Using Transfer Images in Oil Painting

Apart from using pencil and tracing paper, there aren’t any well known techniques of transferring images onto canvas in matching with oil paints.

Nonetheless, there is a technique that is effective in transferring gesso-primed canvas that is not so known by many people.

The technique uses acrylic gel medium and an image generated from a copy machine. The following is a step-by-step of the aforementioned technique.

• Get the image you’re going to transfer and copy it using a copy machine or Xerox. Note that LaserJet or Inkjet printers are of no use here; you must use a copy machine due to the type of toner used and the way it sticks to the paper.

• Cut out the image to the precise size and shape you’re going to transfer.

• Use a paintbrush to apply acrylic gel medium in generous amounts on the image side of the paper and even it out. Take great care to ensure that no gel medium gets to the back side of the image.

• Take the wet side of the image down on to a well-primed gesso canvas and smooth it out. Smoothen out the entire image on to the canvas and make sure it properly adheres to it.


• Set to dry. Ensure it dries completely. Leaving it for 24 hours is usually safe.

• Wet the dry, adhered image with some water and carefully rub the paper away until what’s left on the canvas is only the image. And you’ll be done.

If you had never tried this technique before, you’ll be amazed – after you try it – at how convenient it can be. Besides replicating the exact copy, the gel medium is the ideal surface onto which to paint oil color. In addition, the toner is contained within the gel medium, so the oil color is protected from the ink’s degenerative properties.

Sadly though, the effectiveness of this transfer technique causes controversy to the ‘unique’ qualities that may or may not be portrayed by a painting. As such, in addition to understanding this immensely helpful method of transferring images onto canvas, it is important to establish its effect conceptually on your painting as a work of art.

The reasons as to why an artist would have a need to transfer an image to be used in an oil painting. One of them – which is very encouraged – is that it helps a novice artist new to oil painting learn. When a transfer is used as a template in this way, a beginner artist is able to concentrate only on the color and how it interacts with the mediums and solvents on the painting surface because this method gets rid of the compositional feature of oil painting.

The second valid reason is that it helps to exemplify an idea within your art work. Put differently, transfers can be a very useful part of a conceptual piece of art if they enhance a given issue at hand in the painting. For example, transfers are ideal in communicating the concept of repetition because they work like a Xerox or copy machine.

In conclusion, you ought to try out this oil painting technique, especially with these thoughts in mind, and you’ll be pleasantly amazed at the spectacular effects it creates.

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