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Tag: wax

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?

Old Family Photographs Made Into Encaustic Paintings

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a woman who saw my work hanging in the Alcove space at Stifel & Capra during the month of April.

The woman’s husband liked my two photo-encaustic pieces “Mists of Time I” and “Mists of Time II,” and wondered if I would do something similar with some of his old family photos.

He chose three photographs for me to turn into encaustic works.


They’ve been a lot of fun to do. As I transfer the photos onto the wax, I love looking at the faces and the old car and imagining all the stories that go along with them.

I hope they enjoy the pieces as much as I enjoyed making them. It feels great when someone likes what you do enough to commission work based on something as personal as family photos.

The three photo encaustic pieces are heading to their new home in India soon. Bon voyage!

Photography & Encaustic: A Match Made in Heaven

I enjoy experimenting with photographs and finding new ways to use them. I’ve used my photos in printmaking, but I really don’t have the temperament to be a printmaker. And since I’m definitely not a painter, using photos for reference is out.

When I started working with encaustic, however, I discovered how wonderfully photography and encaustic work together.

Up until now I’ve been embedding photos in encaustic or making image transfers. Recently I learned a new way of doing image transfers. Turns out I’ve been doing them the hard way!

I’ve been doing what Linda Womack calls “water transfers.” I print an image is printed using a laser printer or a copy machine onto regular copy paper. (The cheap stuff works just fine.) Using the back of a spoon, I then rub the image into the slightly warmed and very smooth encaustic surface. Once it cools, I use water to help break down the paper and rub it off very gently, leaving the toner in the wax.

The water method is good for fine lines, and you can get good details in the transfers, but it’s difficult and slow-going, especially for large transfers. Patience is key.


Earlier this week I discovered another way to do image transfers using ordinary kitchen parchment paper. It’s so easy! The process still uses laser printer or copy machine images rubbed onto the wax surface, but it couldn’t be easier. There’s no dampening and rubbing off of the paper. It practically slides right off the parchment!

Today I got back into the studio and tried my hand at the parchment paper transfer for the first time. It was a lot of fun and I’m already planning to do more.



If you’re interested in trying your hand at encaustic, Linda Womack offers in-person as well as online courses that are terrific. I’ve done two of them online. Her classes can be found at Womack Workshops.

Hot Off the Palette: Two New Photo Encaustic Pieces

Shady Side

Photography is my first love and I enjoy it immensely, but sometimes it’s fun to expand on photography and take it in new directions.

Recently I’ve been working a lot on combining photographs with encaustic. I’ve been printing photos on Hosho paper and then embedding them in clear encaustic medium. I’ve also printed them on watercolor paper and used acrylic gel medium to adhere them to the board before covering the photos with encaustic medium.

Neither of those processes excites me much.

Summer Glow

Then I tried transferring a color laser print of the photo onto the wax surface and fusing it. Called a “water transfer,” in this process the toner becomes part of the layer of wax. After a couple more thin layers of clear encaustic medium, I enhance the piece with watercolors and oil sticks.

Now that’s a LOT more exciting!

So for the past couple of months I’ve been experimenting with photo transfers and encaustic. I’m calling them “photo encaustics” for lack of a better term.

A New Encaustic Photo Transfer: This Time It’s a Rooster

I’ve been working on some new encaustic pieces during the past two weeks. Inspired by the image transfer demonstration I saw at the encaustic conference back in June, I’ve been trying my hand at a few of these “water transfers.”

The process requires patience, which isn’t really one of my strengths! It’s worth it though when the paper is rubbed away and the image has transferred nicely into the surface of the wax.

I started with a cropped version of one of the photos I took during the 2011 Fields Project. I added layers of wax, oil stick, and even used a paper doily to add texture.


Grant’s Roosters, I, will be included in the Power of Color III show at Gallery West. The show opens on Wednesday, August 3, 2011, with an artists’ reception on Saturday, August 13, from 5 to 8 pm.