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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Transferring Photos onto Polymer Clay Tutorial

Transferring photos onto polymer clay is really easy! I'll show you here how to do it. I did a bit of an experiment, so you can see the outcomes of 3 different papers and inks.

I first tried transferring images a few years ago, using transfer paper. Here are some of the things I made:

They turned out well, but transfer paper is expensive. I liked the sharpness of the images, but for my current projects, I was after something less... perfect. So, I've done some research and experimentation and here are the results...

You'll need:


  • White or light-coloured polymer clay
  • Rolling pin
  • Images
  • Cold water

  • Pasta machine
  • Tile
  • Tissue blade
  • Liquid polymer clay
  • Varnish
The first paper I used was Kodak photo paper, using a black and white image (beach, see below) printed on my inkjet. Second, I used a colour inkjet image (cupcake) on ordinary copier paper and thirdly, I used a colour laserjet image (flower). OK, so it's not an entirely fair test for all you scientists who might be reading. I know I should have used the same image each time! But I was still able to get a good idea of how well the images transfer.

Step 1

Roll out some white or light-coloured polymer clay. I use Fimo. You can use your pasta machine for this (please don't use it for food afterwards!) or just roll it out with a rolling pin.

Step 2
If you're using photo paper, take a tile, place the clay (cut to the size and shape you require) on top and spread out liquid clay on top of that:


Place the image face down.

For laserjet and inkjet images, just place the images face down on the rolled out clay; no need for the liquid clay.

Left to right above: laserjet, inkjet.

Step 3
For the photo paper, rub the back gently. Don't remove the image for this one.

For the inkjet and laserjet images, press down firmly but not too hard, otherwise you'll distort the clay, then wet your finger with cold water and rub the backs of the images.

For the laserjet image, I found the paper rubbed away in little bits and left a colour image behind (see top flower pic below). For the inkjet image, the paper lifted off in one piece and just left black outlines, as you can see below:

Step 4
With a tissue blade you can then trim around the image to the exact shape and size you want.

Step 5
Place the tiles in the oven and bake according to the manufacturer's instructions. Tiles aren't essential, but they do keep the clay flat.

Step 6
After baking, you can now peel off the photo paper. This one didn't quite work, as you can see (far left):

I've since read that Kodak paper doesn't work, which is what I used. It's worth trying the same method with other photo papers though, as these may give really great results.

As it is, I'm really pleased with the way the others turned out. The laserjet is in colour and quite rough, not smooth like the images I first did on transfer paper a few years ago. The inkjet images I'm also really pleased with, even though they're just black outlines. This is exactly what I wanted for my current projects.

Once your projects are finished, I recommend varnishing them to prevent the images wearing off.

So there you have it - a very simple way to transfer images onto polymer clay. No need for expensive papers or liquid clays either:)

To summarise:

Transfer paper - gives a sharp, colour image, but is a little expensive.
Photo paper - Kodak paper doesn't work, but others might. Need liquid clay for this however.
Laserjet copies - full colour transfer, a little rough.
Inkjet copies - only the black transfers.

Hope you enjoyed reading. Please take a look at some of my work with photo transfers, here in my Etsy shop and here in my Folksy shop. These have all been made using laserjet copies. I altered my photos to black outlines before transferring. I like the black for these particular projects, although you can see one colour image as well...

I've got another polymer clay tutorial lined up - Mokume Gane - coming soon!


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