Taking photos has never been easier. Just grab your phone, tap a button and the moment is captured. Want the picture to look like a 50-year-old postcard or brand new Manga cartoon? Just a couple more clicks. It’s a long distance from the days when you had to drop off a roll film at a mall kiosk and wait weeks to get a stack of glossy 5 by 7 prints, half of which would be blurry.
Still there’s something about a printed photo that’s more impressive than a swipe-able image. The right moment, printed and framed in a beautiful way elevates that click into a work of art. Now there are more ways to print an image. Cloth, metal, wood and even 3-D sculptures are all readily available options. But which is right for you?
In this article, we'll explore some of the most interesting and unexpected ways you can print your photos today!
Transferring a photo onto cloth is a fave approach for many DIYers. Okay, maybe this first one isn’t that surprising. But it makes sense to include on the list. If you want to personalize a shirt, pillow, quilt or even a tea towel, there are numerous ways to do it.
Photo transfer paper may be the easiest way to get an image onto to cloth. This “paper” (it’s usually made out of vinyl) slides through your printer and makes it possible to iron on a variety of materials (most typically cotton or polyester, don’t try it on silk).
Freezer paper can help you print directly on the fabric from your printer. First you press and iron the waxy side of the freezer paper to the back of the fabric (freezer paper is only waxy on one side). Then you run the material through your printer. Of course you need to have a partner that can fit a piece of material in it.
If you have a dry toner printed image — such as a page from a magazine or a printed dry toner image — you can use some gels to get that image onto fabric. This transfer process works best with a compound such as Liquitex Gel Medium or Mod Podge. First you use a paint brush to coat the image with Liquitex Gel Medium or Mod Podge Press the image to the material, smooth out the wrinkles and press the down with a heavy book as it dries overnight. If you have words on the image, you’ll want to make sure they’re printed in reverse.
When it’s dry, wet the entire image with a rag or water bottle. Starting at the center of the image, gently rub away the paper. Don’t rub too hard or the image will come off. Soon you’ll be left with the image on the fabric. Now let it dry.
Metal or Wood
Printing on metal or wood gives the image an earthier style or an extra sheen, depending on the surface. You can create the illusion of a painted wood sign with the right printed image. An image printed on metal, such as landscape photo, can give the image extra vibrancy.
A similar approach to transferring an image to metal or wood can also be achieved with Liquitex Gel Medium or Mod Podge. One of the important differences is preparing a metal sheet or wood block wood to receive an image — preparation may include sanding down the metal or priming the wood.
This type of image transfer also begins with a dry toner image (not one from an inkjet printer). First, you must coat the material with acrylic polyurethane or water-based poly finish. It should be a thick enough coat so that the paper with the image or lettering sticks to the metal or wood. If it doesn’t stick, you’ll need to add more finish. Don’t forget, any image with wording on it needs to be printed before you can adhere it to wood.
Let the paper dry. This may take an hour or it could take overnight. In general, the finish usually dries faster than Mod Podge. The local humidity may also impact drying time. No need to rush the process. Once dry, take a wet rag or water bottle and wet the paper until the image starts to show through. Gently rub away the paper. Be mindful not to put too much onto the paper or you may rub away the finish. The image should stay on the wood or metal. If you rub too hard the image may rub away as well. The technique take a little time before perfecting.
If you want a metal print with a more professional finish, you may want to consider having a professional transfer done. Companies such as Shiny Prints are able to print an image directly onto metal with the assistance of an adhesive and professional grade printers. In some instances, metal prints can even be hung on a wall without any additional support from a frame, making them an attractive and convenient way to display your photos.
3D Printed Sculptures
3-D printing has been around for some time, but it is only recently that the technology has become affordable enough for many people to use at home. With 3-D printing, you can turn your photos into intricate 3-D sculptures. You often need to have some skill with software that will help adapt the image into a printable file. That is explained in the video above.
This approach can be great for photographs with a lot of detail or texture. A high quality 3-D printer can replicate these details with amazing accuracy. You can also customize the size and color of your sculptures to make them even more unique.