Wednesday 26 October 2016

Image Transfer - Just when you think you know what's what. . .

I have been transferring images onto Polymer Clay for a couple of years now, so you would have thought that I would have it all sorted and under my belt and fully figured out etc etc. But I am still plagued by inconsistencies.
The issue is stickiness.
Once an image has been transferred, and all the paper has been rubbed off using the time honoured 'water and index finger' method, the image on the clay becomes sticky and is likely to smudge and transfer itself onto your fingers, however careful you are.
It's fine if you are making flat objects, like my tile beads, you just have to know when to stop rubbing the last tiny bits of paper off, knowledge that comes with experience, but if you are hoping to wrap the piece of clay with the image on round something, you are in trouble. Obviously, you can't wrap something round something else without touching the surface, however briefly, and when you do that, smudges and suchlike happen. And, as I like to wrap my images round things, this affects me.
My style has evolved to take account of that. In fact I have managed to make it work as a kind of faux ageing process, along with other tricks and processes. So it has become part of what I do and a step in the evolution of my style. However, I would like to find a way of stopping it happening for the times when I am not after that effect.

And. . . I thought I had. I have tried gently heating the image transferred clay to help the image to 'dry'. it doesn't. I have tried leaving it for a day or two. Nope, still sticky. I tried freezing it. Nope. I tried a thin layer of that floor polish stuff I can't remember the name of, and I thought that had worked, because it seemed to have done, but there was another issue I hadn't thought much about that has rendered all my experimenting kind of redundant. . .
Basically, I think a lot depends on the kind and brand of paper and ink involved. It has to be a photocopy/laser print, which I get from my local copy shop. I get things printed on an irregular basis, so if they change the brand of paper or toner, I wouldn't know. Sometimes I use the photocopier at the local library, which would use their particular paper and toner brand.
I have come to this conclusion because I can't explain the inconstancies I get any other way.
I have been messing around with some printed images from different times and places, and mostly they come out sticky. But some are fine. I hadn't noticed because I assumed that the Klear (I think that's what it's called now I remember) floor polish coating was the reason for this. But I don't think it was. . . Sigh. . .
I need to do some experimenting. It may be that coating the image a thin layer of something does actually help a bit in some cases. It may be that if I coat the image immediately it is possible it might stop the stickiness from happening. I haven't tried prolonged soaking to get the paper off, but I can't see why that would be any better.
Meanwhile, I have been following my fascination with distressed surfaces by not fiddling around trying to get a clean result, but going with the smudging and smearing and making some very organic, rustic, ancient looking beads. Everything leads to something else you may not have considered. . . That's my excuse anyway.
Jon x


  1. I've too been trying to transfer images for a while and have used the method you mention with the same problems. However I've just come across a method on YouTube that uses rubbing alcohol, where you do not need to rub the paper off. You merely keep pressing the image until the image transfers. The colours are not that dark still ok I think. I'm afraid you do still have the problem of smudging images tho if you are not careful. You could try using t shirt transfer paper although this is something that needs a lot of trial and error !!

    1. I haven't tried the rubbing alcohol technique. I'll have a play with it but if the colours are too weak it may not be much better. I have a dye sub ink printer but have only tried that with liquid clay and a heat gun. Comes out pale and bit fuzzy. The photocopier at the local library seems to make copies that don't smudge when transferred, I shall try copying some images that smudged on my old paper, there, and see if they still smudge on library paper. . . If they do I will be really confused.

  2. I've just started messing around with transfers - only on flat surfaces though - so thanks for sharing this. If nothing else, I'll go a little more gently on myself about it.

    1. Good luck with it. Best to keep the clay on the surface you are going to bake it on, as lifting it with blade or whatever in order to transfer it onto a tile for baking, bends the surface and that makes the surface crackle slightly I think, and lets the sticky ink through the somewhat dryer surface. Just in case you were doing that ;-) Feel free to ask me questions, though I may not be able to help much.

  3. Arghhh! I was hoping for a solution at the end of the post!! Drats!!!

    I'm thoroughly fascinated Jon as I'm about to take the leap. I had no idea there was - stickiness - involved. What a conundrum!

    If you figure it out - promise you'll let us know??

    I do love your bright colourful beads. I think the colours you've put together are just brilliant!

    1. Thanks, I'll keep my readership informed ;-) Damn you, stickiness!