with inkjet photo papers on polymer clay whereas the liquid clays work with the laser and the inkjet photo papers listed below.
Although many different papers and transfer mediums will work with polymer clay, these are the most reliable products and the easiest to use. In this tutorial, the transfer mediums manufacturer’s directions to transfer the images will be ignored.
White or a light colors such as ivory or pastels
Liquid Polymer Clays as Transfer Mediums
Translucent Liquid Sculpey or TLS
Other Transfer Mediums
Copyright free images
Transfermagic.com Ink Jet Transfer Paper for Ink Jet and Bubble Jet Printers When using a transfer medium such as Translucent Liquid Sculpey with this paper, there will be no ink at all left on the paper when the image is transferred. In that respect, it gives the most vivid transfer. However, it has a slight rubbery feeling which may not be desirable. This can be minimized by using a layer of EnviroTex Lite, Colores resin or another finish such as Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS over the image. This is not a photo paper, but is a transfer paper. See additional info under Photo Papers under Notes, Tips & Resources below.
Strathmore Glossy Photo Paper 15 sheets, acid free, water resistant for inkjet printer gives very brilliant image transfer when using TranzIt! as the transfer medium. It has a good finish that is very natural when used on polymer clay. This paper needs the Tranz It! transfer medium and does not work well or at all with the liquid polymer clays as a transfer medium using the instructions in this tutorial. See additional info under Photo Papers under Notes Tips & Resources below.
Hewlett-Packard HP Color Laser, Photo Paper, Glossy Product: Q6608A for laser printers
I have tested several laser photo papers and have had good results with several, but I have found for my printer that this product is the best for transfers.
Papers that DO NOT work using this technique
JetPrint Photo Premium Photo Paper High Gloss for Inkjet Printers Heavyweight
JetPrint Photo Everyday Photo Paper Soft Gloss
Canon Photo Paper Glossy for Inkjet Printers has ‘New’ on the upper right corner and a little girl holding her artwork above her head.
Kodak Photo Paper has diagonal stripes across the back each page and the word Kodak Photo Paper.
Premium Epson Glossy Photo Paper has premium on the package.
Bone folder or burnishing tool (back of spoon, popsicle stick or similar item)
Ceramic Tile or Glass
Scrap piece of old T-shirt
Bone Folder or a burnisher is a smooth tool used to burnish or rub the transfer to insure it adheres to the clay.
Chosen Images are the copyright free images or images you have created or that you have selected to copy onto the photo paper and then transfer to polymer clay.
Transfer mediums are the liquid clays, gels or glues that are used to transfer the image from the photo paper to the polymer clay.
Transfer papers are photo papers and have images printed on them.
It is important to choose copyright free images, public domain images or images of your own creation. Public domain images are images that are no longer protected by copyright and anyone may copy, distribute, display, or perform the work. In general, any work that was created or published before 1923 is now in the public domain. Some works created much later than 1923 are also in the public domain because the formalities required by law at the time were not satisfied. Any work created by the federal government is also in the public domain. If you have any doubt as to whether it is available for your use, you should obtain permission from the holder or owner of the works. Finding a desirable image on Google does not necessarily mean it is copyright free.
It is best to use the lightest color clay for transferring images. If the chosen image contains white, you will probably want to use white or light colored clay. Any white showing in the image will reveal the color of the clay as no white ink is printed from the printer. If you use pink clay, any white areas in the chosen image will be pink once transferred to the clay. Other colors will also be altered. If you choose beige or ivory clay, your transfer will have a warmer color or a vintage appearance. If you wish to transfer a bright image, beige clay would muddy or tone down the transferred image and it will not be as bright as if you used white clay. Most images transfer well to white, ivory, tan, light gray or pastel polymer clays.
When using the photo paper with the inkjet printer, be sure to use the reverse image or mirror image selection in order for any text to print properly. Use the best printing selection and you may choose to use photo paper selection if your inkjet printer has this setting.
Print your image in reverse so the text is printed properly. I am able to choose among many papers on my printer although it does not have photo paper as a selection. I believe it prints in best mode at all times.
Translucent Liquid Sculpey, Kato Liquid Polyclay and Fimo Decorating Gel are the liquid mediums used to transfer the images. One word of caution with the liquid clays is that the Fimo Decorating Gel may yellow over time. I have several pieces using the Fimo Gel that are about three years old and all have a hint of yellow. The Translucent Liquid Sculpey did not yellow. The newer formula of Kato Liquid is too new to know if it will yellow. The older formula of Kato Liquid Polyclay did not yellow after three years. Each of these have a slightly different finish and feel to the transferred image.
Other Transfer Mediums
Omni-Gel and Picture This and Tranz It! will work in the same manner as the liquid clays as a transfer medium on the inkjet photo paper used in this tutorial. These mediums do not work at all using the method described in this tutorial with laser paper. The transferred image is very clear and has a silky feel. A blind test with several clayers was performed and they could not tell the difference in the feel of these three products. However, they thought the Tranz It! was the best product for the transfer medium.
I have chosen the photo papers for both the inkjet and the laser printer that have given consistently good results. The inkjet paper (Epson Glossy Photo Paper for Ink Jet Printers 50 sheets S041649 or 20 sheets S04114 or 100 sheets S041271) has been used for a few years now in transfers to polymer clay. (See note under photo papers for additional information.) Hewlett-Packard HP Color Laser, Photo Paper, Glossy Product: Q6608A is the photo paper that works the best with my HP Color LaserJet 3600 laser printer. The final transferred image has a different “finish” even if the same solid clay, same liquid clay and the same technique are used. Some other photo papers will work, but I believe these work the best for clay. Be sure to select one of the papers recommended in this tutorial for best results. Note added July 20: I have added two new papers to this tutorial. I am now partial to the Strathmore Glossy Photo paper when used with TranzIt! I had used it previously with the liquid clays, but could not get a good transfer. The trick to both the Strathmore photo paper and the Transfer Magic Ink Jet Transfer Paper is to allow the polymer clay to cool before removing the paper. This is not the case when using the original Epson Glossy Photo Paper of the Hewlett Packard Laser Photo Paper as they should be removed while the clay is still warm.
I have tested this transfer technique using Premo, Kato Polyclay, Fimo, Cernit and Granitex. I mixed liquid clay brands as a medium with the various solid clay brands. I also used the liquid clay brand with the coordinating brand of the solid clay in all except Cernit. I used Translucent Liquid Sculpey with Cernit. In general, the liquid clay that was manufactured by the same company as the solid clays worked best together.
1. You have my permission to print this tutorial for your own personal use from my web site as long as it is printed with my copyright information.
2. You have my permission to use this tutorial in a polymer clay guild demo or NPCG activity. Please print it in its entirety and give credit. You may make a copy for each participant.
3. You do not have my permission to use this tutorial as a hand-out or print this tutorial for a class for profit. However, you may refer participants to this site (www.heartofclay.com) to print their own personal copy. You may teach this technique using your own special teaching abilities by putting your own spin on it or making a finished product using this technique. Please give credit.
4. You do not have my permission to sell this tutorial.
5. You may write your own tutorial on transferring images to flat polymer clay surfaces, but you must use your own words and photos and you may not copy mine. You should give credit should this tutorial be your inspiration.
6. Please email me at email@example.com if you have questions about the use of this tutorial.
To view a close-up, click on image.
I will use one transfer medium, one photo paper and one polymer clay as the technique is the same regardless of which ones you choose unless otherwise noted.
Choose either of the inkjet or laser printer photo papers above, one of the liquid clays, and a light color of any brand of polymer clay.
If you wish to use the laser paper, please note that you must use a liquid clay as your transfer medium. Omni-Gel, Trans It! and Picture This! will work only with inkjet photo paper images if using this method.
If using the Strathmore Photo Paper, TranzIt! will be your best transfer medium.
For these step-by-step photos, I will use the laser printer paper, Translucent Liquid Sculpey (TLS), and Kato white clay. You may use Kato Liquid or Fimo Decorating Gel instead of TLS. Kato clay is whiter than Premo and gives a brighter image.
Sheet your polymer clay with a pasta machine in order to have it as consistent and as smooth as possible.
Press the sheet of polymer clay onto a tile. Be sure there are no bubbles under the clay. (Figure 1)
Squeeze Translucent Liquid Sculpey onto the clay. (Figure 2)
Figure 1 Figure 2
Use a smooth edged credit card, metal ruler or other stiff and smooth tool to spread the Translucent Liquid Sculpey over the clay. Be sure to go in all directions. (Figure 3) If there are any rough spots on the edge of your tool, this may interfere with the image transfer. Kato Liquid is a little thinner and you can use your finger to spread easily.
If using TranzIt! as your transfer medium, it is easiest to spread with your finger as it is sticky. You also must have your images ready to apply to the TransIt! as it dries very quickly. If it dries before you can apply your image, it will not grab the colors as well for the transfer.
If there are any spots that are not covered completely with the TLS, squeeze a little more TLS and use your fingers to rub the TLS evenly over the clay. (Figure 4) You do not want the TLS too thick. It needs to be sticky, but covering the clay. If it is too thick, the image will slip around and you may end up with a fuzzy transfer.
Figure 3 Figure 4
Choose the images that you have printed on the photo paper and trim around the edges. If there is room, allow an extra 1/8-1/4" around all sides. This is not absolutely necessary, but there is less chance of pulling up a tiny spot on the corner of the transfer. (Figure 5)
Place the images face down on the polymer clay. I place the center down first as in Figure 6.
Figure 5 Figure 6
Use a bone folder to burnish the image. Begin in the middle and work outwards to each edge. Turn 90 degrees and repeat. Turn and repeat a second time. (Figure 7) You may wish to think of this as north, south, east and west. Start in the middle and rub completely across going north. Turn and rub across going south. Then finish by doing east and west. The clay must touch the image to get a good transfer. When you think you have rubbed enough, rub again.
Using a blade, cut around your images about 1/8” from the edge of the paper. Remove the extra clay. (Figure 8) Burnish again next to edges.
Figure 7 Figure 8
These may sit for up to two hours. You may see the image begin to show through the paper. (above in Figure 8 and below in Figure 9) Leaving the clay on the tile, rub the backs again with a soft cloth or your fingers.
Place the tile with the clay in the oven and bake for 30 minutes at 275 degrees. If you attempt to remove the clay and bake on another surface, the image will become fuzzy or skipped areas where the clay separates from the image.
As soon as removed from the oven, while still warm gently lift a corner of each image and it will peel off easily leaving your image. (Figure 10)
NOTE: If you have used either the Strathmore Glossy Photo Paper or the TransferMagic Ink Jet Transfer Paper, allow them to cool completely before attempting to remove the paper. If you remove while still warm, the image may be soft and sticky and you may have a smudged image. They will peel off easily once cooled.
Figure 9 Figure 10
Here are the transferred images. (Figure 11) The laser printer images on the photo papers appear to leave some of the ink on the papers, but the images are transferred well and all ink needed to get a good transfer has been transferred to the clay. The inkjet printer photo images will have less ink left on the photo paper, but this does not mean it will be a better transfer. The TransferMagic Transfer Paper will transfer all ink to the clay.
As you can see, I have left a clay border around the images. (Figure 12) I often use leather scissors to cut close to the image and then use a sanding block (200-400 grit) to sand and smooth the edges around the image. If you do not have leather scissors, use an X-acto blade to trim the edges. Granitex clay cannot be trimmed with leather scissors as it is a brittle clay and will chip too easily.
Figure 11 Figure 12
Finishes are needed on the inkjet images. The laser images appear to be much more durable. A finish of your choice may be applied. Allowing the cured polymer clay with images to sit for a day before applying a finish may be helpful in some cases. I have had a couple of problems when I tried to apply a finish while the clay was still warm. The image smudged. But for the most part, I think it is safe to apply any finish that we normally use with polymer clay.
The cat image was drawn by my oldest son. Blog
To view close-ups about these items, go to my blog.
I teach a class that goes beyond this tutorial and covers several techniques to alter images before transferring and after transferring. This includes manipulating the image so it has a watercolor effect, carving designs in the image, ageing the image and more. This tutorial is the basis for the class. The class focuses on completing a project using the techniques.
If you are looking for a tutorial for transferring images to spheres, round or curved surfaces, you may purchase it here.
Copyright by Jeanne Rhea 3519 Baugh
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