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Featured Artist: Dana Brown

Image Transfer & Collage: A Demonstration Using Claybord

My artwork often involves combining several techniques and materials. Ampersand Claybord is great for this kind of work because it is so versatile. The strong, rigid panel can take the pressure of a transfer process without bending or tearing. Its smooth surface allows for a clean transfer and collage materials make a perfectly flush connection. I also really like that Claybord is an archival surface and that the panel is well sealed and primed.

Reverse & resize the image

For this demo, I combined a color copy transfer with collage. I began by selecting an image for the transfer. I chose a family photograph in digital format. I resized it and reversed the image left-to-right on my computer with image software. I flipped the image because in the transferring process, it will print in reverse. Once the image was ready, I printed it out on a color copier. Alternatively, you can resize and reverse a printed photograph by using a color copier directly.

Figure 1: Prepare Claybord for the transfer

Prepare Claybord for the transfer

Next, I prepared the 9"x12" Claybord with 3/4" cradle for the transfer. I used a 3" foam brush to apply Daniel Smith’s World’s Best White Acrylic Gesso to the surface (fig. 1). This layer should be evenly applied so that it adheres well to the color copy and doesn’t dry too quickly. Daniel Smith’s gesso works great for this step because it is already the perfect viscosity right out of the can.

Figure 2: Position the image

Position the image

To make sure I positioned the image correctly, I set the color copy face-up on the table and lay the gessoed Claybord face-down onto the image (fig.2). Then, I applied pressure to the back and flipped the panel over (fig. 3).

Figure 3: Burnish the image down

Burnish the image down

The next step is to burnish the image to the panel (fig. 4). The purpose of this step is to make sure that the gesso adheres properly to the ink from the copy. You can smooth the back of the image copy with your hands. While this works, it can result in a inconsistent and irregular transfer. Likewise, too much pressure can either tear the paper or squeeze too much gesso out from under the paper causing faint areas or areas with no transfer at all.

Figure 4: Using a rubber brayer

The method that I find works best is to use a rubber brayer, rolling from the middle out to the sides using medium pressure. This pushes out any air bubbles and achieves a flat, even bond. Make sure to go over the entire image thoroughly with the brayer or it can result in an uneven or poor transfer. For a good bond, it is very important to make sure there is enough gesso on the Claybord, especially on the surrounding and outer edges of the panel.

Allow to dry overnight.

Rub away the paper

Once the gesso is dry, begin removing the paper from the surface, so that the ink from the copy is left intact in the gesso layer (fig. 5).

Figure 4: Using a rubber brayer

This is done by dissolving the paper with water. Slowly remove the paper by dipping your fingers into the water and gently rubbing it off the surface. This part of the process generally takes 2-3 passes to remove all of the paper lint. The first pass allows you to remove most of the paper as well as the excess paper hanging over the sides. Be extra careful with the edges of the image so that you do not peel or rub the ink away too. This is the most fragile area of the transfer. For best results, start rubbing from the center of the panel outward and in one direction only or the edges of the image might peel up. Do not be afraid to re-wet the area if the paper is not rubbing away. After the first pass, I allow a few minutes for the surface to dry slightly. This makes it easier to see where the paper lint is still on the image. These areas will look “faded” or “dull”. When finished, the transfer surface will feel consistent and smooth.


There are many different uses for image transfers. Because the surface is Claybord, you can paint, collage, print on, or even scratch into the transfer with Ampersand Scratchbord™ tools. Collage & finish (fig. 6) I decided to collage on top of the transfer (fig. 6).

Produvts used in this article

I “drew” shapes by connecting small magazine strips to make lines and curves. I used Lineco neutral pH adhesive to attach the tiny papers to the transfer. To finish, I brushed Golden® soft gel medium over the artwork to seal it. Then, I attached hanging hardware directly to the back of the cradle.

Dana Brown

Dana Brown is both an Ampersand and a Gamblin working artist who is constantly exploring new and interesting mixed-media techniques. For more information about Dana Brown, visit his website here.

Featured Materials

Transfer Materials:

  • Claybord Cradled 3/4" or 2" Deep
  • Color Xerox to transfer (sized & reversed)
  • Daniel Smith World’s Best Acrylic Gesso
  • Rubber brayer
  • Water container

Collage Materials (optional):

  • Magazines
  • Xacto Knife
  • Lineco Neutral pH adhesive
  • Golden Soft Gel Medium
  • Hanging hardware

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