I have a bit of a Pinterest addiction. This includes an arts & crafts board a couple million pins long full of projects and ideas I'll probably never get to. Spend any amount of time looking at crafts on Pinterest and, like I, you'll probably stumble upon instructions on how to do image transfers. Image transfers on wood, on fabric, "gel" transfers - even image transfers using packing tape! The common denominator in all these image transfer projects seems to be one thing - a print out or picture using a non-water-based ink, (such as prints from a laser printer, photocopies, or magazine pages). I decided to see whether this technique would work with thermoplastics, and guess what - it does! On pretty much all of them!
Oh the possibilities! From something as straight forward as a quick way to transfer patterns to your thermoplastic, to applying complex designs to your pieces that would be too time-consuming or hard to paint by hand.
I'm going to split this tutorial into 2-parts covering Worbla thermoplastics and then non-Worbla thermoplastics, specifically Thibra.
PART 1 - Image Transfers On Worbla
You Will Need:
An image, either black & white or coloured, printed with a LASER PRINTER or PHOTOCOPIER. (This is the most important part! The image you want to transfer, for reasons that will soon become apparent, needs to be printed with a non-water-based-ink such as the heat-transferred toner in laser printers and photocopies.)
A piece of Worbla. (This will work with ANY Worbla, but for this tutorial I'll be using a piece of Worbla's Pearly Art, aka White Worbla, for greatest visibility.)
A heat gun for activating your Worbla.
A dull tool such as a bone folder, wooden sculpting tool, or spoon.
Print or photocopy and trim your image. The print can be black and white, or colour. IMPORTANT - If you are trying to transfer an image with text, or that has to face a certain direction make sure to reverse the image first before printing it out. Otherwise your text will be backwards on the finished piece.
Heat your Worbla as normal, with your heat gun, until it is very soft and the adhesive fully activated. Place your image face down in position on your Worbla.
With your bone folder, tool, or spoon, rub the back of the transfer firmly all over. Go back over the transfer numerous times to make sure you have covered all areas of the image. If you don't press hard enough or make sure to go over all areas of the image the picture will not transfer fully and the results will be spotty or incomplete. Do not use too thin or sharp an edged tool or you risk tearing the paper before the transfer is complete.
Set the Worbla aside to cool.
Once your piece has cooled and hardened, wet the back of the transfer with water. With your fingers and mild pressure, rub away the paper the transfer was printed on. With a bit of luck you will see your image has remained on the Worbla. Keep rubbing until all the paper is gone. You may find a small amount of hand-sanitizer will help remove the very last remnants of paper. You may find that even after cleaning the transfer has a slightly worn "vintage" look, particularly on classic Worbla. This is due to the Worbla's texture and cannot be fully eliminated. For the cleanest, most complete transfers the best thermoplastics to use are Thibra or TranspArt.
All done! Use your new transfer in a project!
NOTE: You can continue to reheat and re-shape your Worbla as normal, just be aware that stretching the Worbla too much will crack and/or tear the image.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I discuss doing transfers on Thibra as well as some variations and further tips. I think this is a super-cool technique and I can't wait to try it on some larger projects!