How to Make Image Transfers with Inkjet Prints and Hand Sanitizer
by Claudia Wilburn
With these steps I will lay out for you here, I will show how it is possible to create a image transfer from an inkjet print, using only common hand sanitizer and decal paper.
I first heard the process was possible from a peer, Chris Johnson, at the time, a graduate student at the University of South Carolina. With not much more than the second-hand knowledge that it was possible to produce an image transfer with hand sanitizer I set out to recreate what I had only heard about. Through trial and error, the following is what I have learned of what is apparently a little-known technique.
At least 65 % Alcohol Content
Purell or Rexall Work Well
Scissors or X-acto Knife
Sherrill Mudd Tool
This can be substituted with the following:
Color Inkjet Printer
Clear Decal Paper
Clear Sticker Paper
Ink Jet Printable Clear Labels
Any brand of Clear sticker/decal paper for Inkjet Printers.
Thick Smooth Paper:
BFK Rives, Stonehinge, Arches
(This also works on some fabric!)
Begin by selecting a digital file or image and remember the transfer process will reverse the print on the paper. Therefore, any text and desired compositional elements should be mirrored or reflected horizontally before printing. This image transfer process results in a soft focus and a painterly effect on the image being transferred. Using a high contrast image that has a strong distinction between foreground and background is best. Delicate details on the original image may not show clearly, so instead of focusing on details, consider adding more variation in the image by adjusting the tone, color and saturation of the image.
Follow the printing instructions on the package for the decal/sticker paper. Make sure your printer is in good working order; your transfer will only be a good as your initial print. Remember horizontal striation and bad registration are printer problems that will affect the transfer and will show up in the final image. Keep in mind that the decal paper is going to be used as transfer paper and not for its original purpose. Most importantly: do not remove the backing paper from the decal/sticker paper.
Using scissors or an X-acto knife, cut out the printed image. Select the location on the paper that will be receiving the image and brush on a thin, smooth, and continuous coat of hand sanitizer. For the above step, the amount of hand sanitizer used is important but there is not a precise formula. If too little hand sanitizer is used, the transfer will look faint and if too much is used then it will smear. However, the amounts that will work are a wide range and experimentation will result in familiarity.
Next, immediately place the printed image, ink side down, on the wet hand sanitizer. This must be done while the sanitizer is still wet, if it has dried before placing the image down it will not transfer.
Use a Sherrill Mudd Tool, folding bone or other type of tool that can apply even pressure to every inch of the image being transferred. Start at the center and work your way out, being especially mindful of air bubbles. This should only take 1-2 minutes.
Once that has been done, carefully peel back the decal paper and the image should have transferred to the paper.
If there are white or light areas, it may be because the paper was dry by the time the image was applied, or that there was little to no sanitizer on that area, or it was left on too long. You can use touch the image up with the brush using a light hand and additional sanitizer to push the ink around, if desired. This will cause the image to look more painterly and can be used to fill in any gaps that may have occurred in the process.