Image transfer on Claybord

The strong, rigid panel can take the pressure of an image transfer process without bending or tearing. Its smooth surface allows for a clean transfer and collage materials make a perfectly flush connection. The fact that Claybord is an archival surface is an added bonus.


  • Claybord (we used a 9x12 3/4" cradle)
  • Photograph printed on color printer (reversed)
  • 3" Foam brush
  • Daniel Smith's World's Best White Acrylic Gesso
  • Rubber brayer
  • Water
  • Lineco Neutral pH Adhesive (optional: collage only)
  • Golden Soft Gel Medium (optional: collage only)


Step 1: This piece combines an image transfer with collage using a photograph printed on a color printer. Begin by selecting an image for the transfer. On a computer with image software, resize the image to fit the panel. Then reverse it, left-to-right, so it won’t be backwards once it’s transferred. Next, print it out on a color printer. Alternatively, you can resize and reverse a printed photograph by using a color copier directly.

Step 2: Prepare a ¾" cradled 9x12 Claybord. Use a 3" foam brush to apply Daniel Smith’s World’s Best White Acrylic Gesso to the surface. This layer should be evenly applied so that it adheres well to the image and doesn’t dry too quickly. Daniel Smith’s gesso works great for this step because it already has the perfect viscosity right out of the can. For a good bond, it is important to make sure there is enough gesso on the Claybord, especially on the surrounding and outer edges of the panel.

To make sure that the image is positioned correctly, set it face-up on a table and lay the gessoed Claybord face-down onto the image. Then, apply pressure to the back and flip the panel over.


Step 3: Burnish the image to the panel. The purpose of this step is to make sure that the gesso adheres properly to the ink from the image. Using a rubber brayer, roll 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.

Tip: You can smooth the back of the image with your hands. While this can work, it can result in an 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.


Step 4: Once the gesso is dry, begin removing the paper from the surface, so that the ink from the paper is left intact in the gesso layer. This is done by dissolving the paper with water. Slowly remove the paper by dipping your fingers into 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, 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.


Optional steps: Because the surface is Claybord, you can paint, collage, print on, or even scratch into the transfer with Ampersand Scratchbord Tools. This piece has collage on top. Using Lineco Neutral pH Adhesive, small magazine strips were used to add lines and curves.

Once the collage is dry, brush Golden Soft Gel Medium over the artwork to seal it. Lastly, frame in an Ampersand Floaterframe or attach hanging hardware directly to the back of the cradle.

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