Friday, April 27, 2007

"Transferred" to a whole new world!

Image transfers are one of those "messy" subjects-- one of those things you hope a newbie never asks you to explain. ;o) Not because you're hoarding away your secrets, but because, well, there are so many different ways to do it, and it seems that there's just a little bit of magic involved in each of them. One person swears by this method, while another warns you that said method has never, ever worked for her. Nearly all explanations of the various processes conclude with "you just have to play around with it until you find a technique that works for you".

(That's true of many techniques, actually, but maybe more so than usual with image transfers.)

I've dabbled in image transfers once before-- but only enough to get the very tips of my fingers in the water. I used the T-shirt paper method, in which you use your home inkjet printer to print an image onto T-shirt paper-- the type that you can use to make iron-ons for T-shirts. You then emboss the print-out (image side down) onto a sheet of clay (usually white) and cure the clay for a short period of time. You peel the paper away, and ideally, you're left with a transferred image. (That's the method I used to make these key chains.)

Well, today I finally got around to playing with my new Kato Liquid, which can also be used to make image transfers.

(The Kato Liquid has been "new" since my birthday, back in February. Haven't I mentioned before that I have a problem with procrastinating? I have several other things I want to try with the Kato Liquid, too, so maybe now that I've started, I'll keep going!)

Because Kato Liquid (aka Kato Sauce) is clearer than TLS, it is generally favored for use with image transfers, but both can be used-- as can Fimo Decorating Gel, I'm sure. I'm fairly certain there are a number of ways to use Liquid Kato for transfers. The way I chose was this: Choose a picture/illustration/whatever from a glossy-paged magazine or catalog. (I used a catalog. More on that in a minute.) Trim the piece from the magazine. Apply a thin layer of the liquid clay to the side of the paper bearing the image you want to copy. Smooth it out evenly, trying to avoid bubbles as you go. Pop it into a pre-heated 275-degree (F) oven for... well, the bottle didn't give instructions. Since it was such a thin layer (and would be re-cured, later), I didn't figure it needed too long, but I try to cure for "a good long time", so I left it in for 10 minutes. (I also used an aluminum foil tent, as always.) To get optimal clarity-- if you're using Liquid Kato-- hit the clay side with a heat gun until all cloudiness disappears. (This took longer than I expected, and I was beginning to think that I'd just put on too much clay, but then it suddenly began to clear, and wow, what a difference that made!) Allow it to cool, then soak in water for a while. Gently rub away the paper. Admire the results. ;o)

I'm not sure if I got all the paper off my transfer, yet, so I'm re-soaking it, just to be sure, but I think I got most of it. Here's a photo of my first try, looking down through the liquid clay. (The other side is a big messier to look at, which leads me to think that I haven't gotten all the paper off yet.)

The photo's not that great-- reflections from water on top of it-- and there are a few bubbles that I missed-- but hey, for a first try, I have to say that I'm very impressed with this technique! It was so quick and easy! And now I have a permanent copy of this picture, which I've admired since I first saw it. (It's the "autumniness" of it. I'm one of those annoying "autumn people" who have never gotten over the obligatory adolescent obsession with fall. (g))

The drawback would be that if you're using a magazine photo, you can only make one transfer of each photo. Also, there are some copyright issues you'll have to look into, if you're making things to sell. But if you're just playing around, this seems like a super-easy way to go.

A couple of things I love about the possibilities this technique presents-- the "decal" (the image transfer on the liquid clay) is so flexible that it could very easily be applied to something rounded. (The other method I described would make image transfers to curved objects more problematic.) It would also be simple to trim the decal down to any shape you want. You could probably even cut through it with decorative edging scissors!

If you're like me, you're always finding beautiful images in magazines-- things that you'd love to save and use, somehow, so that you could see them again and again-- but you can only use so much stuff for decoupage or pages in your "inspiration journals". It might not be practical to make image transfers of huge pictures, but this is definitely a simple way to make pendants, charms, key chains-- whatever-- from your favorite smaller "borrowed" images.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with these things-- how best to turn them into jewelry and such-- so I can make more of them! ;o)

On a tangent-- If you don't get a lot of magazines-- or if you don't want to cut up your magazines-- don't forget catalogs. There are lots of them available for free. Try searching the Internet. (For instance, there's this page.) Now, of course I'm not encouraging you to order catalogs if you have no intention whatsoever of making a purchase, because that would be unethical and would kill trees and the fairies and elves that live amongst them... ;o) But what you decide on your own to do is up to you. (g)

  • Catalogs for clothing and furniture sometimes have pretty photos of fabric swatches.
  • Those that sell home decor often have interesting objects or motifs decorating the objects.
  • Wedding invitation catalogs have script-style fonts (if you want text) and details like floral/romantic illustrations and (photos of) embossed patterns.
  • Travel brochures and kits that you can request on-line will include beautiful landscape photos-- and maybe even maps.
  • Post stamp catalogs have great photos of-- you guessed it!-- postage stamps!
  • Don't foget about the glossy sales papers and circulars you get in the mail. Give them a look-through before automatically tossing them.
  • Other glossy papers-- like old calendars-- can also be used for this purpose. If you have the stomach for it (some can't bear even the thought of it), you could probably also use pages from illustrated books, if the pages are glossy.

So, I'm going to have to give this some more thought and try to turn my "autumn decal" into something useful...

After posting this, I learned a couple more things about this transfer technique and thought I ought to pass them along.

1. You know the side of the transfer that was "a bit messier to look at"? It was mainly "messier" because parts of it were still covered with a slight film of white. So I went back and started scratching it off with a fingernail. It came off, alright, but (a bit too late) I noticed that my scratching was also removing the colors of the transfer! So don't do that! (g) In future, I'll just be happy to use the non-messy side!

2. After realizing that I was scratching away the transfer, I placed the still-wet decal transfer-side down on a scrap envelope. (It was a piece of junkmail with a slightly glossy-textured envelope, in case the type of paper might make some difference.) It dried there, and a day or two later, I came back for it, peeled it off the envelope, and saw that still more color had been left behind on the envelope! I don't know how much-- if it's enough to be visibly missing on the transfer-- but the color left behind on the envelope was obvious enough. So that's another no-no. Don't place your transfer "inked"-side down on something-- especially if it's wet.

I'm thinking, now, that it's best if you just gently rub-- don't scratch!-- away the paper, let it dry with the transferred side up, not touching anything else (or gently dab it dry it with a cloth)-- and use it ASAP, preferably sealing the delicate side with clay, glue, glass--whatever. I'll give it another try one of these days.

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