Photo Image Transfer onto Polymer Clay Using Toner or Laser Copies

Photo Image Transfer On Polymer Clay Canes Into Thirds

Answers to all Your Polymer Clay Photo Transfer Questions:

Over the past weekend (actually from Friday to Monday – 4 days), I opened up free access for everyone to view another video tutorial in the Polymer Clay Members Library. It coincided with the recent changes and improvements to my weekly email newsletter.

If you don’t yet know about these changes and improvements, you can find out here: Special Surprise Every Week For Polymer Clay Newsletter Subscribers

Whenever I allow limited free access to member videos, my only request is that you leave a comment. And that is exactly what happened this past weekend over at the Volume-006-1: Polymer Clay Image Transfer Video [Vid #77].

A lot of those comments came in the form of questions… which I’ll address in today’s article. Only the comments (or parts of comments) that included a question are re-posted below. To see all of the feedback, tips, ideas and opinions, please click on the link in the previous paragraph to go to the original article.

Q1: 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? ~Cindy Erickson

A1: Since this particular technique only works with images printed using toner ink your suggestion for printing on your inkjet printer and taking to Kinkos is a great idea. Reverse printing at home first is also a good idea since the image gets flipped when transferred.

Q2: 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 too hard on the clay that it will stretch or disfigure the image. ~Lisa Cobb

A2: In the video I show you how to use a small square of paper as a burnishing tool. You will find with light pressure this is all you will need to burnish the image onto the clay.

Q3: Is there any fixative/sealer you can recommend? ~Monelle Richmond

A3: I like to use Future Floor Finish or Varathane as a sealer.

Q4: 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? ~Sally

A4: Normal office paper is perfect as well as a normal copier or laser printer. I don’t really know how fresh the ink has to be. I’ve done it without a problem with images that were a few weeks old, but haven’t tried it with really old images yet. [BTW: Toner ink in normal photocopiers and laser printers is the powdered ink in a cartridge and it is set with heat. But Inkjet printers which are more commonly used in homes, use liquid ink that is sprayed onto paper. Inkjet copies don’t work for the toner image transfer technique described in the Vol-006-1 Video Tutorial].

Q5: How would one tint the image after transfering it to the clay? ~Ken

A5: After the image is baked you can tint your image with alcohol ink, but a really cool technique is to color the photocopy before transferring with watercolor artists pencils like Staedtler’s Aquarell pencils. Practice first on scrap clay though, because the pencil can smudge a little if you are not careful.

Q6: 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. ~Lori

A6: The inkjet on parchment paper transfer technique you are talking about is really easy but you’re right, you will need the right type of parchment paper. Here’s that article if you missed it: New Polymer Clay Image Transfer Technique That Works with InkJet

Q7: 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. ~Theresa

A7: Try the parchment paper technique I linked to just above and see if that works for you. And be sure to read through all the comments at that other article page for more even more valuable tips.

Q8: 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? ~Lori

A8: I prefer not to use tinfoil to tent my beads as it will conduct the heat and may cause a temperature spike. Yes the technique works for colored laser and colored photocopies too. Any tile glazed or unglazed will do as long as it is perfectly smooth.

Q9: I think that it looks very easy, but does it work with HP inkjet printers? ~Janet

A9: No, it only works for laser printed or photocopies. You can try the parchment paper transfer technique I have linked to several responses above, and see if that works for you. Or you can take images you print from your computer and take them to a copy place.

Q10: Is there a way of recognizing an image as a laser 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. ~Maggie Ellis

A10: I’m not positive but I think inkjet printed images run their color when they get wet. Laser copy ink does not run, I do know that. If your printer uses liquid ink in the small cartridges then it is an inkjet printer. Laser printers and photocopiers use powdered ink in large cartridges which has to be heat set with hot rollers to work. Take a look inside your printer to see the type of ink it uses and you will have your answer.

There you have it. Feel free to ask any follow up questions in the comment section below. To see all of the feedback, tips, ideas and opinions, besides the questions posted above, please click here: Polymer Clay Image Transfer Comments

For those who have just discovered this site and would have loved to have seen the photo transfer video, be sure not to miss out on the the next special bonus surprise. Subscribe today: Polymer Clay Tutor Newsletter

And if you want to purchase the Vol-006-1 video that we have been disussing today, you can do that here: Polymer Clay Toner Image Transfer

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Cindy Lietz, 19 March, 2009

    Anything else you guys are dying to get answers for? Just ask… that’s what I’m here for!

  2. Tina, 19 March, 2009

    [Pingback…] 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… [end Pingback]

  3. Chanel, 24 March, 2009


    I am a beginner using polymer clay but I love the suggestion concerning the parchment paper. However, I have a question that may sound dumb but sorry…where do I get my images? Can I make my own?

    Thank you so much. Be Blessed.

  4. Cindy Lietz, 24 March, 2009

    Hi Chanel! Your question is not dumb at all. You can certainly make your own images. Photos, drawings, digital art, photocopies and scans all can be photo transferred. Anything you can print or photocopy will work. Be careful of using copyright images though, especially if you plan to sell your work.

  5. Chanel, 25 March, 2009

    Thanks Cindy,

    And I will definitely be on board your ‘teacher train’ to drain you of all your wonderful knowledge…very soon. I just need to get me some good ole supplies!!

    Be Blessed and thanks for your gift and patience.


  6. Cindy Lietz, 25 March, 2009

    You’re welcome Chanel!

  7. Carrie, 30 June, 2009

    I tried your method of image transfer today and got the transfers on the clay perfect first try! When I baked them however the colors got a bit dull. Will Future Finish make them pop again? Am I doing something wrong? I baked at 250 degrees for about 25 minutes. My white backgrounds also got a little brown looking, which I know, is from a dirty oven, or I found a site that said Sculpey burns quicker and easier than other brands.Incase my problem is the oven, how do I clean it so this will stop? Thanks again!

  8. Carrie, 30 June, 2009

    By the way, I tried the parchment method with my HP Photosmart printer, the images printed ok, just a lot lighter. When I put them on clay, the images were pale and fuzzy. I tried both Reynolds and Wilton Parchment, same result. Could be the printer, I’m guessing. Good idea but Cindy’s way works better for me!

  9. Cindy Lietz, 01 July, 2009

    The future should help the colors pop! It could be that, there was some paper left behind that is dulling the color. You could try rubbing the image under water again, not that it has been baked.

    As far as baking, I like to bake at 265 for 1 hour. Your problem is probably the Sculpey III and a dirty oven. Just use spray oven cleaner to get the residue off the walls and that should help. Also make sure to tent your pieces with paper. (Click the link by my name for more info on that.)

    With your pieces that are already dark, try tossing them in bleach for awhile and see if they brighten up.

    The parchment method only works with certain printers and certain papers, so although it is a lot easier, it is a bit of a pain if you can’t find the right stuff.

  10. Rada, 13 September, 2010

    CIndy, great tips.

    I’m not sure if this question was already answered, I tried to go through the search box but didn’t see anything relevant. WIth transfer images, do you just add Future right on top once it’s baked and it won’t smear the image correct? Also, can UV resin be added to an already baked piece or does the image have to be sealed before putting the resin on?

    Thank you again for all the great help. You are great!

  11. Phaedrakat, 16 September, 2010

    Hi Rada, I don’t have these tutes yet (on my “to buy” list!) but I read the article above…it answers some questions & has links to some other image transfer articles. I found most of what you were looking for: If you’re doing toner/laser transfers, Cindy recommends (at the time she made the tutorial) Future or Varathane as a sealer/fixative.

    But if you are doing an inkjet transfer, there’s a chance that the ink could smudge if you use a brush on sealer (sometimes the ink doesn’t completely set, even after baking.) Your best bet for that technique is a product called PYM II (Preserve Your Memories II) which is a spray finish that is safe for polymer clay, metal, paper, all kinds of things. It’s also sold in US scrapbooking stores (under another name, CI SuperSeal.)

    But I’m not sure about the resin. Without seeing the tute, I don’t know if there are steps that would keep you from adding resin to the image surface. I can’t “imagine” why it wouldn’t work (on a laser/toner transfer,) but that doesn’t meant it does. So hopefully Cindy, or someone who’s done this before, will add their reply soon! In the meantime, could you answer which type of transfer you’re doing, or if you’re doing both? Also, do you own these tutes, or are you trying to figure them out on your own?
    Good luck, and have fun!

  12. Cindy Lietz, 17 September, 2010

    Thanks Phaedrakat for helping Rada! My answer to you Rada would be pretty much the same. I do know that Future and PYMII will work on top of the laser image transfers, but I haven’t yet experimented with the UV resin. The only way to really know is to try it on a small sample. Mark it with the date and see how it works over time. Sometimes things look OK to begin with, and then over time a chemical reaction happens and wrecks the piece. Testing is the only thing that will give you the right answer, since I haven’t tried it myself yet. Do come back and let us know how your testing goes. We would all love to know!

  13. Rada, 17 September, 2010

    I will start testing as soon as my resin comes in :) This is exciting.

  14. pattw35, 26 September, 2010

    Has anyone tried Reynolds parchment paper ? I would love to have feed back. LOL I do have a lot on hand.

  15. Cindy Lietz, 01 October, 2010

    @pattw35: Hi Patt! You probably missed it since there is so much on this page, but Carrie already mentioned using Reynold’s Parchment and it not working that great for her.

    NOTE TO EVERYONE: The easiest way to check a post to see if something is already mentioned is to type your keyword (in this case ‘Reynolds’) into the Find box which will pop up if you press your Ctrl key and your F key at the same time. The feature will highlight the word ‘Reynolds’ each time it appears on the page. All you have to do is press ‘next’ to scroll through them.

    Hope that helps and makes sense!

  16. pattw, 02 October, 2010

    CINDY-thanks for the info. I’ll keep searching for the right parchment paper.

  17. Rada, 02 October, 2010

    Just for an update, I didn’t do a transfer, but cut out my image and sealed it with Mod Podge from both sides, attached it to clay and baked. Then used resin over the piece and it came out pretty good. The paper stayed in tact. Still have to do an actual transfer and test out the resin.

    @Pattw35, I’ve tried that parchment paper and I’ve had different results. Sometimes the image comes out looking like lots of little dots, instead of lines. I’ve stapled the parchment paper to a regular sheet, so the image would print properly.

  18. Phaedrakat, 06 October, 2010

    @Rada: Hi Rada, I was just wondering…did you use UV resin (Ultradome, Magic Glos?) for the project you mentioned (the one using Mod Podge?) Or was it another type (ICE resin, EasyCast, Envirotex Lite, etc.?) Thanks, Kat :D

  19. pattw, 02 October, 2010

    Rada -thanks for the heads-up. I’ll keep looking for the RIGHT parchment. Isn’t it nice to have so much help with a project ? It really means a lot!

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