I saw some decoupage this week and decided I absolutely needed to try to print something onto white tissue paper and see if I could do a photo transfer. I grabbed a couple of pieces of pine tae kwon do boards that my husband had saved (we usually just burn them in the fire pit after they've been broken, but this seemed to be a better use) and set them aside.
Next I did a bunch of searching for public domain art and graphics. I found a few that I thought would work and downloaded them. I ended up choosing a graphic of some skeleton keys and a photo of the Eiffel Tower being built. Next I cut some large pieces of tissue paper into quarters and carefully taped them to some card stock.
I decided to run the covered cardstock through my old trusty Canon Pixma printer (it's 9 years old and the best printer I've ever had) as our newer Brother printer jams very easily, and I figured this tissue paper covered cardstock would be a nightmare to run through it.
Here's the skeleton key image as it was coming through the printer. There's black ink from the rollers or something smudging all over the place, but most of the smudging I was able to cut off.
I didn't see an easy way to clean my printer out, so I went ahead and ran my next design through. This time it only smudged on the bottom of the page. I'm sure if you have a newer printer that hasn't been through as much as my trusty old Canon (I printed my thesis on it about 5 times) you will probably have better luck with the smudging. If I do this printing on tissue paper thing again, I'll probably use a q-tip dipped in alcohol to clean some things in the printer beforehand.
The next step was prepping the pine boards. I wanted them a bit darker than their ultra light natural tone and I didn't have any appropriate stain lying around, so I made a paint wash with some brown craft paint and water. I thinned the paint and brushed it on with a foam brush and then wiped the paint off with a paper towel. I was pleased with the color they turned out.
Then I spread a generous layer of Mod Podge onto one of the boards.
Then I carefully laid down my tissue paper with the keys printed on it (after having cut the design out and off of the cardstock). This part is tricky, I intentionally ripped the places in the middle of the design (as they had printer smudges on them), but it's very easy to rip the tissue paper once it has any glue on it, so lay it down in the right place and carefully pat it down with dry fingers. If you get glue on your fingers, take a moment to wipe it off before rubbing or patting down the tissue paper again, or it will stick and rip.
I ended up having to reposition the keys once and so it ripped in a couple of minor places and didn't get as much glue under it as it needed to turn more transparent.
I went ahead and covered it with a coat of mod podge to seal it and hoped it would turn more transparent as it dried. The eiffel tower I was able to get in the right spot on the first try. I put a layer of mod podge over top of it too and left them for a few hours to dry all the way and become as transparent as they were going to.
When I came back to them, the Eiffel Tower was pretty good; a little opaque, but not too bad. The keys, on the other hand, looked messy and quite a bit opaque.
In an attempt to even the key design out, I put a second layer of tissue paper over top of the design to diminish the look of the holes and edges of the design.
I laid one of my quarter sheets over top of a glued surface, patted it down, trimmed the excess, and then carefully painted a sealing coat over top.
Well, it didn't turn out too much better, so I sanded the surface and got my craft paints out. I created a color wash for the whole surface out of thinned down brown paint, and then I added a little gold paint and tapped both colors around with the foam brush and a paper towel until I achieved a faux-leather look. It turned out much better than I anticipated after looking like it had dried toilet paper stuck to it. :) I also did one quick swipe of the watered down brown paint over the Eiffel Tower photo to help it blend into the wood a bit better, and it was good to go.
Things I learned from this project:
- This decoupage with white tissue paper thing would work much better on a light colored or white background.
- If you really want the design to disappear into your (darker) surface, trim around it carefully with a sharp scissors before applying it to the surface.
- Wet tissue paper rips really easily (I knew this one from previous projects, but I just wanted to point it out again for folks). Be patient with it and let it sit for a few minutes after you set it onto the glue before covering it with mod podge (or your favorite decoupage glue).
- Paint can fix a lot of mistakes.
- Just when you think all is lost, it often turns out ok (true of many things in life, but especially experimental craft projects).