Introduction to Image Transfers

Image Transfer workshops are offered regularly at SFCB, both an Introduction 3 hour session and a day long class, and whenever I look at the schedule I’ve thought oh I’d like to try that some time, but one thing and another only got to it recently.

The instructor, Courtney Cerruti, has a self-declared case of Art ADD (perhaps more nicely termed as Multiple Muse Syndrome), working in a variety of media, but image transfer has been a constant presence in her life, something she’s always continued to do and come back to since starting with it in high school.

Courtney is super enthusiastic, and demo-ed four techniques before turning us loose to try them all out. She had materials for us to use, and circulated around the classroom giving additional instruction as we worked. The techniques were straightforward, and everyone was able to be pretty successful. For things that didn’t quite go right, Courtney had helpful troubleshooting suggestions and technique improvement tips.

The first was packing tape transfer, which is just what it sounds like. Stick a piece of tape on your image, burnish it down smoothly and then soak/rub the paper off. Voila! Your image is not reversed, and you end up with something transparent(ish), which can be nice for layering or use on glass. Also non-toxic – well you do use dihydrogen monoxide… You end up with a shiny surface, which some people don’t care for that aesthetic, and to do something wider than the tape you have to stick multiple pieces on.

The next two were solvent based transfers of toner printed images – either photocopies or laser printed – onto paper or smooth fabric. At least that was the basic (almost) guaranteed success recipe. Like anything though, you could try other materials and see how it goes. For black and white images we used a blender pen – when I heard blender it made me think of the appliance, but no. For color images acetone was the solvent. Image face down on the substrate (so things get reversed), moisten, burnish.

The last could be used on any paintable surface! We used small squares of wood, but it sounded like this would only be limited by your imagination. Well, and the object would have to be flattish. Apply a layer of acrylic paint or gel media to the object, smooth your image down, let dry – which would probably be at least overnight, so we just started this one in the workshop – then moisten to remove the paper layer.

Super fun, quick results, much looser and freer than I think of as my typical work style and aesthetic, so that was good for me, regardless of how much I end up using the actual techniques. Although I definitely am curious about combining it with letterpress printed work, what the ink might do if I tried to solvent transfer on top of something already printed, or if I’d need to do the transfers first, and then how would the inks print over that? Oh so many things to try!

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