How to transfer a photo onto wood – the full guide



First Attempt

Now this video has over 4,000,000 views at time of writing which has blown me away! I’ve done my best to be active on the YouTube channel and answer people’s questions as you can see here , and now I’ve added NEW videos at the bottom of this page which specifically cover the main questions you’ve asked. See the FAQs below…

This first video is more detailed than the second as I’m going through it from start to finish with very little edits.

Enjoy this then read on…

As you’ll see the end result was left a bit hazy and white and as people have commented I agree it was due to me using the PVA glue at the end instead of a varnish.


Second Attempt

Well it’s 12 months on and we’ve just tried two projects onto two types of wood and got very different results. From the YouTube comments I planned to try coating the finished image with varnish rather than PVA so as you’ll see in the process below that’s the way to go.

Watch how we got on and then you’ll be ready to read the process below…

So there it is and if you’ve watched with videos all the way through you’ll have seen the pitfalls as well as the things to do so now lets look at the process in simple steps.


The Process

Step 1 – Get some wood

Before you sort your image, or maybe around the same time, you need to know what wood you are transferring the photo to as it could change the size and format of your image. Some guys on the youtube channel have suggested applying an image to their guitars or a piece of furniture but if you’re just starting out we had great success with a hardwood chopping board in the second video. Here’s a link to some cheap ones and the UK one even has a border! /

If you’re going to a hardware store then look for a nice clean piece of wood thats plained and straight. You may need to cut it down but keep in mind the size of paper you’ll be printing on. In the UK it would be A4 ideally so your wood wants to be approx 210 by 297mm the same as the A4 print.


Step 2 – Prepare your photo

So you need to find a photo you like. Now if you have wood already and need to fit it to the size of that and hopefully it will be A4 or under else you’ll be paying more for your printing. (Of course you can go A3 if you like but I’d maybe start off smaller on your first project).

If your photo needs editing or flipping around I recommend Pixlr as an online app. I have given instructions on this process in the first video.

I do recommend reducing the saturation and ideally warming the image up so it looks more golden and will sit better on the wood. Bright, full colour images don’t look as good in my opinion.


Step 3 – Print your photo

Now this is the stage that causes most of the confusion and questions on my YouTube channel so I’ll go through it clearly. As I have a photo printer and I’m fussy I chose in both videos to print the photo I wanted to the correct size at home onto photo paper. I then took my photo to a printer like Staples and asked them to photocopy my photo on their laser photocopier just onto basic paper (ideally 80gms weight).

You can transfer from an inkjet printer (as seen here), but the results are far better from a laser copier / laser printer.


Step 4 – Get everything ready

What do I mean? Well as you can see from the videos you need to lightly sand over the wood with fine sand paper. You will need some Gel Medium or Mod Podge (links below) so get that ordered in. You want to apply with something like a credit card or loyalty card so have that ready, and have some cloth or towel available to clear up your excess gel.


Step 5 – Apply the photo to the wood

Now we’re getting started!

Get that Gel Medium out and apply it liberally but not too thick (you’ll see it in the videos). Place your photo down on the wood and wipe your card over it to get a nice smooth finish.


Step 6 – Walk away

Yep, you need to leave that baby overnight, stop your fiddling and go do something else.


Step 7 – Time to start rubbing… and rubbing… and rubbing

Yes this is the part we flew over in the second video as it can get a tad boring. Grab a jug of water (warm or cold) and a sponge / cloth. Lightly soak the paper while very gently rubbing the paper. It’s so important as we’ve spelt out on the videos to be gentle, not rubbing too hard and being patient. As you’ll see we stopped when it looked most of the way there, let it dry and then came back and rubbed a little more.

What we discovered in the second video that I didn’t fully realise in the first is that you can’t get it all. As long as when it’s wet it looks good then that’s the time to call it a day and let it dry. You’ll see this demonstrated in the second video.


Step 8 – Seal the image

We used an aerosol wood oil for this as it’s the best we could find in the hardware store (B&Q). If we’d have been in a craft store I’m sure there would have been more appropriate products but the idea is that we’re sealing in the photo with a nice gloss finish to take away the residue of the paper. As you’ll see at the end of the second video it worked a treat!


That’s it!

Yep, there’s nothing more I can do except give you some links. Please do leave your comments below though and I’ll do my best to get back to you within 24 hours.

Please let me know how you get on and share a photo of your finished product below.


Frequently asked Questions

With so many questions asked on the initial youtube video I felt it was time to try a few more transfers. Here are the main ones for you. As I explain, they aren’t tutorials but rather seeing whether the same technique used initially can be applied to other surfaces.

Can I transfer a photo onto glass the same as onto wood?

Can I transfer a photo onto painted wood?

Do I need to sand the wood before transferring the photo?

Can I transfer a photo onto a ceramic surface the same as onto wood?

And the biggest of all…

Can I transfer a photo onto wood using inkjet paper?




Chopping Board – /

Mod /
I have never used this but it’s the preferred product rather than the Gel Medium and can be used to seal at the end too!

Gel Medium – uk / 
If you can’t find the Mod Podge

Mod Podge Sealer (Aerosol)
I have never used this but it’s the preferred product rather than the Furniture Oil

Ronseal Furniture