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How I Do Parchment Paper Image Transfers on Encaustic

I’ve had a few artists contact me with questions about parchment paper transfers on encaustic so I thought I’d write a post about how I do it.

Parchment paper transfers use toner. Some people claim to be able to do parchment paper transfers using an inkjet printer, but I haven’t had any luck with that at all. I use an inexpensive HP LaserJet CP1025nw color laser printer to do both parchment paper and water transfers.

I use plain old parchment paper from the grocery. Nothing fancy or particularly expensive. The beauty of parchment paper is that you can print multiple times on both sides.

Parchment Paper

In my experience, fine lines are a bit more difficult to get with parchment paper transfers; I’ve had more success with water transfers. But parchment paper releases the toner onto the wax very quickly and easily, with little pressure, and it works well with both color and black and white images. Another¬†great thing about this type of transfer is that you don’t need any solvents or water.

The parchment paper I use comes in a roll. I cut an 8.5×11-inch piece and put something heavy on it to flatten it. I usually let it sit overnight so it’s nice and flat, otherwise it’s difficult to get it to run through the laser printer. I’ve tried using a carrier sheet by taping the parchment paper to a plain piece of printer paper and running it through the printer, but it jams every time. Sticky tape residue on the rollers is a nightmare to get off.

Cut parchment paper to size needed

Once the parchment paper sheet is nice and flat, I load it into the printer’s feed tray just like a regular sheet of paper. With my image prepared in Photoshop, I send it to the printer and keep my fingers crossed!

Image being prepped in Photoshop

Don’t forget to flip your image in Photoshop before printing, otherwise your transfer will be facing the wrong way. This is especially important if you’re including text in your transfer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to flip the image before printing it.

Image printed on parchment paper

For this piece I’m using a 6×6-inch panel that I prepped with two coats of R&F encaustic gesso and at least four layers of clear encaustic medium. I try to make the surface as smooth as possible so the transfer will go on easily.

Smooth surface

I warm the surface slightly with a heat gun. You could also use a torch. It depends on which you prefer to use. The surface should look shiny and be a little sticky to the touch. You don’t want it to be completely melted and liquified.

Placing the image face down on the wax surface, I start by burnishing with my fingers. The toner will start to come off almost immediately, so you don’t want to burnish until you’ve got your image placed.

Start burnishing with your fingers

After burnishing with my fingers, I move on to using the edge of a metal spoon. You’ll be able to see the toner coming off the parchment paper and sticking to the wax, which makes it easier to see areas that might need a bit more burnishing.

Gently burnish with the edge of a spoon

After thoroughly burnishing the entire image, I pull back the edge of the parchment paper carefully to see if there are any little specks of toner left on it. Don’t pull it off completely! If there’s toner left on the paper, put the paper down and burnish again. When all the toner has transferred, the parchment paper will be blank.

Pull back the paper to see the transfer

If something transferred that you don’t like or want, you can use a scraping tool to remove it. Just be sure to remove whatever you want before you seal the transfer with clear medium. I use a lineoleum cutting tool for cleaning up small areas.

The next step is critical. Before sealing with clear medium, I fuse the transfer VERY, VERY LIGHTLY, just enough to push the toner into the wax. I find parchment paper transfers to be extremely delicate. They’re much quicker to slide around and separate than water transfers when heated. Heating the surface before sealing helps keep the transfer from smearing when the clear medium is applied.

At this point I let the piece cool down before putting on the layer of clear medium so there’s no danger of the wax being too soft and the image being dragged across the surface with the brush. Make sure your brush is hot and keep it moving over the transfer. I tend to do a fairly thin layer of medium.

When you fuse this layer, be very careful. Too much heat will melt the wax under the transfer and the image will start to disintegrate and slide around. It just needs to be heated until it goes shiny. Sometimes there are still brushmarks in the wax around the transfer. I wait until the piece has cooled and then I’ll gently fuse again.

Finished transfer

You can put more than one layer of clear medium over the transferred image if you like, but I usually stop here, leaving my transfer at the top of the layers of my encaustic piece.

Here’s the original photo for this piece:

Girl Picking Berries

Are you experimenting with parchment paper transfers?


  1. Sherry Sherry April 5, 2016

    You can get heavier parchment paper available at a restaurant supply shop. But you may have to purchase it in larger quantities.

  2. Joan Allen Joan Allen March 12, 2015

    I’m relatively new to encaustics and am always looking for info and techniques on the web. I’ve used the laser toner image transfer with burnishing and rubbing off with water. Sometimes it works the first time, but most times it does not. I found your instructions for printing on parchment and gave it a try. The images that made it thru the printer worked great for transferring onto wax. My delima is that the (baking) parchment seems to be too thin to feed thru my HP laser printer without wrinkling or jamming. I used your method of putting weight on it to flatten it, ironed it, attempted attaching it to other papers, non are a good success rate.
    Do you know of any other parchment like paper that is heavier than the baking parchment?
    Thank you!
    Joan Allen

    • Susan Stayer Susan Stayer March 13, 2015

      Hi Joan,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear the parchment paper isn’t working very well. I can’t think of anything that might be heavier. You can buy precut parchment, and that would be flatter, but I don’t know if that would help.

      Please don’t give up!


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