DIY Wedding Gift – Transfer Photos to Wood

Here is the DIY wedding gift we’ve been working on for the past few days. We’ve given a set of these photos to each of our brothers and their awesome wives as wedding gifts this summer and gotten pretty good reviews. We hope that J+B love them as much as the other couples have!

This is a Pinterest project, originally found here. I probably spent another 2 hours reading the comment sections of other blog posts regarding photo transfers to wood. So I consider myself an almost expert on this craft.

We went to Home Depot over the weekend and picked a beautiful piece of 1 inch x 12 inch Poplar to use in this project. We had it cut into three 9 inch pieces, and chose our 3 favorite pictures from J+B’s wedding. We like to line the pieces up so the grain matches if the recipients choose to hang them vertically.

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Print your photos as mirrored image on a laser printer. Most of the reviews on these projects say ink prints don’t work as well, but we’ve never tried it. Trim the edges of your photo.

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Get excited. Here comes the magic. Spread a thin layer of gel medium evenly across the board. I use a foam brush instead of a bristled brush to avoid small bristles falling off into the gel.

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Lay your photo face side down on the board. Smooth it out with a credit card or scraper. Don’t fuss too much if you get bubbles – they might tear. Then you would be sad. And they seem to dry flat anyway and you forget they were there.

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Let the wood + photo sit overnight to dry. Somehow, the gel medium transfers the ink from the paper onto the wood. I don’t know how. Hence, magic. In the meantime, find something fun to do.

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After about 8 hours, set up your work station. I recommend a big towel to soak up the water and catch the paper scraps. Grab a bowl of water and with wet fingers, wet the paper. Not too much water. Just like this.

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Use your fingers to gently rub the paper off. Like I said, the ink has been transferred magically to the wood, so once the paper is gone, you’re golden. It’s a slow process. And a good exercise in patience. And if you’re a perfectionist, you might lose your cool for a few minutes when you accidentally scrape the ink off. That’s what makes these photos charming and rustic, though, so breathe!

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Once you get the first layer of paper off, take a break and let everything dry. It will go from this…

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to this…

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Wet lightly and keep rubbing. You might have to do this 3-4 times. The less paper you have left, the less wet you want the photo to be. Almost dry works well at this point. Once the photo is dry and you feel like you’ve gotten most of the paper bits off, start cheering. You’re in the home stretch!

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Coat the front of the wood + photo with a sealant. I like matte ModPodge.

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Once the sealant is dry, add a photo bracket to the back if you’d like. Then you’re ready to gift!

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