Mod Podge and Tissue Paper Photo Transfer

This all started last fall when I bought a wooden plaque to try out a printable transfer paper that you ironed onto unfinished wood. I couldn't get the darn thing to work (my first stab at it turned into a Thanksgiving Plaque that decoupaged). Since my other attempt ended in decoupage, it figured that the second attempt would too. I was going for that rustic transferred look, but this is sort of a faux transfer since it uses mod podge and glues the image directly to the finished surface. I've used this method of printing on tissue paper and decoupaging it a few times, but the first time I used it for photos, I made coasters.

So I took my wooden sign/plaque thing and spray painted it white to cover the bad transfer that didn't work.

Then I printed out the photo I wanted to transfer/decoupage. I used Word because it's easiest to get the exact dimensions (in inches).

Then I covered a couple pieces of heavy card stock (110lb) with a sheet of white tissue paper. I trimmed the tissue paper to be just a bit larger than the card stock and then folded the edges over and taped them onto the back of the card stock. Then you can run it through a regular ink jet printer.

I always make 2-3 of these wrapped card stock sheets before running it through my printer because it is very absorbent and will attract any ink that's floating around in your printer on the print heads or rollers and it can sometimes mess up your design. So I printed 3 for this photo and selected the cleanest print for the project. I didn't mess with the settings at all when I printed it--but I might have been able to get more detail in the print if I had. But we're going for a rustic transferred look here, right? If you have the time, let your printed photo dry overnight so it's less likely to smear when applying glue.

I left the tissue paper attached to the card stock while I cut it. Tissue paper is much easier to cut straight if it's stabilized with the card stock.

Back to my plaque. It had nice smooth wood sides, so I decided to give them a little paint wash to make it look more finished. I thinned down some brown craft paint so that you could still see the wood grain through the paint (stain would do the same thing if you had some in your craft stash).

Then I brought out my trusty mod podge decoupage glue  and foam brush and spread a thin coat onto the surface of my plaque. You want just enough glue to attach the tissue paper--not so much that it soaks through and creates bubbles or tears the paper.

Next, I carefully applied the tissue paper photo. I lined it up with the edges and tapped it down carefully paying special attention to tapping down the faces so there wouldn't be wrinkles and then smoothing down the rest of the photo. Make sure your fingers stay dry. If they get glue on them, stop smoothing and remove it and make sure your hands are dry before returning to the project. Wet tissue paper tears very easily, so keeping your hands dry will help keep the project from ripping. There will be some wrinkles at this stage. Most little ones will smooth out as the project dries, but large wrinkles are part of the character of decoupaging tissue paper.

Then I let the photo dry for about an hour or so. It needs to be dry enough that coming back over it with glue and a brush won't tear the paper. It's also less likely to smear the ink if it's fairly dry when you paint on the sealing coat.

It turned out pretty well for a second attempt at a transfer. If you want a crisper, less rustic looking photo, you can decoupage a photo that's been printed onto paper instead of tissue.


  1. Hi, Sarah Jane (I have a sister with the same name!!)... here's a tip for decoupaging tissue onto wood. Spread a thin layer of mod podge on the wood, covering the surface the tissue will cover completely... and let the mod podge dry (15 min or more). Set your tissue in place and cover it with some parchment paper...then iron it with a hot iron, sliding from center to edges. The heat reactivates the mod podge, the iron makes the image flat (no wrinkles). I use this technique inside wooden trays and on plaques.. (: Ruth Ann

    1. That sounds awesome! I'll have to try it out some time!

    2. Hello, Sarah Jane,
      Do you think this process would work on canvas? I have only regular mod podge to use. Thank you so very much for any help you may provide!

    3. Yes. I think it would work just fine on a canvas. I'll have to check to see if I have a smaller canvas I could try it out on, too. Good luck with your project!


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