Thursday, December 1, 2016

Image Transfer With Acetone

After a few years working with stencils (which you know I love) and trying a few signs using tracing and hand painting I wanted to learn another way to transfer images.

A wonderful artist, Rosemary Barnes, who writes the blog Villabarnes, posted how she transfers lasers printed/photocopied images to wood, plaster surfaces, metal and cloth using acetone. She uses a blender pen (which she discovered worked well with acetone when the pen went dry). Please read her post because she provides very good information.

I had read Rosemary's original post ( September 2015) and when she reprinted in September 2016 my interest was rekindled.

Cathy at Dear DIY writes about her acetone transfer projects very clearly with good photo backup. Good suggestions included in her tutorial.

I watched You Tube videos about using acetone to transfer images, just searched acetone transfer.

Then a few hours playing around with laser printed image transfers to wood, fabric, painted backgrounds, bare wood and tin happened.

This is my learning curve on how I used acetone, a small paint brush and a tablespoon as the burnisher (could not find a blender pen at Michaels) to transfer Graphics Fairy French themed images to light fabric, canvas fabric, unpainted wood, a chalk type painted board, an acrylic painted board, brown paper and galvanized tin. 

I started very simply, using the word PARIS (printed on Laser printer). I used one of my printouts that I DID NOT print backwards. I added that word to a piece of wood from a piece of a cutting board.

The second (top word), Paris, was easier to 'see', the first try not so good. Learned more about burnishing and amount of acetone needed to wet the paper (had to add to transfer paper as it dries very quickly, learned to work in SMALL areas and not flood the entire transfer area.

After that I tried transferring an image to metal. I have added stencils to metal and liked the idea that a graphic could be added using acetone.

I was not too successful - the RIS looked fairly clear but the PA (even when I printed out the letters again and matched them up and redid the process was not a success. More practice needed here. I cleaned off the PA letters with acetone and should have also WASHED the area to remove the acetone. I did, tried the transfer again with a similar lack of success. 

Next I tried adding text to a piece of a canvas bag and was very curious to see how acetone would transfer text to cloth.

Again, not too successful. I learned that working on one small area when adding acetone and then burnishing that area before moving on to another small area etc. until the image is completed is a better way to work. More on acetone on fabric two pictures down.

I tried card stock paper for a transfer. This has good possibilities. Quick to transfer and fairly clear.

Perhaps over-wetted with the acetone, perhaps moved the paper with the text too soon. I will be trying this again.

Next try was over latex paint on a bread board. Shiny surface. This time the image was reversed (but that was the best part of this attempt). The paint seemed to not allow the transfer to stick.

Tried out fabric, used a very well worn tea towel. Good match, good absorbency, more to learn but this is a winner mix. Using a reverse printed word for something you want to share is a good idea. I had printed out many Graphics Fairy images/words and forgot to reverse some of them. Learned.

The best success today was using a bread board painted with chalk clay paint. It appeared to have good absorbency, I hadn't waxed it before trying out the acetone transfer. I did wax and polish afterwards and was pleased with the final result.

Below are other attempts. The transfer to a round block (unfinished wood) went well. The transfer to the well washed cotton tea towel was successful.

Transfer to a chalk clay paint was ok, I can see additional possiblities with this mirror becoming very shabby chic.

After finishing the bread board with the wreath and bee I could see that although the transfer was ok there was smudging in some areas. Dipped a q-tip into the acetone (not dripping, just wet) and gently tapped and cleaned some of the areas. It was not totally successful but I did learn the cleaning up could happen.

Below is my best example from this new to me transfer method.

I learned from Cathy that a black small tip felt pen can be used to darken areas where the transfer was not as clear/dark as desired. I haven't tried that yet.

In this paragraph the words are paraphrased from Cathy's post. You will need a laser printer for this method. The Acetone dissolves the toner and when you rub the back of the paper to transfer the dissolved image is absorbed on to an absorbent surface like paper or fabric.

There are health warnings when using acetone.

Before you use this method to transfer images please read about the dangers of using acetone.

Work outside in fresh air/well ventilated area (read the labels on the can of acetone

Use pure acetone (Rosemary said do not use nail polish remover)
Wear protective gloves
Focus on the work you are doing, keep pets and family away from the fumes.

How did it work?

Did the best on a piece of cardstock
Brown paper bag  (nor shown) - sort of ok


OK success on a well used cotton tea towel, sort of ok on a hem cut off some kackie slacks, not so good on canvas


OK on unpainted hardwood
OK on chalk painted bread board
OK on an unpainted toy block
not too good on a latex painted bread board

Metal (tin)

I need to learn more about transferring to tin. Some letters tranferred, some didn't adhere.

What Did I Learn?

The more porous a surface the clearer the transfer. Paper was the best transfer and a chalk-type-paint surface 2nd best in my explorations.  Untreated wood also worked quite well.

My Supply List:

Various bases for the transfer (wood, painted wood, cloth, bare wood, paper)

Acetone (put a small amount in a small GLASS jar (plastic melts) - it evaporates fairly quickly) and use that for dipping your small brush in before wetting small areas of your stencil
Small paint brush (I used 3/4" artist brush)
Laser printed images (heavier paper seems to work better, I used 20 lb)
Tape (easy to remove tape)
Plastic gloves to protect your skin from the acetone
Newspaper (to cover your work area)
Back of a tablespoon to burnish acetone wetted images

Safety from FUMES fro ACETONE

I used a small TV folding table and worked in my open doorway - table outside, stool inside to make sure that there was fresh air. It was raining or I would have moved outside to work.

Thank you to my friend Judy who worked with me on this project - we took turns figuring out improving what we were doing transferring images and making the samples while the other took pictures.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Featured by:

Tarah of To Grandma's House We Go Dec 13/16
Christina of I Gotta Create March 8/17

Sharing with:


  1. I keep a smooth cotton in my stash for printing for quilts. I have also had good success with colour copies using the xylene pen (blender pen). Xylene, like acetone, is not for working in a confined space.
    Good experimenting, Joy.

  2. You have such a gift! No only do you do these amazing crafts - you share the instructions in such a way that enables others to do them!
    I so enjoyed looking at ALL the beautiful headers you have created!

  3. You do such a great job! I keep saying I want to get stencils and try my hand at it. But still haven't.

  4. What an amazing tutorial! Thank you for sharing what worked and what didn't, you've inspired me to give this process at try, love your finished product! thanks for linking up to Funtastic Friday.

  5. Thanks for the tips, Joy. Your bread board looks awesome! If the smells bother you, I recently used the parchment paper method to transfer an image on to a painted tray, and it worked great. Take care, Cynthia

  6. That is an incredible process. I love the results you achieved. You do good work Joy.

  7. I've been meaning to try the acetone transfer method for a while now so I'm really glad I stumbled on your post first. Great tips on what works and what doesn't. Thank you Joy

  8. As have noted before, reading comments is full of valuable info, always read them. Have never tried any of transfer methods have heard/read about but this interested me right away, tutorial has great ideas/data.Thanks so much about being so honest what works and doesn't. Will have to wait til after winter to try since it's pretty chilly here, no garage.

  9. Hi Joy, I was so glad you posted and being late doesn't matter at all. Your DIY was very detailed and your experience would be valuable to anyone who is as creative as you. Admire your work and learning experience so much. Never give up. Big smile here.

    Have a wonderful week.

  10. I have been wanting to try this so I am truly grateful you shared this with us! You gave wonderful tips Joy. Thank you so much. Now I feel like I have a great reference point when I want to try my hand at this and I love how your breadboard came out. It looks great!

  11. I really like the image on the chalk painted bread board. That turned out great. Your article was so good; explaining what worked and what didn't. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Great summary of what you tried and how each one worked/didn't work.


  13. What a wonderful technique, and this would make such a great xmas gift too! Thank you for sharing with us at the To Grandma's house we go party last week, you will be featured in the next party starting tomorrow morning! Hope to see you there!


Thanks for visiting. I read and appreciate all your comments. Joy

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