Thursday, April 23, 2009


Several people have asked me to explain how I do my photo transfer postcards. The first step of the process is to prepare the background. I usually know what photo that I am going to use and I try to use watercolors that will compliment the image. I usually start off with a large sheet of watercolor paper that is on a pad. I paint the entire sheet and can usually get 12 4" x 6" inch postcards. For the sake of illustration, I used a bright colored postcard that was prepared for a previous project.

Here is the painted background. Usually, I will coat this with a layer of ModPodge before continuing.
The second step is to prepare the overlays. For this project, I wanted to use a double overlay. The first layer is the baby's face. This is the image that will go directly over the painted background. The image should always be larger than your postcard. I usually add an inch or two on both sides. In other words, if my post card is 4" x 6", I will make my image 5" x 7". You should print out your image (or use a laser based copier) on a laser printer.
This is the first overlay.
The second overlay is a baby announcement that was copied from the newspaper.
Here is the second overlay. This will cover the baby's face.
If you have certain software, you can combine both overlays into a single image. This can happen with PhotoShop or even using PowerPoint. If you don't have either of these programs, you can simply use two physical overlays.
Here is what the overlay would look like if you combined them into a single overlay.
The next step is to cut a piece of clear contact paper. You can use the frosted contact paper but I prefer the the clear. Always cut the contact paper larger than your image. If the image is 5" x 7", I will cut the contact paper to a size of 6" x 8".
Here is the back side of the contact paper. This is the liner side of the contact paper.
The next step is to peel the liner off of the contact paper. Take your image and place it, face down, on the sticky side of the contact paper. Take your bone folder and rub down the back of the image. Turn the contact paper over and rub down the front of the contact paper. You should have no bubbles on your image. Once you have rubbed down your image, trim the excess contact paper.
The next step is to remove the paper from the back of the image. Get a pan of warm water and place your contact papered image in the water. The image will automatically curl. Do not worry. Once the paper backing starts to get transparent, start rubbing the back of the image. The paper backing will start to flake off. Try to remove as much of the white paper as possible. You won't be able to get all of it off but be careful not to scratch the image that is left behind on the contact paper. I tend to use my thumbs rather than my fingernails to remove the white paper .
Here is the reverse side of the contact paper with most of the paper removed.
You have two options. You can leave the image as is or you can continue to remove the paper backing. Have a piece of cardstock available to place the image on top so you can see how transparent the image becomes. The more white paper that is left behind the less transparent the image will be.
Here is the above image on a blue background.

If you want a more distressed look, you can scrape more of the paper off and remove some of the image with your fingernail. You can even distress with sandpaper. Here is the distressed image.

Here is the distressed image on top of the same blue cardstock.

Once you are finished with the contact paper image, mount it on the watercolor background with ModPodge. I use the gloss finish. I wrap the postcard in wax paper and place it under weight.
Finished postcard


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Russ! One clarifying question. You wrote mount it on the watercolor background with ModPodge. So by that you mean put a layer of ModPodge on the background and then put the transfer on top? Or put the ModPodge over the transfer? (I'm still somewhat of a ModPodge newbie!) [Tricia / camelsamba]

Dr. Russ said...

You are correct. Put a thin coat of ModPodge on the background and they lay the transfer on top. You can use any glue that dries clear for this purpose. I like ModPodge because it deepens the colors of the background. For me, it gives the background more depth.