Home > Artist Tips, Mail Art > How To Paint Transfer Toner Images

How To Paint Transfer Toner Images


Collage Friends by Shellie Lewis, 5″ x 7″. Paint transfer toner image, paper collage, acrylic paint, iridescent blue paint, gel medium and gel medium skin toner transfer, gloss acrylic sealer on recycled chipboard packaging.

I have been noodling with mixed media and learned of a technique of using acrylic paint to transfer images. This is working better for me than gel medium transfer. Light colors of acrylic paint will transfer toner images onto a surface. You need a toner based image [magazine page, catalog page, photocopy or toner print] to transfer. Photocopy or scan your own drawings or photographs and use those to make mixed media art.

The image will be reversed by transferring. You can mix and mottle paint colors in the process for interesting effects. I used darker paint colors to blot out any text since it would be flipped backwards. The paint color adds to the toner image, making it tinted or paler depending on what color you use.

The paper or canvas you are sticking an image onto needs to be heavy enough to handle getting wet. I used cereal box ‘chipboard’ recycled food packaging boxes. Sealing the boxes with primer and putting a base layer of dry paint helped reduce warping. These two steps did not make a huge difference though.

Here are the steps:

  1. You need to paint the surface [substrate] and the image. Put paint onto the surface that you want to stick the image to and paint the image itself. Thinning the paint with some GOLDEN GAC-100 acrylic medium helped with the flow of the paint. Fluid acrylics work better than heavy body paints. I also found a palette knife was easier to use than a paint brush. You need to work fast while the paint is wet and cover the whole image.
  2. Stick the wet surfaces together by placing the toner image face down onto your surface. Smooth out any wrinkles.
  3. Cover the layers with waxed paper or plastic and use a brayer, squeegee or rub with your hands to get a firm, even layer.
  4. Wipe away any paint that leaks around the edges or smears onto the back of the image.
  5. Let the layers dry for several hours; it needs to be totally dry.
  6. Use sand paper to roughen up the paper on the back of the toner image.
  7. Use a spray bottle or damp sponge and wet the back of the toner image and peel away the paper. It helps to rub and peel in sections. If the paper is not coming up, use more water.
  8. Let the image transfer dry. It is now ready to use.

I added brush strokes to the collages by going over the image transfers with heavy gel medium. I scraped, sanded and painted for rough, mottled surfaces. The image transfer can be as polished or as textured as you want it to be. Anything that will stick to acrylic paint can be used to treat the surface an further work the transferred image. A clear spray varnish will help seal and preserve the art work. Color toners are moderately archival, they may fade from ultra-violet light; use a protective UV/UVA/UVLS archival sealer if the work will be exposed to light.


Collage Window by Shellie Lewis, 3″ x 6″. Paint transfer toner image, iridescent white paint, gel pen, Modge Podge crackle medium, acrylic paint, ultra-fine iridescent glitter paint, gel medium gloss acrylic sealer on recycled chipboard packaging.


Collage Child by Shellie Lewis, 3″ x 6″.  Paint transfer toner image, ultra fine iridescent glitter paint, gel medium gloss acrylic sealer on recycled chipboard packaging.

Categories: Artist Tips, Mail Art
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