Sunday, July 10, 2011

Image transfer

I have also experimented with transferring images onto polymer clay. I started using some waterslide transfer paper but was not happy with the quality of finished pieces. Printing from the computer onto the paper gave very crisp clear results and it was quite easy to apply the transfer paper to the rolled surface of the clay. However, it almost impossible not to get tiny air bubbles under the surface of the film. Even when it looked smooth, baking seemed to accentuate or even create minor surface irregularities – also, it was noticeable that areas with no print, showing white (as I did the transfers on white clay) looked quite yellowed, compared to the second method I tried.

The lips image was cut out and
applied to a pale pink polymer
clay background 
Toner transfer method - you can
still see some fine paper remains
on the surface at this stage

Not happy with the waterslide transfer paper method, I consulted one of my Donna Kato books on creative surface effects and tried the ‘direct toner copy’ method. This meant taking a copy (in reverse) of the images I wanted to the local printing store and getting them to do a colour photocopy. With it being a digital copier, I was not sure if this was going to work but when I asked, the operator said that it was not ink, so it must be toner.

I was much more impressed with the results of this method. You just cut the image you want to shape and burnish face down on the surface of the clay. Then spray, to saturate with water, for a minute or so and then gently rub the paper with your finger to gradually roll away the layers of paper. You need to be patient and take your time, keep spraying and rubbing. The idea is to remove all the paper, in layers, to reveal the toner left on the surface of the clay. If you rub too much, you will smudge the toner, so you need to know when to stop.

Baking the clay bonds the toner to the clay but it should be sealed afterwards with a layer of liquid polymer clay. (This was my only problem in this trial – my lpc is quite old and has thickened, so it was difficult to get a thin layer). Although it takes much longer to transfer the image, I think the result is better and I will use this method again – you do not have a film over the surface, so it looks more natural and it can be easily cut after the image has been applied, which you cannot do with the other method. Also it much cheaper, as you can fill an A4 sheet with images and just pay for a colour photocopy when you need it, rather than buying the packs of waterslide transfer sheets, which are much smaller in size.

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