Experimenting with Image Transfers

I've been thinking about using image transfers in my books. They appeal to me for their translucency, that semi-transparency that evokes mystery. I also like the "ghostly" quality that you get from some transfer applications. My success with media-to-media transfers -- that is, transferring images from, say, paper to paper, or paper to fabric -- has been erratic, so I thought I'd try another approach.

I've been experimenting with a process (and product: Omni Gel) that leaves you with an acrylic film that you then apply to your chosen medium (so far I've used the transfers only on fabric and paper). I used PVA to adhere the transfers, but I could have used other methods, such as stitching. After trying various papers and fabrics to back the images, here are the combinations that were the most successful. Here's what I learned from this experience (no doubt there are exceptions to these guidelines, but they were useful to me in this instance):
  • I had the best result using images with simpler lines and larger blocks of white/light backgrounds. This allows the pattern/color of the substrate to which you apply it to be seen through the transfer.
  • Smaller, repeated patterns on the substrate -- your fabric or paper -- worked well. Patterns that were too larger or two spaced apart were lost when I laid the transfer over them.
  • A substrate with lighter colors worked best.
Here are a few examples, some more successful than others:

This is a transfer onto fabric. This image has quite a lot of white in it, so the pattern of the fabric shows through well. It's less important with this type of image that the pattern in the substrate be small and regular. In fact, it's not.

Another image on the same fabric. Again, the image has the qualities of a pen and ink illustration, so there is a good amount of "white space" that serves to make portions of the image transparent.

Here's an example of an image that has some very dark areas (the woman's hair), so that portion of the image is fairly opaque. There's also the question of whether the image and the substrate work well together, and I wasn't thinking much about that during this experiment. One one level, these don't go together well at all; but if contrast was your intention...

The paper to which the image is adhered was the scrap paper covering my table. There were some images stamped on it, and I wanted to see how those would show through.

Paper again. See the lines/grid on the image. When I printed the image, in error I had put paper in the printer that had already been printed on. So the image of the girl overprinted on paper that had an insurance claim form on it. Happy or unhappy accident? Depends on how I end up using the image.

This too is an image adhered to paper. As with the image above, this one overprinted on another sheet of "claim form" paper.

This paper clearly doesn't have a small or regular pattern on it. Nevertheless, it worked well, in part because this is a large image (about 5 inches in height).

I printed this image on fabric (same "claim form" paper) overprint.

This final transfer is one I made a few weeks ago. It's paper-to-paper, using acrylic gel medium.

It'll be fun figuring out how to incorporate these into my book work.


Eero said...

This all looks so nifty! Can you tell exactly how you used this Omni Gel and the PVA? I've only done photocopy transfers using a solvent. "Goof Off" seems to work best, although it is highly toxic.

Do tell your methods!
I really like the image of the woman, her dark hair, and the text background...


BookGirl said...

E, the image that you refer to is the one I like best too. The process using OmniGel is fairly straightforward. You brush three coats of the gel on the surface of the image, waiting between coats for the gel to dry. The instructions say to brush one coat on the image horizontally, the next vertically, and the last diagonally (this is to make sure that the entire surface is covered).

After the third coat dries, you immerse the image in water, leave it there for 10-20 minutes, take it out, put in face down on a smooth surface, and with your fingers, gently but firmly rub the paper backing off of the image. This can take several minutes and can be tedious.

After all the paper is rubbed off, you're left with the acrylic itself (which is what OmniGel is -- an acrylic medium). You can use PVA, since it dries clear, to adhere the image to fabric or paper.

You can also do transfers with regular acrylic gel medium or liquid medium (I use Golden's). I've heard some people swear by it, but my results, as I mentioned, have been mixed.

In that case, you apply a coat of medium to the surface of your image, rubbing it lightly with your finger to get a smooth consistency. You then press the image, face down,onto your surface (paper, etc.) and burnish for a few seconds with a bone folder, your fingers, back of a spoon or such. You can lift a corner of the image from the surface to see if the image has transferred. If it has not, burnish a bit more, then lift the image from the surface.

I would try that approach first, since it is simpler and easier than using OmniGel. Your results may be better than mine.

I've transferred images with solvent, but find that the images transfer *too* well -- I'd rather have them be a bit less crisp.

Roann Mathias said...

Your work is beautiful! I just found your site today....I love the web for that, while I was spending too much time looking for a decent tutorial for an accordion book.
I love doing transfers! I use inkjet transparancies and golden fluid matte medium. That seems to be the best combination for me. I do transfers onto paper and canvas.
Anyway, I would love to exchange blog links with you, if you are open to that. Thanks, Roann