Photocopy transfers

(Found web image)

I’ve been experimenting with photocopy transfer techniques recently to expand on my use of the photocopier. I haven’t had much luck with solvents, here a list of ones I’ve tried that I didn’t like:

1-orange power cleaner from safway. Made image run a little and didn’t transfer that much. But I didn’t try with a press or spoon (as rubbing the back really hard I’ve found helps)
2-ourderless turps, don’t buy this stuff it’s totally useless and being odourless it doesn’t have the kick of turps.
3- Gum turps, meant to be stronger than turps but the prints came out grey at best through a press. Maybe a spoon would of worked better.
4- ‘Picture this’ bought from spotlight. Basically no good as the backing of the transfer is opaque so I might as well just stick the copy down without any transferring. Would be good for quick, cheap (but effective) home job t-shirts from copies (as it’s washable)

things I haven’t tried

1-acetone: meant to work well with press and spoon methods
2-laquer thinner: meant to work a treat but highly toxic, use in well ventilated area wearing mask gloves etc.
3- Oil of wintergreen: no idea if you can actually buy this stuff in Australia??? But apparently works well with press and spoon methods.

The most handy liquid for transfers I’ve found is actually just plain old acrylic medium
(and if it doesn’t work for you then you can still keep it to use for other things).

I’ve had some success with a whole new method I discovered on the web that doesn’t need any chemicals but instead uses an acrylic medium

Here are the steps

1- Paint clear acrylic medium onto copy (matt, satin, glossy). Just a regular amount; make sure to smooth it all out so there no lumps etc.
2- place photocopy down on board and smooth out with fingers so there no air bubbles.
3- This is the crucial step, you have to rub really hard with a baren or back of a spoon etc. Make sure to rub all areas of the copy (once again with some force)
I found that regular paper is too thin for rubbing on directly so place some newspaper over the top of the copy.
4- The next part may take some experimentation and is based on how much medium used and room conditions etc. It helps to do a few strip at a time and check each one at intervals ie, lift one at 2 mins, one at 4 minutes, one at 6 etc and adjust accordingly to which one works best
5- You might get some paper stick to the board but just wet the tip of your finger and rub it off (may require a little more waiting time for the medium to dry fully)

I haven’t had luck with this method on paper as much as I’ve had on board (as it’s relatively flat and allows for hard some rubbing) and you’d have to experiment with it on canvas as I’m not sure if the copy would only stick to the raised areas.

I learnt this technique from this site:

I had no luck with it at first but the big break through was being able to rub the copy really hard with a spoon after placing some newspaper over the top. I guess fresh copies may work better but I did this with months old copies with success.
It’s really just a matter of playing with it until you get the right combination of medium, timing and rubbing.

The other rubbing technique I’ve found works really well is to apply around 4-6 layers of acrylic medium over the copy (colour or B&W) then stick this down to board or canvas with the same medium wait for it to dry completely (I’d recommend over night or 24 hours depending on medium) then simply rub of the paper until the print shows through. I’ve found the rubbing the paper away tricky as if you rub too hard or have not applied enough layers of medium it will actually rub some of the print of (especially if working with textured canvas) it helps to use a wet brush to remove the paper as it’s a more gentle approach. But obviously this doesn’t work on paper either as the water rubbing would damage the paper.

I’m hoping to figure out a good paper transfer method. It seems crazy as you already copy on paper but like I said I would like to do stuff bigger or different dimensions than A4/A3. Plus it allows to work on papers with a decal edge and also papers that are too thick/thin to go through a copier for example. I will still just use the ‘plain’ old photocopier for work that fits into A4/A3 dimensions etc, without transferring.

I wonder what lacquer thinner does to archival qualities of the paper or maybe it just evaporates away??

Cheers Anthony

ps- please leave a comment if you've had any Experience in this area at all :>)


  1. if you are still interested you should be able to get oil of wintergreen at the chemist if they stock aromatherapy oils.


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