Image Transfer with Gel Medium

Very excited to share with you my first ever tutorial (cue applause!) I never would have thought that using a gel medium for image transfer would be my first tutorial, but it’s something I have been playing around with the past few days, and I wanted to share what I learned.

The finished product, ready to use in my journal.

I’ve been interested in image transfer for awhile, and did a lot of reading about different ways to go about it  including gel-medium, packing tape or clear adhesive shelf-liner. While I liked those ideas, I was intrigued by using gel medium 1) because I had some on hand (keeping it honest) and 2) I liked the texture that you could get on the transfer. The tape/shelf-liner versions just seemed a bit too glossy for me. I’m a texture person. The downside, and it is a HUGE one for me, being a fan of instant gratification, is that using gel medium to transfer an image takes time. Takes multiple steps (gasp!)  But in the end I was really happy with the results, and it was not as frustratingly long as I had expected.

1. Select an image.

Non-glossy works a bit better than glossy. I chose something from the newspaper, but you could also print something out off your computer (a photo, a poem.) I would guess that you would want a laser copy as an inkjet copy might smear. Of course you might be okay with that depending on what you are using the image for.

2. Coat with gel medium.

Let dry. Repeat. I found eight coats worked well for me. I have seen online where people did as few as four. It’s a bit trial and error, and I suspect may also have to do with the quality of your medium. Just a hunch.

I used a foam brush to apply the gel, alternating the direction of the strokes with each coat (one time top to bottom, next time side to side.)

I can’t tell you how long I waited between each coat. Maybe a few hours. Basically, I left it out on a table, and if I walked by and it was dry to the touch, I added another coat. Not very scientific, but that’s how I roll.

My image, with one coat of gel. Seven more to go!

3. Once your final coat is dry, prepare a tray with warm water.

If it’s too cold the paper is hard to rub off the back. If it’s too hot, your gel coating might come apart, rip, get too fragile. I did just tap water, warm to the touch, in a plastic basin.

4. Dip you image into the water for a few seconds, then rub.

Rub the back of the paper gently with your fingers. It should come off fairly easily. If not give it another dip. This also removes the little bits of paper that you have rubbed off but are still clinging to the back.

After the 8th coat dried, I dipped the whole thing in warm water.

The water full of paper fibers rubbed off the transfer.

5. Don’t panic.

While wet, your image will become opaque again. But never fear. Once it dries out completely it will be translucent.

Once wet, the image turns opaque…

6. Speaking of drying…

I would let this dry on something it can’t stick to, like plastic. I used a piece of plastic that I had obviously sprayed ink around at one point because my transfer picked up some color, which was a happy accident!

While drying my transfer curled up a bit around the edges, which is not a problem for me since I will likely use it in a journal. I suppose you could weight the edges down with something if you wanted it to dry flat.

A close-up so you can see the texture and hopefully, the translucence.

Summary: My take on it is this, if you need an image right away, packing tape/shelf-liner will work in a jiffy. If you have more time (I’m going to stock pile a few images for later use) gel medium delivers a nice, textured-yet-still-translucent quality that is hard to beat. I can’t wait to use mine on a journal page, which I will be sure to share.

Hope you found this helpful, and if you have any questions, or try this technique yourself, please let me know in the comments 🙂

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9 comments

  1. Awesome!! I’m definitely going to try this. I used gel medium for an image transfer, but it was a different process that didn’t really come out that great, IMO. But this would be perfect! Great tutorial. 🙂

    1. Thanks! Give it a try and let me know how it turns out!

  2. That looks awesome! I agree about tape transfers being too shiny, but I’m not sure I have the patience to try the gel medium transfer :/ Great tutorial tho, I will definitely use it if I decide to try the gel medium transfer!

    1. Give it a go, Kitty! It’s really not too bad 🙂

  3. So many techniques, so little time! Will put this on my list for after Christmas!

  4. Woop whoop go Michelle! Awesome you are doing tutorials 🙂

    1. Thanks! Something I want to do more of in 2013 🙂

  5. Great tutorial, thanks so much, I’m going to give it a try too 🙂
    Big love
    AJ 😉

    1. Oh, good! Can’t wait to hear how it goes 🙂

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