Links to all the products used in this project are at the bottom of this post!
To begin, print your desired picture on regular paper (not photo paper) from your laser printer. You can do color, black and white, sepia or any other version you would like but it must be printed from a laser printer or it won’t work. Cut out the picture. Use a damp cloth to wipe the surface of the wood completely so it is clean and slightly wet. The slight wetness helps the ink transfer at a better quality. Use a brush to apply some gel medium matte. Apply it evenly and thick enough you can see it. I only used a little bit of it and I made 8 of them, so you only need a small jar.
Carefully line up your picture, face side down, before pressing it into the gel medium. Once you put it down, it will be hard to adjust it. Starting in the middle and working your way to the edges, press down and smooth out the picture. Be sure to rub the whole surface of the picture so the gel medium will meet with every point of your picture. Allow it to dry for at least 12 hours before continuing on.
After drying for at least 12 hours, wet the surface of the paper very well. Allow the water to soak through the paper then begin to rub off the paper with your fingers.
As you rub, you will remove the paper and the ink will be left behind on the wood. Continue to add additional water as needed Be sure to only use the pads of your fingers because the ink can be scratched off if you aren’t careful.
Once you have removed all visible paper, allow it to dry for about 15 minutes. You will see more white paper residue after it dries. Keep wetting and rubbing and allowing it to dry. For me, it took about 8 times of this cycle before I was able to remove all the paper residue so be patient! After I completed all 8 cycles of rubbing on all 8 pictures, I had honestly rubbed away the surface of my fingers!!!! They were bleeding!!! So if you are doing more than one picture, get some more people to help you with this step. I wore band aids around my fingers for days afterward. Painful!!!
The next two steps are completely optional. I wanted a more rustic look to my finished product so I grabbed some very rough sand paper (60 grit) and sanded up the edges of the pictures. I didn’t like the crisp edges and wanted something softer. Plus, since the transfer isn’t perfect onto the wood, I thought the softer edges looked better with the imperfections in the transfer. I also used a finer grit paper (100 grit) to sand the wood on the front around the wood. I wanted to remove any of the gel medium that was left on the exposed wood so it would accept the stain.
You can leave your pictures with the natural wood if you would like, but I decided to add some oil based stain. I stained all the exposed wood and the sanded portions of the picture as well. You could certainly stain over the whole picture if you want, but I only wanted the edges stained. I used a rag to apply the stain and a dry rag to remove any excess stain and to blend the stain I applied on the picture portion. Allow the stain to dry for at least 10 hours.