I love to restore old furniture and bring forgotten pieces back to gorgeous functionality. Those pieces are part of our history, and it makes me sad that so much of it has gone to the landfills. My newest obsession for this is the Mod Podge Transfer technique, that puts images on furniture! I am certainly not the first to post this technique up, I originally found it on Pinterest. However, after using this method (which I really, really like) on several projects, I thought I’d chime in with my 0.02, and share a few lessons learned.
So far, I’ve used the Mod Podge technique to transfer images to furniture and canvas. I also tried it on pallet wood, which was not successful; the wood was simply too rough. I’m working on several pieces now, so it’s a great time to share.
Have your image printed, in reverse, on a laser printer. Ink jet doesn’t work very well at all. I’ve developed a close relationship with the Kinko’s guy because they have a large scale printer, and I can get images up to 3×5 feet if I need them. Black and white works much better than color. Gray scale works OK, but if you can use a two-color image, you will get a nice, crisp graphic on your project.
If possible, cover the entire surface the image in tranferring to. If the paper is not large enough, then trim around the image, close to the edges of the print. So, for example, if I am transferring an image onto a table top that is 16×20, I print it on paper that is 18×22 so the entire top of the table is covered. Modge Podge leaves a slight raised edge around the paper that will be visible if the piece is glazed, and I usually glaze my furniture. If you cover the entire surface, be sure to get the excess Mod Podge from around the edges of the paper. Otherwise, you will have clumps of Mod Podge on your furniture, and it’s almost impossible to sand.
Applying the Image
Using a chip brush, apply the Mod Podge to the image side of the paper. Be generous but not sloppy, and don’t recoat what you have already covered. Recoating will smear the image. Once the paper is covered,with Mod Podge, you will notice it will start to warp or curl a bit; let it be and wait until it stops (about 30 seconds) before you apply to your project. A note here; I’ve read that some people apply the Mod Podge to the furniture, then place the paper over it. The problem with this method is that when the paper gets wet and expands, it wrinkles rather badly. I’ve gotten much better results apply Mod Podge to the paper.
Position the image, then using a Brayer, work from the center of the paper to the edges to firmly press the paper onto the project. Work out air bubbles and wrinkles with the brayer. Once you start this, you’re committed. The image will begin transferring as soon as pressure is applied, so it can’t be repositioned.
Once the image is firmly applied, clean the excess Mod Podge off the project and your brayer.
Let the project dry for at least 6 hours, overnight is really better. If you try to cheat on this, you will ruin your project because the Mod Podge, and thus the image, isn’t fully cured. If you remove the paper too early, your image will come with it. It’s best to wait!
Removing the Paper
Next step is to remove the paper. If you have oversized paper, you can grab an overhanging edge, and pull the top layer of the paper off. If you don’t, try to remove the top layer of paper if you can, but if not move on to the next part of the process.
I’ve tried this paper removal two ways: first by wetting the paper, and gently working it off. However, Mod Podge is not truly waterproof, and if it gets too wet, it will slide right off the furniture, taking parts of the graphic with it. I use this technique with a slightly damp sponge to work off the first layers of paper. However, I prefe to sand the aper off using an orbital sander and 120 or 150 grit sandpaper. This takes a bit of work, but with patience will remove almost all the paper and clearly reveal an intact image. And if you opt for sanding, keep your sander flat, to prevent sanding off parts of the picture. When using the wet method, let the project dry completely then repeat. It’s impossible to get all the paper off in one pass. Once it dries, its easy to see where paper is still left on your image.
This technique will leave some paper on your project, no matter which removal method you use. So, it works best on lighter finishes; white, taupe, tan, or with a whitewashed finish to help disguise the paper that remains. If you are doing a darker project, you can glaze over it in a darker color, which will also help disguise the remaining paper fibers.
Once you are satisfied you’ve removed all the paper you can, seal it with a poly-acrylic, either spray or brush-on. Don’t seal it with Mod Podge; its not truly waterproof and can get sticky, too. Seal it with acrylic and you will have a more durable finish. Once its sealed, you can glaze or otherwise distress your project, or just leave it as it.
Mod Podge Transfer Projects