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How to do gel transfer (Xerox, not Polaroid)?

M Hincher , Nov 22, 2003; 07:12 p.m.

I'm wondering how exactly to go about doing a gel transfer, non-Polaroid?

I do digital photos and inkjet and alternative print methods.

I know enough to know that you print your file, or copy it on a color xerox print, then coat the xerox with an unknown gel of some kind, and then turn it over onto your paper and let it lift off the xerox, then peel the paper off carefully.

When I do searches, I find a million hits for those Polaroid transfers, and it takes forever to weed through them all to find what I'm looking for, which isn't that.

I have no idea what the gel is, or how long I leave it on the paper before peeling...


David F. Stein , Nov 23, 2003; 12:21 a.m.

Response to How to do gel transfer (non-Polaroid)?

I can't follow you completely, because it seems like you would be turning the image inside out. Two ways to do the transfer would be with ordinary contact paper found in the dollar store or with painting on thin coats of acrylic matte medium, which you let set. In either case, you lift off the image and its carrier in a water bath-the magazine, xerox, whatever base is gently lifted off/rubbed away. This "image transparency" can then be fixed to printmaking paper in several ways, with or without press, with PVA archival glue or wheat paster (a la chine colle). Xerox images can also be transferred by a process similar to lithography. A fresh xerox is coated with gum arabic, sponged and then rolled with oil-based ink. The toner will "ink up" much like an aluminum or stone lithography plate-the transfer could be by an etching press or hand baren. I would look for Theresa Airey's book on Alternative Printmaking for other ideas and methods. GOOD LUCK.

J Edwards , Nov 24, 2003; 11:19 a.m.

Response to How to do gel transfer (non-Polaroid)?

While I've never done it myself, an instructor of mine once demonstrated something similar. She put a color xerox of her print face down on the paper she was transferring to (watercolor paper I believe) and coated the back with wintergreen oil. I think you can get the non-edible oil from a health store or the pharmacy. She rubbed the back of the xerox with a spoon for a while to transfer the image. It looked really nice but I think it takes some practice to determine how much oil and how much pressure to use when rubbing. At least you're working with a xerox copy and not an original image.

Shawn Kearney , Nov 28, 2003; 05:23 p.m.

Hmm, never heard the gel process...

I know a little bit about acetone transfer, and I beleive it works like this:

obtain a laser print (or any other resin based toner) on thin paper, like copy paper.

contact the paper onto the transfer media, like water color paper. pour an ample amount of acetone onto the back of the original, place a peice of glass over the whole thing to prevent premature evaporation, wait a few hours (maybe even minutes) and peal off.

If that doesn't work then pour the acetone onto the transfer media and the back of the print. But to make it lift properly, i am certain you will need to pour it onto the back of the original.

I suppose it might be possible to take household gelatin and instead of water use a solvant like acetone, the idea here would be that the resin toner would migrate to the gelatin. This might produce some very interesting effects. Still, you may need to push acetone through the back of the print, at which point I am unsure it would be necissary to mix the gelatin with acetone. But, the gelatin concept really does intrigue me.

The reason i suggest pushing acetone through the paper is because you will be pulling the toner rather than simplying trying to lift it away. Since the toner is not thick or tacky like photographic emulsion it would not lift properly.

I would imagine you would want to wash away any residual acetone, so care must be taken not to wash away the gelatin. Because the resin toner is not soluable and is impregnated into the paper, I do not imagine this would be an issue. Or would the acetone just evaporate off by itself?

My transient media folder in my portfolio illustrates inkjet transfers, as discribed:


I noticed that you had asked a bunch of questions there, but i just forgotten to answer them.

Richard H. Weiner , Jan 22, 2004; 05:08 a.m.

What you are looking for is available in Art Stores...Acrylic medium...and the technique is similar to Decoupage "Application Description The transfer process requires brushing or pouring a thin layer of acrylic medium over the image to be transferred. After complete drying, soak the coated image in water and then remove the paper backing of the image. This leaves a transparent or translucent image imbedded within the acrylic medium." .... http://www.goldenpaints.com/transimg.htm & http://www.rexart.com/appdecoupage.html Also try a Google search...image transfer using acrylic

Emily Compton , Mar 29, 2006; 06:04 p.m.

I actually was online trying to get the same information, so here's a way that I've heard about: You take a xerox copy and put it face up on a piece of plexi or glass. Brush the xerox with a gum arabic solution (not sur how much water)until it is wet and stuck down to the plexi or glass. Roll the xerox copy with an oil based ink and the ink will stay where the black was and resist the white of the paper. I think only black and white xeroxes will work, not color. Finally then put the inked up xerox face down on a piece of nice, absorbent watercolor or printing paper (I like Rives BFK)and run it through the press. I hope I am recalling the process correctly. It's been a couple of years since I tried it.

chloe jones , Apr 12, 2006; 11:54 p.m.

This works best with black and white xeroxes (or laser prints), but you can do it with colour ones (the colour xeroxes just need to be very very fresh becuase for some reason the toner on them stops being as easy to work with quickly) This method also creates a reversed image, so if you want the transfer to come out in positive you'll need to flip it in your image software before you print.

The unnamed gel is Citristrip woodwork and cabinet trim stripper. I believe Ace hardware makes it's own store brand that looks similar, but I don't know if it's viscous enough to use. I had a devil of a time locating my own supply of citristrip (previously I just mooched off the supply in the printmaking lab, one of the benefits of art school they might make you pay through your teeth, but all the chemicals are right there to use)neither Home Depot nor Lowe's carries it (at least not in my city) but I located it at the local Ace hardware.

1.Xerox the image (or print it out on a laser printer.) Leave about an inch of blank paper around the area you wish to transfer. This will help keep the citristrip from getting under the paper or on the surface you are printing onto and staining. 2.Place you xerox face down on the surface you wish to print on (the darker/more toner rich your copy the better it will print.) 3.Using a cheap paintbrush (those ones you can get at the art warehouse or the hardware store for like 60 cents are perfect) paint a decently thick layer of the citristrip over the image. I like to leave the citristip on the paper for a little bit (maybe a minute or two) to work with the toner, but don't leave it on too long or it will wreak havoc on the surface you're printing onto (I use this process to transfer my drawings from my sketchbook onto linoleum to make linocuts quite a bit and if I left it on too long it made the linoleum really soft and awful to cut cleanly) 4. Using a very hard plasitc squeegee (the little blue plastic ones they sell at art supply stores with the seriography supplies for around a buck work pretty well) scrape the gel from the print. This is where you could also use a spoon, or if you're really lucky and have access to an etching press you can just put a could sheeets of newsprint over the whole thing and run it through the press once and back which will actually preduce the best results due to the nice continuous pressure. Make sure you apply quite a bit of pressure while doing this or the toner will not transfer well or evenly and you might end up with a blotchy or faint image. 5. Peel the xerox paper off your recieving surface and admire your handiwrok.

jeani miner , May 04, 2006; 05:13 p.m.

The product you're looking for could actually by several things as more than one product will transfer dry toner from a (Xerox) photocopy to another surface. I've transferred photocopied images to fabric, paper, and even (with limited success) fine grain wood. The process for all products begins with a photocopy of your image. Inkjet copies from your printer will not work. Some variations will reverse the direction of your image so if there are words etc. you will want to either flip it before printing or have it flipped when photocopying. I always make my photocopies on the color copier using the full color setting - even for black and white or sepia images.

Once you have your photocopies you're ready to begin.

Golden (Golden is the brand, not color) Soft Gel (gloss) Apply an even layer of product to the receiving paper. It's a good idea to brush on a coat from top to bottom and then brush through it from side to side. This helps ensure you didn't miss a spot. Lay your photocopied image (after you've torn or cut it to desired size) into the product, toner side down. Using your finger, gently burnish the back of the image working from the center out to eliminate air bubbles. It will transfer quickly so you don't want to leave it in place too long or the gel will begin to get tacky and act as a glue. Remove the photocopy to reveal the transfer. You can seal the transferred image (or not) using another coat of gel medium.

Colorless Blender Pen Again you begin with a photocopy as described above. What's cool about this process is you can maintain fairly precise control over which portions of the photo you transfer. Select your background (smoother surfaces are best for this technique). Crop your image by cutting or tearing (I think tearing looks better as you get a softer edge, looking as though the photo is really a part of your background paper). Place your image, toner side down, on the receiving paper and holding it very firmly in place begin to saturate the back of the image with the blender pen. You will immediately begin to see the image appear through the back of the paper, so you can pick and choose which areas to transfer. Try to keep a soft edge. Saturate an area then burnish it with a bone folder or the back of a spoon. Saturate and burnish over and over until all areas are wet and burnished. While still holding the paper in place, carefully peel up one corner and take a peek. If the image is still grainy, saturate some more and burnish until you're satisfied with the amount of toner transfer. You can reuse the photocopy for a more diffused transfer - great for vintage looking projects.

The last product is drinking gin. The cheaper brands work better as they're not as well filtered. The process is the same, simply lay your image toner side down onto paper and spray with gin. Burnish the back as described above until you get a good transfer.

More fun can be had with Liquid Sculpty (Translucent). Place a coating of LST onto a piece of glass and press your photocopied image into it making sure you have complete contact - no air bubbles. Bake according to the manufacturers directions. In this instance the paper is eventually peeled off the product leaving only the toner behind. You also end up with a very flexible product - great for dimensional work. Complete directions are packaged with the product.

This same method can also be done with the Soft Gel (and your image will not reverse in this instance). Coat the toner side of your image and allow it to dry completely. This could take 20 minutes or several hours depending on how thick you spread it and the temp and humidity. When it's dry, soak the paper and rub it off with your finger. Don't be too agressive as you only want to remove the paper, not the toner. Wet and rub until all traces of paper are gone. These are often refered to as 'skins'.

Hope this will give you plenty of options - have fun! jeani

marko head , Nov 22, 2009; 09:51 p.m.

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