Home / Encaustic Techniques / Learn How To Do Encaustic Photo Transfer
photo transfer

Learn How To Do Encaustic Photo Transfer

I’ve taken five encaustic workshops with Andrea Bird and, in each class, there is always someone who hasn’t learned this technique. Everyone has the same wonderful reaction as the paper comes away from the wax and the ink is left behind.

Tips for successful encaustic photo transfer:

  • use images with a high level of contrast
  • ensure the images you’re using are use pigment inks – from a photocopy machine, a laser printer or a magazine. Inkjet printers using dye inks won’t give you good results
  • for a complete transfer make sure the wax surface is smooth – a transfer over texture will be broken where the toner couldn’t get into texture on the wax surface
  • ensure that the wax isn’t too soft or your rubbing will leave marks
  • when you place your image face down it will transfer in reverse so you wish to digitally reverse the image before you print it

6 how-to steps for photocopy transfer in encaustic art

These instructions are the common way to do a photo transfer but I’ve found that using the parchment paper photo transfer method is easier.

  1. Place the reversed photocopy face down on the wax – the wax should be slightly warm but not soft
  2. If it is a small transfer, place a piece of vellum or waxed paper over the transfer to protect the edges
  3. Now you want to rub thoroughly all over the image to burnish the photocopy into the wax. Use a burnishing tool, the back of a spoon or the handle of a clean brush moving gently in small circles. Thoroughly burnish the entire image. If you miss a spot the transfer will have a hole in it
  4. Lift off the vellum or waxed paper
  5. Dip your finger into water or use a spray bottle to wet the surface and start rubbing in circles. The paper will start to dissolve as you add water. When the water dries you may see fragments of paper. Just add more water and continue to rub until all of the paper has dissolved.
  6. If the transfer is on the top layer you can just gently fuse, you don’t have to put a top coat of wax. Fusing will melt the wax and any paper that is left on the surface of the wax. If you fuse with a blow torch use a dip in and pull away motion to lightly fuse. If you use a heat gun, keep it moving and don’t go too close to the surface of your artwork. An embossing heat tool is a lower temperature heat gun and you may have more success with it. Stop before the image begins to distort – unless you want the wabi-sabi distorted look

That’s it!

Encaustic Step-by-Step Image Transfer Demo

About Ruth Maude

I enjoy experimenting with a variety of encaustic materials, techniques and tools. Everything I learn pushes my creative journey in new directions. I share what I've learned with other artists through my blog All Things Encaustic.

Visit My Website
View All Posts

10 thoughts on “Learn How To Do Encaustic Photo Transfer”

  1. Is it possible to burnish too much? I am getting blank spots – so I might be missing spots when burnishing. But I think I am covering the whole image, so wondering if either my wax is too warm or I am pressing too hard

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Is your wax super smooth? If there is a spot that has texture, it won’t take the transfer. If the wax is too warm you’ll leave marks in it. I don’t think you’re pressing too hard, more likely missing spots.

    1. Hi,

      It’s not just pressing down you need to rub (burnish). And don’t pull it up when you’re finished rubbing it down… use water to dissolve the paper. I hope that helps

  2. Hi there, I am having the same issue as the person above. The transfer works but when I lightly fuse on top of the transfer it blurs and spreads. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you!

  3. Following your wonderful instructions, transfers of my photos onto the wax medium is working very well. However, after the transfer is complete, I lightly fuse the transfer. Later, if I want to put a top layer of wax medium over the photo — it blurs and the toner spreads, ruining my image. What am I doing wrong?

    Thanks for your help!

  4. Hello!

    Thanks for this great tutorial!
    Thing i’m having trouble with, the image is not at all sticking.
    Does it matter the type of wax you use to put the image on? Do I need to break down and buy damar resin?

    1. Marcia you need damar resin to make encaustic medium. Beeswax alone is just not durable enough. The addition of damar resin acts as a hardening agent allowing your painting to cure and will reduce or prevent blooming (a white clouding of the surface).

      You need the image to be printed with a laser printer – ink jet won’t work.

      Hope this helps.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top