This is a really fast and easy way to give your photos a unique, hand-printed look by using a method called contact printing. All you need is an inkjet printer, your digital photo files, watercolor or printmaking paper, and one of those waxy backing sheets that hold stickers or address labels. So here’s what will happen…when you print onto the waxy sheet, the ink from your inkjet printer will sit on top of the waxy coating, it won’t be absorbed into the paper like it would be with normal inkjet paper. Because the ink droplets will be sitting on top of the paper, you will be able to make a contact print by pressing that ink onto an absorbent paper, such as watercolor paper or printmaking paper, and transferring the image.
Step 1 – Prepare the paper
Get out your watercolor paper or printmaking paper. For this example we’re using Arches Cover in white. You can cut it to the size you need with an x-acto knife or use your metal ruler to tear it down to size which will give you a nice hand-deckled edge.
Step 2 – Print the image
On your computer, choose the digital photo you want to use and open the file. The contact print won’t hold a lot of detail so pick something that will still read well with larger dots of ink as well as the texture of the paper showing through. Because the contact print is a reverse of the original you’ll want to flip the image horizontally in the digital file before printing if it includes type or if the orientation is crucial. Load your waxy backing sheet into your inkjet printer and print the photo.
Step 3 – Transfer the print
Holding the waxy backing sheet by the edges, carefully remove it from the printer. With the ink side facing down toward the printmaking paper, center it and press it down in one smooth motion being careful not to smear it. Lightly burnish the image with your fingers. If you want heavier ink coverage put it onto the printmaking paper as soon as possible. If you’d like the ink transfer to be a little less concentrated let it dry for a minute or two before pressing onto the paper.
That’s all there is to it! Above is a shot of the final print.
Notes and Disclaimer
The waxy backing sheet can be reused for more than one print. Wipe off the excess ink with a paper towel before reloading into your printer. Any ink that doesn’t wipe off is permanent and won’t show up in the subsequent prints.
You can get some interesting effects by experimenting with different types of paper such as rice paper or handmade papers. You can also use different colors of paper (you can see we tried one image on a piece of tan BFK Rives) or hand-tone your white paper beforehand with inks or even tea or coffee. If you used a good paper with some tooth you can also use paints or colored pencils to handcolor or paint on top of your image.
**Disclaimer** I used an Epson StylusPhoto printer to print onto the waxy backing sheets and didn’t have any problems. However, not having tried any other printers I can’t guarantee how it will work with your individual printer. There is always the chance that there could be smudging or ink build-up.
You can download a pdf of this tutorial here. If anyone experiments with this technique I’d love to see the results! Please email and/or post your photos in the Craft Tutorials Group on Flickr.
Just thought that I would let everyone know that Craft Tutorials has moved to crafttutorials.net