Friday, November 12, 2010

Crafting a Symbol of Three Realms

As part of my aspirant work with the Druid Order of the Three Realms, I've been experimenting with ways to create a wooden plaque with the DOTR symbol to include on my altar. I had at first thought of doing a combination wood-burning/acrylic paint technique (such as the one I used on my travel altar), but the redesigned and touched-up version of the three realms triquetra/triskele that Christopher did for me was so stunning, I wasn't sure my mediocre talents would be able to do it justice. I was curious to see if there were any techniques that would allow me to transfer the image more directly to the plaque.

After some brief investigating online, I stumbled upon this page over at matsutake, which provides a tutorial on how to transfer inkjet printer images onto wood. I thought to myself, hey, I have an inkjet printer... I have wood... I have Elmer's Glue and Mod Podge... I have a tiny modicum of talent and patience, but most importantly, I have an ass-kickingly beautiful graphic image that might just work. Even if the results weren't as stunning, or the process as easy, as the tutorial implied, I thought I'd give it a shot.

For full instructions, check out the tutorial itself (and be sure to let the blogger know how awesome it is), but briefly, here's what I did:

Step One: Gather supplies. Not hard. Mod Podge (I used a "hard coat" kind especially designed for furniture and wood that will provide a nice, waterproof seal once it's cured), water-soluable Elmer's Glue, card stock, a bit of wood, a sponge brush or applicator. O yeah, and an inkjet printer. That's it!

Step Two: Coat the card stock with a thin, smooth layer of Elmer's Glue. You don't have to cover the entire sheet if you don't want to waste glue, but be sure to cover the area that you'll be printing on. Allow the glue to dry completely.

Step Three: Use an inkjet printer to print the image you intend to transfer onto the glue-covered side of the card stock. (I was worried about running a glue-covered paper through the printer, but as long as the coat is smooth and completely dry, it's no problem at all.) Be sure the image you print is the reverse of the intended final design. Yup, this means words have to be backwards.

Step Four: Cover the wood surface with a thin, smooth layer of Mod Podge, press the card stock image-down onto the wood. Press hard and smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles.

Step Five: Let dry overnight. Seriously, do not rush this step.

Step Six: To remove the card stock from the wood, soak the wood in a bowl of water or hold it under running water until it is completely soaked all the way through. The card stock should, in theory, peel right off. You should also be able to rub away any glue residue without any part of the image lifting off.

I'm not sure exactly how this works, but I know it depends on the fact that Mod Podge dries (semi-)waterproof, while Elmer's Glue remains water-soluble even after drying. This means the ink, printed on top of the glue of the card stock, soaks into the Mod Podge layer rather than sticking to the paper — then, after thorough wetting, the card stock peels away and the remaining water-soluble glue dissolves, leaving nothing but the ink "glued" to the wood.

As you can see, the color is not quite as bright as the original print-out, and there are some places where not enough Mod Podge coated the wood so the ink did wash away. Also, this won't just transfer printer ink but any ink. You can see in the picture above that I outlined the image with a pen to help me orient the graphic on the wood, and some of the pen lines were transferred as well. But other than that, it seems to have been surprisingly successful!

This is just a first attempt, an incomplete project. I'm hoping to touch it up with some paint — including a simple design on the reverse side of the wood plaque as well as some kind of border to cover up the accidental pen lines — and then adding a final layer of Mod Podge as sealant. I'm also going to experiment with other kinds of designs and photographs to see what types of effects I can get. But for now, I'm pleased with the result.

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  1. Very cool, Ali. I love projects like this. Thanks for walking us through it. Could be useful down the road!


  2. No problem, Bob. :) I'm fairly addicted to crafts, for a person with no actual artistic skill!

  3. What a brilliant idea!! I love reading craft tutorials even if I am not planning on making the craft ;)

  4. Gonna do it!!!!! Thanks for sharing Alison!!! I love crafts too!!!