In this article, I’ll reveal 5 easy ways to print on wood! Wooden prints make beautiful customized signs, to decorations, awards or to to brand your work. I tested 4 DIY image transfer techniques, thereafter used a sweet piece of technological know-how for the fifth. I got really amazed at the results, because the one I love was sitting in my store and I didn’t even know it!
Ensure you watch the video below, to take a look at each wood printing technique in action!
This is what you’ll need for the project :
- (1) 8′ 1×4 select pine board
- Nitrile gloves
- Acid brush
- Liquitex gel medium
- Foam brush
- Spray lacquer
5 Easy Ways to Print on Wood:
- Clothes Iron
- Gel Medium
- CNC Laser
I’ll guide you through all of the 5 methods used to print on wood. I’ll show you things you need, how you can apply it and the exact cleanup required on the wood prints. I’ll also reveal the advantages and the disadvantages of every technique and what the wood designs looks like, after some surface finish is applied.
This is the art work I’ll use to examine each wood print. All of the prints were done on my laser jet printer, not an ink jet. I’ll mirror image the art work, for the ones I normally used to do the wood prints. I’ve added my logo with large block text, an image, as well as some normal sized text. This will do an excellent job, as it illustrates how each method reacts to various text and image types.
Alright, let’s begin with the first one!
1 . Making Wood Prints with Acetone:
The first step to print on wood is by using acetone to transfer the toner to the wood. All you need is some acetone (I’ve heard lacquer thinner do works), a paper towel, nitrile gloves to safeguard your hands. Please be careful with the acetone and read through the instructions in the can.
Next I placed the mirror image print, out on the solid wood and creased the paper, over the side to keep it in place. You can even use tape here. After that, I made use of a plastic hotel key card enfolded in a shop towel dipped in the acetone to immerse the paper and press tightly downward.
After a couple of passes the toner is distributed to the wood. Then the paper peels out with no stickiness and shows the wood print with the image on it.
And this is what the acetone wood print looks like, just a few moments after taking out the paper.
Printing on wood with acetone pro’s and con’s.
Advantages: Very fast, good image quality, clean process.
Disadvantages: Standard image quality, acetone is a harsh chemical.
2. Making Wood Prints with a Clothes Iron:
The second method to print on wood is using a simple clothes iron. You only need the clothes iron here. I place the paper down like before creasing it over the edge.
After that I simply ironed the paper, to prevent it from moving about. I then pressed down hard and had the iron on high, but yet, I still don’t feel there was enough heat.
After I peeled up the paper, the wooden print did NOT turn out great. I believe this was because the iron was light duty and didn’t get hot enough. I’ve read that printing on wax paper, could make a big difference or making use of a branding tip on a soldering iron.
Advantages: Most affordable method, relatively quick to do.
Disadvantages: Poor picture quality, possible to burn yourself or scorch the wood or paper.
3. Making Wood Prints with Polycrylic:
The next method to print on wood, is using a water based polyurethane. It’s a rather different method as you stick the paper to the wood, after that take it off after it’s dry. I’m making use of Polycrylic, which is just a name brand poly. You’ll need the polycrylic, an acid brush (or other little brush), a stiff toothbrush as well as water.
I brushed on the polycrylic with a little acid brush, looking to get a thin film, that is wet but not puddling. I feel less is preferable to more in this case, so you don’t require a lot. Next I hard-pressed the paper right into the wet polycrylic and smoothed the paper from the middle outward, to take out any air bubbles and also tightly seat the paper into the polycrylic, before placing the wood print aside dry up to an hour.
After the finishing had dried out, I found the best way to take off the paper from the wood print, would be to wet the entire back first and then peel off, as much as you can by hand before scrubbing. So now it’s simply mild scrubbing with the toothbrush until all of the the paper is gone.
I wiped off the wood with a store towel and checked the wood print quality. In all seriousness, this was the one that stunned me the most. The quality was superb! Apart from that little chip on the side of the “F” the wood print looked awesome. I was really happy with this technique of printing on wood.
Advantages: Superb image quality, water based safe finish.
Disadvantages: Untidy removal of the paper, requires an hour to dry.
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4. Making Wood Prints with Gel Medium:
The fourth method to print on wood is by using a gel medium. I utilized Liquitex gloss, a foam brush, a key card, a tooth brush, and water for this technique.
The gel medium passes similarly to the polycrylic besides it’s a gel versus a liquid. I used a foam brush, worked well to spread the gel, given that the brushes left a lot of ridges. Again, less is more here.
I hard pressed the paper into the gel and then forced out the air bubbles with my fingers, then the key card because the gel was a bit thicker and not as quick to move as the polycrylic was. Then I place it aside dry for about 90 minutes.
The main thing distinct about scrubbing the gel medium, is it seemed to grasped much harder. I believe the reason being the gel is thicker and there is more build-up on the surface. I feel thinning the gel with water before use could help.
After getting off almost all of the paper, this is what the wood print looked like. There are just a few spots that had a bit of paper that I couldn’t remove on the first go.
Advantages: Fantastic image quality, safe water based gel.
Disadvantages: Tougher to take off than polycrylic, leaves behind rough surface, longer to dry.
5 . Making Wood Prints with a CNC Laser:
The final method to print on wood is certainly not DIY. I used a Full Spectrum hobby laser, that I acquired from Rockler Wood working. It can engrave wood, plastics and leather.
The set up is quite easy. I place the wood in the machine, align the placement dot and then press print similar to printing on paper.
The laser will start it’s path, which isn’t fast but it’s exciting to watch. And after roughly 8 minutes, the printing was done.
The wood print turned out very sharply defined as anticipated. The only challenge was with the picture, which the laser had a difficult time replicating. But the words and logo design which are solid black appeared great.
Advantages: Outstanding detail on text and logo place it and let it go.
Disadvantages: Pricey to buy, need to travel to get one to rent, not great on pictures.
Wood Prints with Finishing Applied:
After going through the 5 techniques to print on wood, I want to see how they reacted to the finishing. I sprayed on two coats of spray lacquer and they changed quite a bit.
This is a quick snippet of each one and also my final verdict for every wood printing method:
The acetone wood print really darkened up with the lacquer utilized. I preferred this one much more after the finish, and I’d place it ahead of the gel medium.
The clothes iron wood print….what will i say, it still stinks.
The polycrilic wood print darkened up much more, yet still looks great. This is absolutely my first choice.
The gel medium wood print also darkened, yet the finish was not so smooth. The additional paper bits, I didn’t remove really showed through. To get it as smooth as the polycrylic, I’d need to devote a lot more time cleaning.
The CNC laser wood print didn’t actually darken up. It’s more like a burnt off wood look, but the detail is still excellent.