The Brilliant Way to Transfer Photos to Wood (Only in 3 Simple Steps)

Learn how to transfer photos to wood in three simple steps! All you need for this photo transfer to wood is your favorite image and a medium. It's easy!

Skills Required: Advanced Beginner. A photo transfer to wood takes some knowledge of how to apply mediums as well as a little bit of practice.

Hi, it's David from Cheltenham Road with a quick tutorial on my favorite thing to do: a photo transfer to wood with Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium. This medium is easy to use and creates terrific results. In fact, I'll show you how to transfer photos to wood in three simple steps!

Any painting of the wood is an additional step if you choose to do so . . . the photo transfer itself is simple as can be and makes great decor on its own.

Transfer a Picture to Wood

If you're wondering how to transfer photos to wood, it's a relatively simple process. You'll print a photo out on a dry ink printer (like laserjet or an HP). You'll paint a medium on the front of the photo, and then smooth it onto an unfinished or painted surface.

The image will need to dry on the surface overnight, and then you will wet the surface and rub off the paper, leaving the image from the ink and the dried medium behind. This particular medium will give your image a white background (as opposed to clear).

Choosing Pictures

Black and white photos look great with this technique since there's a rustic vibe, however, you can use color photos as well.

When you print out your photo(s), make sure they 1) they fit the surface you are transferring to and 2) any words should be backwards. When they are transferred to the surface, the words will be going the correct way.

DIY Photo Transfer to Wood

Here's what I used for this Mod Podge wood transfer:

  • 1/4″ plywood cut to 13 x 8
  • Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium
  • Matte Mod Podge
  • Folk Art Milk Paint: Plymouth Rock
  • Foam Brush
  • Damp rag
  • Image printed on regular paper using a laser printer or photocopier
  • Sharp craft knife
  • Brayer (useful but not absolutely necessary)
  • Silicone craft mat (useful but not absolutely necessary)

I started off with just a quick coat of the Milk Paint on the edges of the plywood. It dries super fast, so while it was drying I worked on my picture (painting is optional).

Since the photo has text, I reversed the image before printing it onto plain paper using my laser printer. Laser prints work as well as DRY ink toner prints (like HP ink). You may have to do some research or experiment to see if your printer has dry ink.

For step one, I squeezed out a generous amount of the Transfer Medium onto the image . . .

TIP: I laid everything on my Mod Podge Silicone Mat which is great for this – you can use wax paper if you'd like but make sure to protect your work surface.

. . . . and, using my foam brush, spread it out until the picture was mostly obscured.

For the second step, I laid the picture (image side down) onto the plywood and smoothed out any air bubbles using my fingers and the brayer (the brayer is great but if you don't have one use a rolling pin, a glass bottle, etc).

Make sure to keep a damp rag nearby to clean up any oozy extra transfer medium (like you see on the bottom edge of the plywood in the picture) as when it dries it dries pretty hard and it tough to get rid of.

And now the hard part: patience. I set the whole thing aside for 24 hours to dry.

Once it dried I used a damp cloth to gently rub away the paper, revealing the picture (this is the third step!).

After removing that top layer, I let it dry a little and then did it again to catch any spots I missed or left-over paper fuzz. It's better to rub gently and repeat the wetting process than to rub too hard and rub the image away.

Now you know how to transfer photos to wood! Easy, sorta quick (if you don't count the passive drying time) and inexpensive wall art!

TIP: I've worked with Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium a lot, but if you're new to it, do a little tester piece before tackling a big project.