Sunday, February 24, 2013

DIY coasters- or how to transfer photos onto wood

Project time!!!

Back in October I made these coasters for the boy's birthday. At that point we had only been dating for 4 months, but managed to have a few day trips and a weekend trip under our belt. I had a lot of great photos from our activities and wanted a way to share them with him. BUT, as it was a pretty new thing, I didn't want to be cheesy and give him photos of us. So instead, I gave him photos of places. 

In a practical, utilitarian form of course-- known as the coaster.

From our weekend trip to Wisconsin, the home of his people

I used a technique I learned through Pinterest (you can watch a cool video tutorial here) to transfer our photos onto thin wooden pieces. I used the same technique to transfer a brief description of our activity (and date of the memory) to the back of the wood. Then, to turn them into usable coasters, I simply cut a few square pieces of sticky felt and added it to the back.

This was the date we met. I labeled it Random because we literally met on the street-- which obviously is a random place to meet your boyfriend!

All in all I made a total of 8 coasters, which include (clockwise from top): a photo from our kayaking trip on the Skokie lagoons, a trip to Solly's (the home of the delicious butter burger in Milwaukee), a mini waterfall at the Chicago Botanical Gardens, a day at Indiana dunes, gorgeous fall colors seen at a lake outside of Milwaukee, our evening watching the moonrise at the lakefront, the most amazing view of Chicago from his balcony, and in the center: the spot of our random meeting outside of Wrigley Field.

FYI: I found the moonrise picture that was mostly black/dark colors managed to get more spots that rubbed off on it. Not sure why, I tried it a few times and this was the best I could get. But just a warning if you want to transfer a very dark photo using this technique.

While the project took a little bit of time, it was actually SUPER easy. And the results are magnificent! Plus, the technique is supposed to work on other surfaces as well, such as canvas and glass (although I've never tried these so can't say how it works comparatively). I'm going to show you all how I made these coasters, but I did read read a lot of other variations on this technique, so it's not the only one out there. But I found this worked well and was a super cheap, so I'd do it again if the need arose.

What you'll need
  • Wood, or something to transfer your photo onto
  • Modge Podge
  • A paintbrush (foam or bristled)
  • Your photo printed on a laser jet printer
  • ~2 days to complete the project
Step 1: Find your wood. I went to Blick and found these thin pieces of wood that were something like 4" x 24". I liked the fact that I could cut them to size as I pleased, but you could also purchase pre-cut square pieces that would be perfect for coasters.

Step 2: Print your photograph on a laser jet printer IN REVERSE. (You'll have to create a mirror image of your photo and print that.) Then I cut the picture out, leaving a bit of border around the image.

Step 3: Spread a thin layer of modge podge on your wood block. You want to make sure your modge podge layer is thin but EVEN, as the color from the printed photo needs glue to transfer properly to the wood. Then, flip the photograph onto the wood, making sure to press the paper well onto the wood.

Step 4: Let the pieces dry overnight. I put some heavy books atop mine to make sure the paper evenly adhered to the wood.

Step 5: Using a sponge, lightly moisten the paper.

Step 6: Now, using your finger, gently rub away the paper. You want to push hard enough to rub off the paper, but not so hard that you rub off the photograph as well. Also, you'll find that you need to periodically moisten the paper to help with the rubbing. (If the paper isn't moist enough it'll simply tear off the photo with it.) Don't drench the paper, but don't be scared to use enough water to help with the paper removal.
It's pretty magical this step, if I do say so myself!

Continue rubbing off the paper until the first layer of paper is gone. Remember, moisten the paper as required.

Eventually you'll be able to see the photograph pretty well. BUT, it isn't done yet. If you look closely you'll see the picture is not completely clear. At this point you might find there is still a final layer of paper on the photograph. Just keep rubbing, quite gently at this point, to remove the last of the paper. In this stage I found it worked better to NOT moisten the wood. The last bit of paper needed to be dry to rub off easier. Play around with it though, and find what works for you.

Can you see the difference between the upper right and lower left corners? That's the difference between removing and leaving the last bit of paper on the wood.

Viola! (Almost) completed coaster. You'll notice the edges are not perfectly even. Don't expect yours to be either- the photograph just doesn't stick as well to the edges. But I really liked the rustic border on the wood.

Step 7: Finally, it's time to seal and protect your pretty photograph. To do this, simply brush on another thin layer of modge podge to the coaster. It'll be mostly dry in less than 10 minutes.
Mod Podge goes on opaque (as seen above) but it dries completely clear. 
So no worries- this is not what your final coaster will look like.

If you want, you can use the same technique to label the back of your creation. Simply print out text (IN REVERSE) and follow the same steps as above.

To turn these wood pieces into coasters, just add some felt squares to the corners and you've got yourself some nice, personalized presents!!

Yours in making practical gifts with a touch of uniqueness and sapiness,
Jacqueline

p.s. If you live in a place that faces east I'd highly recommend watching a moonrise one day. Make sure you go on a day when the moon is rising a few hours after the sun is set (typically around a full moon- check this site for exact dates and times). What you'll see is the moon start on the horizon as a tiny, blood red circle. As it continues its rise on the horizon, it turns orange, then yellow (when it looks huge), then eventually to white as it reaches its highest spot in the sky.

My photos weren't the best (it was a bit of a cloudy night and I didn't have a tripod), but here is a "timelapse" of the moonrise. Note that the location of the lake is the same in each photo, showing how the moon literally rises on the horizon.

2 comments:

Candice said...

Hi! This looks really simple! Can't wait to try it out (:
However is the final layer of Mod Podge able to withstand water and heat for being a coaster?

Jacqueline said...

That's a good question. After using a few of the coasters for a while the mod podge will get a bit "tacky" in places where a cup is placed on top, with some water ring circles on the coaster. Still looks good, and it's a not a problem since we rarely use ours. BUT if you'll use the coasters a lot a more permanent final coat might be the way to go. Something acrylic or epoxy might be the way to go. Though I've never done this so can't provide much advice...

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