Creating with Printables | Part V

Image transfer with citrisolv

When toner based prints are created a heat process is used to fuse the toner particles to the paper.  Due to their heat sensitivity it is possible to melt or dissolve the toner by applying heat or solvent, which causes the image to transfer.  The following methods work only with toner-based prints and cannot be used to transfer images created on an ink jet printer.

Citrasolv is a multi-purpose household cleaner sold in grocery stores as well as through some online art supply vendors.  You will need the concentrated version not the ready-to-use, which is diluted.

If the image contains text you will need to print it in reverse so that the text reads backwards.  Print the desired text or image using black toner.  Both copy machines and laser printers use toner.  Different machines can produce different results and some work better than others.  I have a brother laser printer, which works fine.  I have found that freshly printed graphics result in a better transfer.  You may want to experiment with the print quality options such as draft or best to see which renders the most desirable results. I use the best quality setting.

Position the print face down on the surface to which it will be transferred.  Secure with tape to prevent shifting.  Apply just a few drops of Citrasolv to a cotton ball.  Rub the cotton ball over the back of the paper; it will become translucent.  Add more Citrasolv to the cotton ball as needed but only a drop or two at a time.  Too much will cause the toner to bleed.

With the paper still in place, burnish the image to complete the transfer.  You can use a bone folder, a plastic key card or the back of a spoon as a burnishing tool.  Take a peek to make sure all areas have transferred satisfactorily before removing the paper.  You may need to re-burnish some areas.

This method is a good choice when heat would cause  damage to the surface. It can also be used to transfer images onto fabric.  Be sure to wash the fabric first to remove sizing.  I have not tried this method using color laser prints but, in theory, it should work the same.  Experiment and see what happens!

Acetone (fingernail polish remover) works in the same manner as citrisolv and may be cheaper plus it's easier to find.

A blender marker that contains xylene (or xylene alone) also works to dissolve and transfer toner-based prints.

Safety First

Be sure to work in a well ventilated area as both acetone and xylene are toxic.  I prefer to use citrisolv as it is non-toxic.


Aubrey | Watercolor Florals
Estelle | Watercolor Florals
Madison | Watercolor Florals
Watercolor Floral Monograms
Hand Painted Digital Papers | Sunrise Vibrant
Hand Painted Digital Papers | Morning Mist Subdued

Project Inspirations

This method works splendidly to create vintage-look flour sack towels.  Make sure the towel is stretched taut and taped well to prevent shifting.

The image above shows a vintage-style transfer onto painted canvas.  This surface is suitable for floorcloths and banners.  It can be cut into intricate shapes and requires no hemming.  A painted surface is ideal for your first attempt at image transfer using citrisolv.  If you use too much and blur the image you can use more citrisolv on a cotton ball to wipe it off and try again.

Wooden cutting boards are aslo a good candidate for this process.  Transfer an image to one side for display and use the reverse for cutting.

Create subtle backgrounds for detailed paintings.  Images can be transferred to paper, raw wood or painted surfaces.  Experimant on scrap pieces to determine the intensity at which you want to print the image.  For a more subtle background you may want to print lighter.