Image Transfer To Polymer Clay – Tutorial Using Toner Based Copies

Image Transfer Onto Polymer Clay

Vid #77: How To Photo Transfer Instructions Using Sculpey Clay and Your Photocopied or Laser Printed Images:

One of the coolest polymer clay techniques you can learn, is how to do an image transfer onto clay. There are many techniques for doing this, but the toner transfer method is by far the simplest one. It’s cheap and easy because you use images produced by a regular photocopy machine or laser printer on regular paper.

If you are have access to a color laser printer or a commercial color printer that uses toner ink, then you can even do this technique in color. Please note that the toner image transfer method doe NOT work using an ink-jet, bubble-jet, desk-jet or any liquid ink printer.

Here’s the Step by Step Instructions:

1) Prepare the clay by conditioning some white or light colored polymer clay and roll into a flat sheet using your pasta machine at the thickest setting. Place sheet on a smooth ceramic tile that can be baked on.

2) Cut out your toner based photocopy or laser printed image to a manageable size. Since only the ink from the paper will be transferred onto the clay, you don’t need to worry about cutting too neatly around the image.

3) Place your paper image face down onto your prepared polymer clay where you want the image to be transferred. You can cut around the image later so the positioning does not need to be perfect at this time.

4) Using a small piece of paper as a burnishing tool, gently rub the back of your image to be transferred, until you know that it is in full contact with the polymer clay. You could just use your fingers here, but the paper slides nicely on the surface and keeps the surrounding clay clean.

5) Now you need to get the paper and your clay wet. You can do this under cold running water. Make sure to NOT use warm or hot water as the image will smear.

6) Now very lightly with your fingers, rub off the wet paper in a circular motion starting from the center and then working outwards. The paper will start to ball up under your fingers and can be easily rinsed away. You will continue with this gentle removal of the paper until all the paper is completely gone. Try not to leave any traces of paper, because it becomes hard to remove after it is baked.

7) Now that the image is clean and paper free, it can be trimmed. It is important to leave the clay stuck to the tile and not to try and move it. Moving the clay will stretch and distort the image … something you probably do not want.

8) Bake your image transfer pendant directly on the ceramic tile. Make sure to bake your piece as soon as possible after transferring the image onto the clay. Do not touch the image surface of the unbaked clay, especially if it has been sitting for awhile as it will smear easily.

9) After baking, sand the edges and the back of the pendant really well using several successive grits of wet-dry sandpaper. But be careful not to sand the image transfer surface directly, since this would quickly erase the thin layer of ink on the surface of the clay. Buffing the photo transfer surface by hand with a cloth is much safer than sanding it

For more info, here’s some additional resources about doing image transfers onto polymer clay using the toner transfer method:

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor





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The full version of the Image Transfer preview video shown above, is available for purchase at my Polymer Clay Bead Making Videos Library in the Volume-006 Back Issue Package.

In the “Image Transfer” video I walk you step by step on how to use the toner transfer method to apply images from a regular photo copier or laser printer to polymer clay.

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Comments

  1. Have you ever done image transfers? Have you had a hard time finding the right materials, or getting the technique right? Please do share your transfer stories or ask your questions below!

  2. Cindy,

    Thank you so much for showing this technique in video. I did see you explain the technique on your HUB. I really have gotten much more now from seeing it done…in action.

    So, do I first use my inkjet printer and print off some images, and then take that paper to a print shop (like Kinkos) and ask them to make a copy with their toner printer? Will I need to print the image in reverse on my own printer to start with?

    I am really looking forward to using this technique…thanks so much!

    Hugs to you,
    Cindy E.

  3. It just goes to show you, no matter how good the written tutorial is, a good video is always better!

    PS. I am very glad you found me Cindy E… you have been a fantastic customer and a joy to have you in our community!!!

  4. Hello Cindy. I’m also reading about burnishing tools. What is the best burnishing tool to use for the process of transferring an image. I’m worried that if I push to hard on the clay that it will stretch or disfigure the image. Thanks, Lisa

  5. Hi Lisa! Actually you don’t need to purchase a special burnisher to do this technique. I use a small square of paper to rub over the surface.

    You would definitely benefit from seeing my tutorial videos on this image transfer technique. All your questions (and then some) would be answered when you can actually see how to do the image transfer, rather than just reading about it.

    The main image transfer video and another one on the mistakes to avoid, are in volume 6 in the Polymer Clay Tutor Video Library. It costs $9.95 for a three month membership and each week includes a video tutorial (like the image transfer one) and a free color mixing recipe card. That means you get at least 4 videos and 4 recipes each month.

    If you like, click on the link by my name to learn more about the membership.

  6. Thank you for making the Toner Image Transfer video available as a special surprise bonus to your newsletter recipients. I’ll have to think of something to try this out on!

  7. Thank you for sharing that tutorial. It brings up so many ideas! As a beginner, I am so grateful to have found your website…and all the help you put out there for us to have access to. It is immeasurably valuable!!

  8. Hi,
    Do you use just regular paper for this? And a normal photocopier? (I’m in the UK!).
    Does the image on the paper have to be freshly printed?
    Thanks
    Sally

  9. That was fantastic, I made a block of faux ivory and have a book of ancient Egyptian pictures that I have been wanting to do something with, many of the images are way too complicated to try scrimshaw with but this may just be what I need. How would one tint the image after transfering it to the clay?
    I think I will be playing with my faux ivory this weekend.

  10. Cindy:
    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us. I have been making jewlery about a year now and got some clay for Christmas. Happened on one of your videos and now am hooked on wire wrapping AND clay. My husband hardly ever sees me anymore. :) I am anxious to try this transfer technique. I tried the ink jet printer on parchment paper but haven’t found the right parchment paper yet I guess, as the ink just beads up and then smears. I will keep trying though.

  11. Just wanted to ask that maybe in the future you could teach how to do the ink jet transfer. I enjoyed the toner, but I have a inkjet and can’t find out how to do them. Love your site, thank you for all you do.
    Theresa

  12. Hi Cindy,

    I’m fairly new to your newsletter and tutorials, but I have to say I love the new look. It is so much cleaner and easy to focus on the main thing. Great job. I’ve enjoyed all the tutorials so far and I am very new to the polymer clay crowd so all your tips have been very helpful. Thanks for taking the time and energy to put this together for us novices.

    Have a sparkling weekend,
    Shana

  13. Hi Cindy,

    I just recently discovered your web site and I couldn’t be more excited. I have always dabbled in artistic projects but just discovered polymer clay a few years ago and fell in love with the medium. I bought a few books, which I’m crazy about but nothing compares to your wonderful tutorials. What an incredible way to learn and what a generous soul you are for sharing your wisdom and incredible talent.

    I get so excited every time I get your emails and almost get overwhelmed because there are so many techniques and projects I want to experiment with!! LOL

    Also, I wanted to get your opinion on something. I work full-time but have been looking for ways to supplement my income and a way to feed my creative hunger. Do you think there is a good market for making/selling poly clay jewelry/items on the internet or in other venues? Ive seen some really neat items made and it just seems that there would be an audience who would purchase these. However, being so new to this I’m just not sure.

    Again, thank you for all that you do and share with the rest of the artists in the world. It is greatly appreciated.

    All the best,
    Jon

  14. Neato! I was wondering how this was done – I thought a special type of transfer paper had to be used. I am amazed that the image does not smear while you are removing the paper….
    Question: to tent the piece, can foil be used instead of parchment?
    Does this work with COLOR laser copies too?

    What type of tile do you use for baking flat items upon? Just one from a DIY store? Glazed or unglazed?

    Thanks again for all your cool tips!

    Lori

  15. Thanks for the free video on tranfering images.

    I’ve been forced to take a break from working with the polymer clay because I dislocated my finger on my left hand and have a six week recovery before I can use both my hands again. Hugh!!!

    Thanks again. I will be trying your method as soon as I can.

  16. Hi Cindy,

    Really like the larger pictures! Miss the card hunt because it makes me review each week. Concerning the new format of only one week to access the second recipe; those of us who have to miss reading the blog every week and are members will lose a very useful resource. I for one must be gone frequently for long stretches without computer access to care for family members. How can we get access to the recipes we miss. Believe me I read every email just not in what maybe considered timely.

    Thanks for listening.

    MJ

  17. Hi Cindy
    have been following you for nearly a year now.
    Thank you for the Toner Image tutorial.
    very usuful and thank you for making it free to all.
    I would love to join your members so I could buy these tutorials but not sure how, seeing I am not in the States.
    Love it when your newsletter pops up on my computer.
    Thanks again
    Elizabeth.

  18. Hi Cindy, I have just watched your video clip, a fabulous result and how easy you make it look. I’m very new to working with Polymer Clay and have a question to ask. Is there a way of recognising an image as a lasar or toner print. A certain surface finish perhaps to indicate this is the correct image for me to use in attempting to transfer onto polymer clay. I have a Canon Pixma MP110 and feel any print I copy will not be suitable. Thanks so much for passing on your knowledge to this novice, I look forward to receiving your email as I know I will always learn another tip to assist me in my creativity. Toodles Maggie (From the land down under:Australia)

  19. FYI: For anyone just popping into this thread now, the flurry of responses above since March 13, are because I opened up free access to the members video advertised on this page for a short 4 day window. It’s one of the perks of being a subscriber to my email newsletter. You can find out more about how this polymer clay newsletter works by clicking the link by my name just above.

    Glad to see that the video was appreciated. Thanks to all of you for sharing your comments and kind words.

    With regards to the questions that were asked about this polymer clay image transfer technique, I addressed all of them here: Photo Image Transfer Q+A

    @Jonathan Williams: Your question about generating supplemental income to feed your “creative hunger” (love how you phrased that btw), will be addressed in tomorrow’s article. So stay tuned…

  20. UPDATE: The article about generating supplemental income from selling your beads and jewelry has now been posted. You can access it by following the link by my name above.

  21. When you purchase a tutorial, are you only buying access to that tutorial for 5 years? Can it be downloaded?

    Thank you
    Mary

  22. Hi Mary,

    I use PayPal to process payments for my library tutorials, and their system requires that I set up an access time limit. I chose their maximum setting of 5 years for the stand alone, one time fee back issue packages. However, this limit does not apply for ongoing subscription members in good standing.

    In regards to saving the videos to your hard drive, it is not possible at this time. I’m using a “streaming” video file format that makes it possible for most everyone around the world to watch on most any kind of computer. To make the videos downloadable, I would need to create a second type of video file format that works on iPods and such. It’s on my list of things to do… if only there were more hours in the day to get everything done as quick as I would like :)

    One thing to note about how the subscription library is currently set up, is that as long as you keep your payments current, the videos that accumulate in your account never expire. So even if you travel or are away from the internet for a while, all of the new content (and the archived content) will be there when you get back.

  23. I’m just now getting to this site; I have been trying with no luck on getting to stay transfered after getting ALL the paper off. I get to the last little bit and it all starts coming off. help

    • @cyndy: So sorry for not getting to your request for help, sooner. Sometimes there is just too much going on around here to keep up!

      Anyways, that is a pretty common problem. All the answers you need for doing this kind of image transfer in the Vol-006-1 and Vol-006-2 tutorial videos in the Polymer Clay Video Library. If you are a member you should go re-watch those videos, because although it is quite a simple technique there are definitely a few mistakes that can be avoided when doing Toner Image Transfers that I cover in both videos.

      If you are not yet a member, you should consider purchasing the Back Issue Vol-006. The $9.95 fee includes 4 videos and 4 color mixing recipes, which you will find are well worth the price. Click the link by my name for more info.

  24. Hello all,

    I was doing some research on printers for image transfer and I found some LED printers. Does anyone know if these are toner based? It looks like they use laser cartridges.

    Thank you,

    Rada

  25. Hi Rada, I Googled LED printers, and they are a type of laser printer. So, they should work fine for this technique. Ink-jet printers and others that use liquid ink cannot be used for this one…but the laser printers & those using toner are perfect! Have fun!
    ~Kat Riverside, CA USA — Where are you from?

    • @Phaedrakat: Awesome! Thank you for your reply :). I’ve used inkjet printouts, but I had to cover them with Liquid Sculpey so the image wouldn’t get ruined; I didn’t really get any perfect results. I do a lot of original artwork (mostly metaphysical) in Photoshop and wanted to incorporate that into the polymer clay media. Currently I’m in Anchorage, Alaska, but as soon as my hubby gets military orders somewhere else, we will be moving. I’ve moved pretty much every 6 years, so I don’t really have a place that I call home at this point.

    • Hi Doda, I have never heard of anyone having issues with toner based transfers. All of the laser printers and copiers that I’ve tried, have been no problem. I wonder if they are changing the inks somehow? I have a little Samsung Laser printer I got at Costco a couple of years ago that works great. The number on the top of the machine is ML-1865. Hope that helps!

  26. I have tried this technique a few times- I saw it printed in a book I found at half price books…It has never worked well for me. I always have the copies made at Fed Ex since I have an inkjet at home. I have had semi success with black and white images, but they tend to be faded or blurry.
    The other problem I have is the paper coming off in two layers. One layer comes off and the other stays on the clay. Trying to remove it blurs the image and baking it on there makes it peel.
    I Googled and tried using alcohol instead of water with zero luck.

    • Hi Marisa, I am not sure whether you actually saw my video on the technique or someone else’s but if you are using toner copies using regular office paper (not some fancy coated paper), then there should be much problem removing the paper with water like I show you in the video. Use cold water rather than hot so the image doesn’t smudge. You could also pop your piece into the fridge for a bit if your clay is getting too soft. Let us know if these tips help!

      • Yep, regular office paper. They are always too faded or they smear and fade getting the paper off. It always comes off in two laters and if I don’t get the second layer off completely then when it bakes it peels off etc. The luck I have had is only with black and whites. The color ones never even transfer, just a ghost of them with no details. I then tried the liquid Sculpey transfer and only black and whites transfer again and so faded it isn’t worth it. They turn a sepia color. I went to Micheals to try Mod Podge but the girl said they are all the same (clearly not) and she has never used them because she didn’t have time. Another girl said they work different for everyone? Now I am trying t-shirt transfers, but they don’t transfer without glaze and even then the paper poops up in the oven and that spot doesn’t transfer.

        • Hi Marissa, your results don’t sound right. Are you sure you are following my tutorial? Or are you using someone else’s? And are you positive you are using a laser printer or toner copier and not an inkjet? Because you should not be having these kinds of issues with the transfers using solid clay or liquid clay. Lastly, which brand of clay are you using? Maybe that is your problem?

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