New Polymer Clay Image Transfer Technique That Works with InkJets

2009 New Years Resolutions

Credit to Valerie Aharoni For Sharing This Cool Photo Transfer Technique:

As you may already know, I am a big fan of polymer clay techniques that are inexpensive, easy to do and that use supplies which are commonly available. That is why I like the toner method for transferring images onto polymer clay. This toner transfer technique allows you to use images from a laser printer/copier on regular paper. If done properly, you can have great success doing polymer clay image transfers cheaply and easily.

Well just the other day, I discovered another photo transfer technique as presented by polymer clay artist Valerie Aharoni. At her blog, she describes how to use kitchen parchment paper instead of copy paper. Very interesting! Her technique works with both laser printers AND ink jet printers. This is very exciting to me since inkjet printers are much more common than laser printers… at least in the home environment.

As it turns out, some people were attempting to use freezer paper for transfers. The theory being that since freezer paper has a waxy side, the ink would not stick as well to the paper, and it would therefore transfer more easily to the clay. The problem is that the ink beads up on the waxy layer, which can cause images to blur or become fuzzy.

From what I read, it looks like Valerie solved the ink beading problem by using parchment paper as a less waxy alternative to the freezer paper. And her idea worked with every type of printer she tested… laser and inkjet. Plus she found the technique to work with both water based ink as well as with water proof inks. Way to go Valerie!!!

What a break through! Imagine… no more running to the copy store for Xerox copies. No more borrowing your friends printer. No more ordering special papers on the internet!

Go check out Valerie Aharoni’s site. She has pictures of parchment paper image transfers to polymer clay using an inkjet printer. She also has an earlier December 18th post that shows samples of using laser copies and how she came up with the technique. Leave her a comment and please do tell her I sent you.

Also give it a try yourself and come back here to let me know how it worked for you. I am so excited to try it myself…  problem is I used up all my parchment paper baking for the holidays. Looks like I’m going to have to do a Costco run for another mega-roll of parchment for the studio. Stay tuned… I’ll post more about this new image transfer technique soon.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


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Comments

  1. I simply cannot wait to try this!!! I tried to leave a comment at Valerie’s site, but couldn’t get it to work. I so appreciate both of you sharing your ideas and creativity with all of us!

    • @Marsha:
      Hi Marsha,
      The parchment I use is packaged for commercial use and comes flat in large 16×24″ sheets. 1000 sheets to the box is the only way I have seen it sold.
      I do sell precut sheets 20/package for everyone to try before investing in that huge commercial box.

      Also for those using inkjets where the ink is not permanent on the clay after curing, I tested a sealant. You can see my results on my blog. It is called PYM II. I do believe Shades of Clay in Canada is carrying the product. It is unbelievable! (no connection, just a very happy find!). I use it all the time to seal my Krylon gold.

      take care,
      Valerie

  2. Me too Marsha!!! Unfortunately haven’t had the chance to get to Costco and buy parchment paper yet, being the holidays and all! Also our ink jet printer is low on ink and isn’t printing all the colors. Will have to pick of some of that too! Could try it on my laser printer though. Will let you know how it goes!

  3. Dear Cindy,

    I tried this awesome technique,too,
    and was impressed, how good my (german;-)
    baking parchment held the colour…
    The transfer onto the clay went easy and
    looked very promising, but, unfortunately
    the inks didn’t “heat-set” in the oven…
    I think there’s a difference in the inks,
    the printer uses. Mine is a CANON Pixma…

    Many greetings from Germany,

    Susanne

  4. Hi Cindy,
    I just googled myself and found this! What a wonderful entry. I am selling baking parchment thru my Etsy shop at a very nominal cost (less than $5 for 20 sheets and that includes shipping to US & Canada). I want to make it possible for everyone to give it a try.
    I am also of the school that art should be enjoyable. Overpriced supplies and inaccessibility decrease that joy for me!

  5. @Susanne: That’s too bad! I was wondering if you were to trap the ink in a very thin layer of translucent if that would solve the ‘ink not setting’ problem? It would be nice if you could get the technique to work for you with your current printer! Let me know if you try to seal the ink in in some way. I’d love to know if it works!

    @Valerie: Thank you! I tried to do a trackback to this post on your blog but it didn’t work. Congratulations on getting ‘Best in Show’ in Beadstar Magazine! You must be giddy with pride! What a fantastic honor… there was a lot of beautiful work submitted!

    **BTW for anyone in Canada and the US that is looking for parchment paper that works I found a paper at Costco that works that I will be posting about tomorrow or the next day so look for that.

  6. I have been all over the net looking for inkjet info for transfer. Thought only toner would do. Got all the materials. Can’t wait to get going. Yeah! Thanks Cindy

  7. Sorry about all the problems with my weblog. Please make sure you are at valerieaharoni.com NOT valerieaharoni.blogspot.com. The second one Blogger is working on…there is a problem on their end.

    Re posting comments and link backs, sometimes it takes more than one try…again a Blogger issue. Please try. I do so enjoy ‘seeing’ you!

    Cindy are the papers from Costco ‘pan liners’? That seems to be the ones that work the best. However as I have mentioned, I have tried 3 brands and all work!

    Hi Susanne! As I mentioned to Susanne, I am using a new spray fixative that is very promising. I have it on clay now for about 4 months. Another couple of months and I will advise everyone of its magic! I sppoke to the chemist who developed it and we discussed its use on polymer clays and he is certain it will be just fine. I am in the process of proving it! I am very excited. I was looking for something to seal the metallic Krylon pen inks. I have this issue of the ink rubbing off the edges of items after wear. This spray goes over the Krylon beautifully! I have since sprayed a pendant I received from another artist that was tacky and it dried smooth, no tackiness and clear. I am excited….another couple of months…

  8. @Mary Ellen: That’s exactly what I said when I read about it… Yeah! It sure is exciting when a technique becomes easier, faster, cheaper and can be done with more than one type of equipment!

    @Valerie: Yeah, it seemed like there was some script running in the background on your blog, cause it had trouble loading and some of my readers tried commenting there and it didn’t work. Good to know about using the right link… Thanks!

    If you read the post I wrote today (link by my name) you will see the paper I used. It comes in a giant roll and it extremely cheap. I posted my results if you’re interested.

    The Krylon spray sounds really promising. Do come back and let us know how it holds up! If it works it may be a great product to use to seal in pigmented powders too! Very exciting!

    I am so happy I ran across you!! People that experiment are my kind of people!

  9. Paying my respects to your excellent polymer clay site, Cindy! My apologies – I visited the last 2 times without dropping any comments. I get unfocused sometimes!! >,<

    I tried to get the image transfer materials from an Australian supplier but the very odd thing was, no matter how many times I asked for a price and address to send my cheque, their email reply was like a tape-recorder. Those days (about 5 years ago) you could seldom find one online supplier who sold such stuff.

    Now it all seems easier as you can find online retailers offering everything you ever need for polymer clay.

    BTW Cindy, yours is a very good example of why hobbyists and professional craftsmen should start a blog! I will return because you have so many stuff here to read!

  10. Thank you Kelly! Yeah I can sure see the difference in what’s available online now than even just 6 months ago! It is just so much more convenient to sit down at your computer and type for what you need rather than go from store to store looking! Same thing goes for taking classes. It is so much nicer to watch a video online over and over until you get it, than to be rushed along in a class and forget it all! Isn’t it amazing how things have changed?!

  11. Hi Cindy–
    quick question; is the Costco parchment paper you’re referring to the same as the big roll of the butcher’s paper? I have some here at home but haven’t tried it in the printer yet.

  12. The paper I used is not butcher’s paper, which is a little different material. If you want to see the exact brand and what the box looks like, click the link by my name and you will go straight to a post with the info.

  13. Unfortunately I tried the parchment from Valerie with all 3 of my inkjets (Canon, HP and Epson) and all of them with same result. All transfers got sort of a ‘droplet effect’, that is they bead on the parchment and because they are wet, one cannot ‘burnish’ them onto clay or the ink spreads. I tried regular printing, higher resolution, less ink…nothing works…the transfers all bead on parchment and smear/spread on clay. This method still works best with a laser, not an inkjet.
    My best method for inkjet still holds for me. I wrote an article years ago in PolymerCAFE about using Varathane as a transfer medium for inkjet. All you need is high quality or Photo quality Ink Jet Paper by Epson. It is High resolution coated paper. Brush varathane onto raw light coloured polymer clay, burnish transfer onto it, bake, soak and peel off.

  14. That’s too bad about the parchment not working for you Tina but the Varathane things sounds really cool! Will have to try that myself! How about the paper, is it expensive or hard to find?

  15. Hi Cindy,
    I just saw a craft show that used a product called “Perfect Printing Pouch”. Since I have tried to print on parchment paper on the inkjet to do a transfer without much success on the printing, I began to wonder if this product would work better for the transfer process. Do you have any knowledge of the printing pouch? The craft show was using it to print on vellum paper, which doen not print well with ink. They also used it for stamping. You run the pouch over the paper or object before printing and there is no bleeding or ink bubbling up.
    Sounds like it might work.
    B

  16. So excited to find this thread! Cindy, have you had luck with the parchment paper? I have the kind that is on a roll that you can just buy at the supermarket and would love to try this. I was thinking a thin sheet of transcluscent over the top would be protective, I wonder how the spray coating worked? Is there a name for that?

    And how about the Varathane method? That sounds promising!

    All the best for 2010!

    • @VAharoni:

      Thanks so much Valarie! Your work is really, really awesome! I would love to buy some sheets from you, can you let me know how to do this?

      Also, I bought the Varafane, water based acrylic finish. It looks like that is another method though. So Valerie, with your method you just burnish, remove the parchment and then bake? And I assume then add a finish such as Future or the Varafane?

      P.S. I have not even made any beads yet because I’m waiting for my supplies to arrive! I work with wire and found Cindy’s site and got so excited! I don’t have any classes around me and her video instruction is like a one on one personal class and I can’t wait for all of my clay tolls and materials to arrive and start playing! I, of course, want to do some canes and beads but this transfer looks so fun and neat too!

      Many thanks! Malinda

      • @MalindaJ:
        Hi Malinda,
        I do not care for Varathane or Future or any of the other brush on sealers/finishes.
        I only add a finish if the transfer/surface is not stable. I do not usually use any type of finish routinely. I prefer to sand and buff.
        With laser prints there is no need to use a fixative.

        enjoy the clay,
        Valerie

  17. Yes thank you Valerie for helping Malinda. That was very kind of you!

    @Malinda: Thank you for your kind words about the tutorials! I am so glad that you like them. For the inkjet image transfers, not every ink is permanent even after baking and may smudge if you’re using a brush on liquid like Varathane. The PYM II Spray is your best bet for this technique. I love the stuff and use it on many of my polymer clay beads and pendants including image transfers. If you want to read about it and get the links where you can buy it, click the link by my name.

    Try not to wait too long before you start making beads. You don’t need a whole bunch of stuff first. Just get a lump of clay and start working with it. You are really going to enjoy the whole process. Glad to have you along for the ride!

  18. Thank you Cindy! I’ll check that out. BTW, that flexible ruler you use….I can NOT find one anywhere!! Do you know where I might be able to find one?

    Oh yes! I will be starting with the beads first ; ) I just need my clay to get here!! I can’t wait to get my hands in it. I’ll just have to make sure my computer is right near by, I may need to do a lot of stop, rewind, starts on your tuts ; )

  19. @Melinda: I don’t remember where I found the flexible ruler, but you could keep an eye out for them in an office supply or even a dollar store. I bet you are excited for your clay to arrive! It is very fun and you are really going to love making beads!

    @Valerie: I agree. I prefer to sand and buff all my pieces rather than add a finish. Like you said, there are times when you may need it to protect a transfer, mica powder, ink pen etc. or when you need that extra shine. Thanks for all your help! I really appreciate it!

  20. Hi, gals.

    Just found this wonderful blog and the ones related. I’m a totally beginner in transfering image on polymer clay. I will definetely try to use my baking paper (seems we have the same name as aussies do). Unfortunatelly, I live in Eastern Europe and there’s no way I’ll find the brands you, girls, mentioned here.

    I used the “parchment” paper, as you call it, in a different purpose than designed. Since I bind books and diaries, and sometimes I need to “cure” the pages at old books, I discovered the best paper for sticking 2 pages together is baking paper.

    Thanks for all secretes revealed here:)

  21. So exactly how do I apply the parchment paper to the clay? Do I bake the clay with the paper on top or not? I am making clay ornaments and want to use a face I drew in Paint.

    • @Cazimi: You are so welcome Cazimi! It is wonderful to have you here all the way from Eastern Europe!

      @Tasha: When I have done this method, I just laid the inked parchment down carefully on the clay to avoid smudging, pressed lightly on the the back of the paper to transfer the image and then lifted the paper off before baking. This method is kind of experimental, depending on the brand of paper etc. so you may need to come up with a system of your own. Let us know how it goes. I am sure everyone would appreciate learning about your methods as well!

  22. I really like the toner transfers and have awesome luck until I go to bake them. For the first 5 or 10 minutes in the oven the transfer is perfect in colour and clarity, but after that it tends to bleed and turn colour. I have tried tenting the pieces but still love some of the vibrancy. I haven’t tried a layer of translucent clay over the images as I want to keep the image clean without any cloudiness. Can anyone tell me how to keep my images clean and clear throughout the baking process?

    • @Janet: Hmmm that’s strange. Are you using a laser printer, photocopier or a inkjet printer? What kind of paper are you using? Are you baking it right away? Or are you letting them sit there for awhile? If you could add a few more details, that would be helpful.

  23. I am using copies made from a laser printer on regular copy paper. It is nice and smooth when I remove the paper backing by rubbing it under water. It looks perfect for about the first few minutes, then the colours seem to change. I am using Kato white clay at the thickest setting and baking it at about 275 to 300 degrees. I tent the piece as it is baking. Some of the ink seems to turn a green colour. I tried tonight to apply a thin coat of clear liquid polymer before I baked it to see if that would set the colours better, but it didn’t help much. I really like the ease of use, but am not happy with the baking results. Maybe I should try a different copier. I might take some of my prints to the local Staples and see if their copies turn out better. Any suggestions you or anyone else reading this could provide would be most appreciated.

    • @Janet: I saw the K word (Kato), and since this Kato Kid hadn’t actually tried laser toner transfers yet I thought I’d give it a go.

      I didn’t have any discolouration or degradation: my baked transferred image is sharp and black, and the clay is still bright white. I didn’t tent the piece (I’ve never needed to), and I baked it at 150C/300F for 30 minutes (my test piece was a bit thinner than yours, but I might re-bake it to make it even harder).

      You might be on the right track regarding the copier, or more specifically the toner it uses, as I’ve heard of problems with that before and have also heard people say that their toner gives a dark blue image instead of black. My copier is a Brother MFC-7420, and I use genuine Brother toner in it. The paper I used was Reflex Ultra White, a common decent-quality paper here Down Under.

      The other thing is that I didn’t rub the paper off “under water”, as such. I just sprayed the paper lightly with water, rubbed some paper off, sprayed again lightly, and so on, so the whole thing only ever got damp. This is how I’ve seen Donna Kato do it in one of her videos, and she said that if you use too much water it tends to get under the toner. That would probably be more a factor for image quality rather than colour, but I figured I’d mention it anyway.

      I was really happy with how my test transfer turned out, so I’m definitely going to use the technique “for real” soon. I hope you have more luck with it on your next attempt!

  24. Thanks Sue for your comments. More and more I am convinced it is the ink. I tried a couple of more transfers tonight with the same result. I meant to go to Staples today and get a couple of coloured copies done there and try them, but didn’t have time. I tried an inkjet transfer using some t-shirt transfer paper I had in the house and it worked beautifully, but I really like the toner copies as they are less expensive just because of the cost of the transfer papers. When I get a chance to try to the different copies I will post up my results. I really appreciate your insight and you have given me encouragement to keep trying.

  25. Hey Sue, we were right it was all about the copier. I didn’t realize it until yesterday that our copier at work uses these little coloured cubes that look like wax to create the colour copies. I took a sheet of the same images I had been using to Staples and printed out a few copies, and voila perfect images. Thank you so much for your assistance and direction. I am now on a mission to create new and exciting jewelry pieces using this technique. BTW please keep the Kato recipes coming. I have created each set you have sent. If I can squeeze the time into my schedule to create a few myself, I will post them up as they are finished. Thanks again.

    • @Janet: As you can see… Sue-F is a wonderful resource person to get to know here in the community. Her feedback is truly invaluable!

      @Karon C: Thank you so much for your comments about the new “Easy” shopping cart system, for purchasing multiple back issues in a single transaction.

      For the benefit of others, here is how the new ordering process works:

      At the BACK-ISSUE page (the link by my name just above will take you there), you will see that it now says “Add to Cart” below each back issue package listed.

      Each “Add To Cart” selection you make, will add that item to your Shopping Cart. At the bottom of the Shopping Cart page is a “Continue Shopping” link that will return you to the BACK-ISSUE page, where you can make additional “Add to Cart” selections as desired.

      When you are done creating your special order, simply click on the green “Check Out” button at the bottom of the Shopping Cart page. That will take you to the page where you can make your secure credit card payment.

      There is even an option to still use PayPal if you really want to or need to :-)

      PS: @Karon C: It’s wonderful to hear that your son is also taking an interest in polymer clay. I love it!

    • @Janet: It’s great to hear that you’ve got your transfer problems sorted out!

      If you’re interested in more Kato recipes, Shades of Clay have just added some metallic recipes from Tony Aquino of Van Aken International to their web site:

      shadesofclay.com/more/Color%20Recipes.htm#Metallic_Recipes

      I haven’t made them up yet (although some of my own colours are similar, generally without the addition of translucent) but I’m going to!

      There are other colour recipes on the same page for approximating various packaged colours of other brands using Kato (scroll up from where the above link lands you), and if you haven’t already seen it, they have an awesome chart for mixing a whole range of colours across the spectrum, which is a handy starting point for maixing any colour you want as well as a good way of getting a feel for Kato’s colour mixing characteristics:

      shadesofclay.com/more/Images/Colour%20Mixing%20Chart.jpg

      I wish I had more time to clay! LOL

  26. Cindy,
    Just a quick note to again say thank you for all you do. I LOVE the new order system!!!! Easy to order more than one back issue at a time and easy to check out! NO more cancels from paypal. I love it.
    By the way , my son is now doing clay as well so I am Very excited to see the pleasure that he is getting from playing with clay and gives us one more thing that we can do together. So again thank you for all your hard work and worrying about us and the paypal system.
    Hugs, Karonkay

  27. Thanks Sue, I did notice those there and thought with the extra 4-5 hours a night that I usually reserve for sleeping I might be able to do an all nighter and make up a bunch and try them out. I like you find it tough to spare some “create” time with my Kato. Maybe this weekend…………..

  28. hey guys – this is BRILL, so informative! thank you! I was wondering if anyone knows the best type of paper that is available to buy in the UK? thank you :)

  29. Clare,
    The Dixie brand of the parchment pan liners are manufactured in France. Possibly ask a bakery where they source the parchment liners for their pans. I cannot imagine they use anything different than the vegetable silicone parchment liners used for the transfers.
    It is the brand name that will change. Since packaging has arabic, english, french and hebrew (and a few more) on it, I believe the product has an international footprint.

    Please post what you find!

  30. Thank you very much! I will see what I can find! Wish me luck :) so far I’ve just used my local printers to get laser prints which have worked fab, just want to be able to use my inkjet in future! :) thanks again! X

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