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Photo Transfer to Wood: 7 Easy Steps (Video Tutorial) 6 Supplies

Many people try to think of thoughtful, heartfelt gifts to give a loved one for weddings, anniversaries, and other special events. Sometimes the best thing to give someone who has everything is something handmade. The sentimental value of a present like that is priceless.

If you want to make something meaningful (and inexpensive), you should try a photo transfer to wood. The memory from this old picture transferred onto rustic wood will be cherished. This custom, handmade art will be distinct and tastefully mark the occasion.

photo transfer to wood

6 Supplies for Photo Transfer to Wood

The list of supplies you’ll need for this project is short and sweet.

Nothing here will be expensive, and if you do a lot of crafting you probably have most of it already.

  1. Piece of wood. This can be a plank, coaster, or anything in between. For size, you’ll only be limited by the largest paper size your printer can accept. Most home printers accept up to legal size (8.5″ x 14″.
  2. Printed photo: The photo should be printed on plain printer paper. Do not use photo paper as the ink will not transfer properly to the wood. This can be printed on either an inkjet or color laser printer.
  3. Mod Podge (Matte): This is an all-in-one craft sealer, glue, and finish. This will adhere your photo and then seal the image on your final product.
  4. Brush: for applying the mod podge to your project. A basic foam brush is best because it won’t leave bristle marks.
  5. Rolling pin or glass bottle: This will remove bubbles and ensure that your image fully adheres to the wood. You can also use a silicone squeegee.
  6. Damp washcloth: You’ll use this for removing the paper, once the photo is applied to the wood.

The type of wood you use for a photo transfer to wood is up to you and depends on to whom you are giving the finished product. A plain piece of wood is a great medium for this rustic project.

Many people put these on a round slab of wood with the bark still on. You can buy them at most craft stores or have someone cut one for you.

Photo Transfer to Wood in 7 Steps

1. Print Your Image: Size, Reverse

Check the size of your printed picture by laying it on the piece of wood and centering it the way you want it to be. It is okay if it overlaps some, but only the part of the image touching the wood will transfer. You can print it a little smaller if needed.

You should know that the image will transfer in the reverse of how it looks on the printed page. It usually will look fine, but if there is text in the picture on anyone’s clothing, you should print the image in reverse.

Most image editing software and print dialog screens will let you do this easily.

Transfering Photos to Wood (Video Guide)

This quick video shows the basic steps to successfully transferring your photos onto wood.

More fun: How to print stickers at home

2. Apply Mod Podge to the Wood

Put a generous amount of Mod Podge on the front of the picture you are transferring. You want to use enough to cover the image with it.

Use the foam brush to spread the Mod Podge evenly across the image and cover the entire page.

3. Apply Your Photo to the Wood and Roll it

Turn the page over so that the side with the still-wet Mod Podge faces your piece of wood. Lay the paper on the wood and be sure it is centered.

While the Mod Podge is still wet, you can slide the image around on the wood as needed to get it where you want it to be.

Use the rolling pin or glass bottle to press the paper onto the wood surface. Roll it back and forth and get the picture as smooth as possible. It should be flush with the wood once you finish.

Note: If there are bubbles under the image, the ink won’t transfer to the wood.

transfer image to wood
Make sure to have a smooth wood surface, without splinters or rough wood

Making projects like this is a great way to keep your printer ink from drying out.

4. Wait 24 Hours to Dry

The hardest part of making a craft is waiting. But you will have to wait 24 hours while the Mod Podge dries. Set a timer on your phone and do something else for a day.

You can come back and check on it all you want, but don’t touch it. If you pull the paper off too soon, it won’t look right. If you are a crafter, you probably have a few other projects you can do to keep occupied.

5. Wet the Paper and Rub it Away

After 24 hours, it will be time to remove the paper from the wood. The Mod Podge will not let you grab it and peel it off. You will have to wet it first.

Use the spray bottle to get the paper as damp as you can with your spray bottle. You can also lay a damp washcloth across the paper and let it sit there for a few minutes.

After the paper is damp, use the washcloth to rub it away. You will find that the paper comes away easily and turns into tiny crumbs that you can brush away from the wood.

Once it has been removed, you will see that the image has been transferred and is not a part of the piece of wood. After the wood dries, you may want to wet it again and rub it to remove as much of the paper as possible. 

Note: Be careful not to rub too hard or for too long. You could damage the image that is adhered to the wood.

6. Allow to Dry

Let the wood dry completely. Be sure you have dusted away all the tiny pieces of paper.

Once that is complete, it will be ready to seal.

7. One Final Mod Podge Coat

Put a generous amount of Mod Podge across the surface of the wood. Use your foam brush to spread it evenly, but be sure you have covered everything.

It will look white, and you’ll wonder if you ruined it. You haven’t because the Mod Podge will become clear as it dries. Once it is complete, it will be sealed to protect the image and make it last a long time.

How to Transfer a Picture to Wood

This is a full video tutorial, with both the step-by-step for photo transfer to wood, plus the layout and finishing skills.

Here’s a great guide by another Mod Podge creator.

how to transfer pictures to wood

More Reading: Here’s how to use a regular printer for transfer paper.

Your Turn

There are a lot of additional things you can do to make it look even better. You can sand the edges, or burn them if you know someone with a torch.

You can make a frame for your project or let the beauty of the wood stand out on its own.

Once you have completed your photo transfer to wood, you will have a homemade keepsake that looks like you put a lot more time and effort into it than you did. It will become a treasured part of your loved one’s home decor.

How did it go for you? I would love to hear your tips and questions below.