MillWorks: Faux Lithograph on Wood

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Faux Lithograph on Wood

This craft transfers a laser printer printout (toner) over to wood. The intention is for it to look like a lithograph that has seen a lot of wear, so this project isn't one to choose if you'd prefer a pristine, new-looking image.

Choose a vintage clip art illustration, and in a word processing or graphics program, reverse it horizontally so that it is a mirror image.

Do some practice prints to get this image to the exact size you want for your project. I chose to center mine on a rectangular wood box, but you can also do a plaque or other wood item, such as a stool, as long as the surface is flat.

Practice ironing an image on to a scrap piece of paper (or even wood, if you can) to see if the toner transfers from one surface to another. What you see is crisper and nicer than what will transfer to the wood, since wood has a grain and ups and downs to it.

If your printer seems to be compatible with this, it's time to move on to transferring the image to the wood.

If the wood surface isn't smooth, sand it to get it as smooth as you can. Any dips or lows are places where the toner will not adhere.

Now it's time to print out your final image, remembering to keep it reversed. Set a laser printer on the darkest print setting so that a lot of toner is deposited to the paper. (No laser printer? You may be able to replicate this with the help of a photocopier.)

Center the printed image and tape it to the wood. Don't put tape where the iron will touch. Iron on the hottest setting carefully--remember you're working with wood and paper, which are both flammable!--and let the paper cool between ironings. Resist the urge to peek. Iron a few times before removing the printed image, after a final ironing (while warm).

The correct look is an image that has "worn" off, and isn't fully discernible. But if there are any important portions that are totally missed, you can carefully cut or rip the paper to size and try again, working on just that little section. However, part of the "art" is to have missing sections, so there's no need to try again if enough of the image is there. Each time you do this, it's possible to double an image.

Let the wood item sit for a while before finishing it with stain (optional) and varnish.


When I was trying to find out how to transfer an image to wood, rather than having to paint it out myself, I found a lot of mixed information. The general consensus is that ironing a laser printed image to wood just doesn't really work. The "right" way is a longer process using matte acrylic gel medium or a transfer paper. Either of those products, however, is not only pricey, but also doesn't put the image directly on the wood itself.

I decided to try it the "wrong way," knowing that the results wouldn't be perfect. Since I like for things to look old and worn, this didn't bother me. The details that can be transferred to wood are really amazing, and not something I could duplicate with even a thin art pen. For me, it was worth the try, and I think the fact that parts would not transfer just makes the finished product more intriguing.

The drawing I used is of five children--the little boy in the front left is lying on his stomach and felt too comfortable on the paper to cooperate with going on the wood, although he was happy to lose his hat there. There's a bunny on the far left, and woods behind them. On the right there is a fence behind the two older children. If you like the artwork I used, it's image #503 in Old-Fashioned Children Illustrations in the Dover Electronic Clip Art series.

Have fun!

Providing crafts since October 2011. Wood transfer instructions added February 2013. Copyright 2011- and all contents by Millie. Resulting products can only be kept or given away as gifts. Always keep safety in mind.