Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Trouble with Transfers

True confession. I am transfer “challenged”. I can’t get a transfer technique to work, even if my life depended on it. If you don’t believe me, Kerri can verify this. I made a joke of this artistic trait of mine in my Studio Friday challenge where I fantasized about the development of a new “sunscreen” transfer technique and the fame that ensued. The closest I’ve come to a good transfer was with a color laser copy transfer to a bees wax collage using finger nail polish remover as outlined in Claudine Hellmuth’s first book. So you bet I took advantage at her Sedona workshop to grill her about her many transfer techniques. The very ones I’m incapable of doing. I know that it is NOT the fault of her excellent directions, but something I’m doing…or not.

Let’s start with the source of my problem. With transfers that is. The source of my other problem would take too long. First let me first explain the transfer process I was using. I was adhering the image to a surface and then removing the backing paper. The transfer medium I tried to use was gel medium, and then Elmer Glue’s clear caulking compound (per Claudine Helmuth). I had the same problem with both. I let both thoroughly dry – a VERY important step. But after a week I’d say they were certainly dry. I puddled water on the back and started rubbing the paper off. I’d rub, and rub, and rub.It would look good, and then when the image dried it was still all hazy white: an indication that there was still paper to be rubbed off. More water, more rubbing. Eventually I started loosing parts of the image. Augh!! I tried everything – copy copies, lazar copy copies, ink jet copies, B&W copies and different types of papers. What did I learn? One, don’t use photo paper – the backing will never come off; and two, I still couldn’t do transfers. So let’s get onto the solution.

I had Claudine watch me perform the process (she’s a real sweetie) and I found the following. Please note, this is with regard to how I was doing the process. Everyone is different. My “pressing hard” can be very different from someone else’s “pressing hard”. I’m merely documenting my situation in case it can help someone else. I was probably putting down a bit too much of the gel medium or caulking. Second, I was really burnishing the begeesus out of the back of the image to make it stick. I didn’t need to do it that hard/long. Just burnish enough to make certain that the image is in contact with the caulking/gel medium. I let the setup dry over night in the very arid Arizona climate. I started removing the backing. In one go around I got 95% of the backing off. It had a very slight white haze and hit it again with water and rubbed. Then I was DONE! This is the result. The music part is the transfer – the lady is a glued on image. I was surprised the transfer worked as well as it did – my background was very textured and I expected to lose part of it. Note that the image will be reversed in this process. I was psyched! Claudine FIXED me!

So I went on to my next transfer. Did it the same way. The only difference was that the canvas surface was smoother and I used a color copier copy. I’m picky and find I like color copies of black and white images better. Yes, I’m anal. Also, the image was with finer detail which will be a bit harder to transfer. I did the second one the exact same way and ended up with my old problem. I didn’t panic because I only rubbed it once and the paper was a higher quality (the music paper was on very cheap copier copy paper). Claudine also gave a great tip – use a spray bottle of water and work on the transfer in front of the TV. I packed the canvas board up and mailed it home. Ready to continue on it at home with my spray bottle. Perhaps I was getting it way too wet at the end and it didn’t help. Nope the same problem came back. So, I went and used a black and white copy of the image and tried it again. Here’s the side-by-side result. The cheap copier image I only wetted and rubbed 3 times, the other…I literally lost count!

So here are my transfer “take aways” from the experience.

1. The cheaper the paper the better. I get all hung up on how the copy looks before I transfer it. Who cares! You are not going to a white background so the image will look different anyway. And as Claudine pointed out – if you want a perfect image DON’T do a transfer! Cut the image out and glue it down. The cheaper paper removes better and faster. In my experience, I found that black and white copies work easier than color copier copies that work better than color laser copies. This can be VERY machine dependent since it is all a matter of how the toner attaches to the paper. Your experience my differ. I can’t tell you much about ink jet since mine is lousy and I haven’t had good experience with them.

2. The more paint on the canvas the better – I had areas that were very thin and the process did not work as well. Transfers worked best for me to acrylic paint or areas coated with gel medium. I realized that I was having trouble transferring to untreated paper. I needed to coat the surface with gel medium for better results.

So there you have it. I hope this is of use to someone. Probably everyone BUT me already knows these facts. Next time I will give you my insight on a heat transfer technique - that you may already know :-).


Samhains said...

HEY! thats cool, Even if it was not what you intended, It has a coppery haunted feeling to it. I have no idea what a transfer is :) I like to draw and paint, play alittle, but I really have no idea what it was supose to look like, but I like what ever that 'mistake' is.

Sharon said...

I so needed this information! I had a class wih Claudine, too and saw her demonstrate the techniques. It definately takes a lot of patience and you chronicled your experimentation very well for those of us who still want to continue with the techniques. I also found Lesley Riley's information helpful. She published in Cloth, Paper & Scissors and has a book on fabric art quilts using transfers. Thanks for posting.... your blog is great, I'll be back! (By the way, I found you via Kerri's blog).

kerrip said...

I know you explained these things to me over the phone, but it's also nice to see it demonstrated. I love the music piece. The background looks great to me.

Going For Greatness said...

I wonder if your technique would be good for scrapbookers.... whudda-ya think?
We do a packing-tape transfer.

* Choose an image or text that you'd like to transfer. You can use magazine, newspaper, color copy or inkjet printer for example. Use wide plastic packing tape. The clear works best but the brownish can leave a antiqued/aged look. The better quality the tape, the better the image will transfer.
Place the tape carefully over the image/text and press firmly. Use a craft stick or your fingernail to press the bubbles out.

*You'll want to cut out your image now Easier to cut it now than after it's soaked).

*Completely submerge and soak your tape and image in warm water for about 3 minutes.Once it's completely saturated, gently pull away the paper. There will be a little paper left on the tape. Remove the leftover paper by gently rubbing with your fingertips and rinsing in water. The paper will go and the image or text will stay on the tape.

*Let it dry, sticky side up. If you are lucky, there will be enough glue left to stick the tape on whatever you want it to go on.

*You may wish to further embellish your image. The tape is slick and your finished product will have a shiny finish.