Easier, Cheaper, Quicker Photo to Canvas Transfer

I have seen lots and lots and lots of photo to canvas transfers. The majority of these transfers call for a gel medium which runs about $13…. NOPE! It also calls for 12 hours of drying. “Ain’t nobody got time for dat”

So here is my version that was muuuch cheaper! It also makes creating a more vivid picture easier without as much peeling and tearing.


Printed image from laser jet printer

Canvas to fit printed image

White acrylic paint

Modge Podge

Olive or vegetable oil.

Blow Dryer (optional)


To print $0.10

Paint $0.30

Modge Podge $0.10

Vegetable oil $0.05

Canvas $1.00 (9 pack for $9)

Total: $1.55 per canvas photo

Now here is how you do it!


Step 1: Print you image. Be sure to flip it the opposite of how you want it to look as you will be transferring it face down. Paint your entire canvas with one good coat of white acrylic paint. Be sure to paint the entire surface. Allow to dry. You can use a blow dryer to speed up this process or it will dry on it’s own within 15-30 minutes depending on how thick the paint is.


Step 2: Cover entire surface in modge podge.


Step 3: Place photo face down onto canvas and smooth out all bubbles. Try to create as little wrinkles and bubbles as possible. Allow to dry. This can be sped up with a blow dryer also. Without a dryer allow 20-40 minutes to dry.

(This is a great project to work on while cleaning the house or preparing supper)


Step 4: Spray the now dried paper with water. This works best if you work in sections instead of soaking the entire canvas. I used a spritz bottle with water. You can also use a wet sponge or wet rag….

1470152_670002286355090_970270388_n 1470128_670002019688450_553861191_n

…Begin rubbing with your finger. layers of paper will start to peel away. Be very careful in this process. Peel one layer at a time away. It will look vivid when wet but as the water dries it will look more white again. I will show you how to fix that.

The more layers you remove the more vivid the photo becomes but on the same hand the more layers you remove the more apt it is to tear and leave a hole in the photo. So one or 2 layers is plenty! Don’t over do your rubbing!


Once completely peeled it will still have a hazy white over it, let it dry, only takes a few minutes or use the blow dryer. Then use a dry rag or paint brush to brush off loose pieces of paper lint.


Step 5: Grab that vegetable or olive oil….


… pour onto canvas and use a soft cloth or brush to spread the oil over the canvas.


the oil will soak into the paper and make the colors stand out much like the water did. Only the oil will not dry up! Allow the oil about 1-2 minutes to saturate the thin layer of paper.


Step 6: After oil has had a couple minutes to saturate go over the entire canvas with modge podge. The modge podge will mix with the oil but don’t worry. It will still dry and the oil will still stay within the paper/canvas.

You can use a paint brush to create paint strokes in the modge podge for a faux painting if you wish.

Then allow 30-40 minutes to dry. The surface my still have a slight greasy feeling after it dries but I have had my others on the walls for a few months and they are completely dry and touchable.

I have not hung This one yet but here is his sisters photo’s. A couple of them transferred so flawlessly I had to purposely rip pieces away for the raw look I was going for.


I painted the edges of the canvases after transferring but that is a personal choice. Completely optional.

So there you have a easier way to create these beautiful pieces of art!


Categories: DIY | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 76 Comments

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76 thoughts on “Easier, Cheaper, Quicker Photo to Canvas Transfer

  1. Brannigan

    What type of paper? Printer paper or photo paper?

  2. Kate

    Why do you paint the canvas first? Can I skip this step and go straight for the mod podge?

    • The canvas soaks up the modge podge like fabric, the paint creates a smooth non porous surface much like the more expensive photo transfer medium would. You could instead do a good layer of the modge podge first and let it dry to seal the canvas in place of the paint though.

  3. I feel silly asking this, but how would I flip a picture to be how I wanted it to print it? I have a particular picture I want to use, and I want it exactly as it is–with the male on the left side and the female on the right side of the paper… Thanks!

    • There are multiple programs you could use. Ipiccy.com and picmonkey.com are both online photo editors that offer a “flip” edit. I prefer ipiccy myself. Even Microsoft paint would work though. Upload photo and find the option to “flip horizontal”

  4. Kelly

    I just want to thank u for sharing this. I have several old vintage photos that I want to display in my house but worry about ruining them. I want to tell u that I decided to try this technique w/one of them and it turned out beautifully!! I plan on doing a more b/c I like it so much!! Just wanted to say thank u!!

  5. katie

    What type of printer ink did you use? Did you like the colored picture or black and white better? Your canvases look so awesome!!

    • Inkjet printer. They both transferred great. It’s hard to decide though, my 2 favorite are one of each color

      • Amy

        Does it make a difference of laser jet print or ink jet? Cause in the supplies you wrote laserjet copy…just wanted to make sure before I started!

      • I can’t be positive because at the time I only had laserjet but your essentially transferring the paper itself so it should work either way. I want to say somebody did successfully do it with ink jet on my Facebook page.

      • Sorry, actually I did! It’s been a while. Lol. The first photos I did with ink jet bit replaced my printer with laser jet before doing the obe in the tutorial. Brain fart.

  6. Amy

    Where’d you get such cheap canvas?!

  7. Michelle

    So if you do rub off too much of the photo and white canvas is exposed, how DO you fix it?

    • unfortunately isn’t much you can do without starting over. you can paint the tears to have it cooer color is peaking through instead of white though

  8. Vatsala

    Just wanted to know if I can follow the same method to transfer to a ceramic plate?
    Can I use a proper photo (an old photo not a print out from a printer)

    • This I honestly wouldn’t know. You wont be able to do the rub off like with computer paper though because of the way it is made. I’ll look into this though

  9. Susie

    I just want to add my thanks for this tutorial. I created a canvas for my adult daughter’s birthday. The technique worked perfectly, and the oil really did make alot of difference in the final product.

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  11. Priselda

    Hi heres a question, can it be done with a regular photo paper?? Or does it have to be printed on paper.

    • Photo paper absorbs three ink, regular paper is layered so the ink sits on the surface and you can peel away the thin layers. I haven’t tried it but I would think it wouldn’t

  12. Laura

    Your photos are absolutely stunning! I’ve read so many tutorials about transferring over the past year, but remained too confused to make any progress. Today, I got a poster size print from walgreens and canvas from Wal-Mart with matte mod podge. I’m stuck bc I’m not sure where to get a printed copy of my 16×20″ poster. My printer def won’t go that big. Do you have any input about the differences of just mod podging directly onto the canvas vs transfer? I’m so disappointed as I’m now stuck again just as I thought I had this all figured out. 😵

    • Staples will do large prints for very cheap. I’ve read several posts about applying the photo directly to canvas but I have a problem keeping bubbles out when i do

    • You can also print and piece together from your web browser for larger prints

      • Laura

        Excellent idea!!! I never would have thought of that! Thank you! 😃

  13. diana herber


  14. Carrie chick

    I used this idea as fathers day gift for my husband. Great tutorial! I have done this twice now with good success, not great bc i didnt read the part about the ink peeling off with the paper… Operator error! My question is how much modge podge do you think is reasonable? A light or thick coat??

  15. Anna

    Would I be able to do a collage of pictures on the same canvas with this technique? Could I lay them all on at the same time or should I do a few at a time? I’m thinking a 14inx14in square canvas. My bestfriends baby turns one in July and I wanted to make a collage for her.

  16. Ooh, I will try this!

  17. Leticia

    Thank you so much for this tutorial, I love the way it came out, i just tried it. Thank you so much!!

  18. I have been wanting to try this for a while and finally went and had a couple of photos printed today. I was so excited and telling myself that this is a practice run and not to stress over it, but to learn from it. I have not made anything for a long time and the fact that I wanted to do this meant I HAD to do it. I was always making things when my kids were still at home so I was confident I had everything I needed here at home. I prepared the canvas with the white paint and while it was drying I fetched the Modge Podge out of the craft/ library room. As I was getting ready to apply it I noticed it had sparkles in it! LOL Why do I have sparkly Modge Podge??? Anyway, I went with it. It is drying now and Im going to hit the hay….I will reveal the print tomorrow and let you know how it turned out.

    • Wait. Sparkly? That’s is the one way to definitely make it completely 100% better

      • Good evening from Cape Town in the RSA!! Thank you so much for this tutorial, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found it after having put SO much questions to other bloggers in trying to skip the use of the usually recommended [and expensive!!] transfer gel. I thought if somebody could perhaps supply me of a recipe for homemade transfer gel, but to no avail. I just have one more question, though – can this method also be used for transfers onto other surfaces, for instance wood? Just want to mention that this is actually the second time I ask this tonight, because I am not sure that my first comment went through to you.

      • I haven’t tried it, but if you do please let me know!

  19. Good evening from Cape Town in the RSA, SunnieWicker! I cannot believe that I really found this tutorial tonight, after asking so many questions on other blogs about either a recipe for a cheaper homemade transfer gel, or any other way in which I can skip transfer gel and use something else. And here tonight I have it right on my doorstep!! Thank you so much for your great tutorial, and much more so because I can learn from the comments above that everybody find this method to work perfectly well. Just one question, though – does this method only work for transfers onto canvas, or can I also use the same procedure when I want to transfer a picture on, say for instance, a piece of wood? Your reply will be highly appreciated, thanks so much!

    • I apologize for the delay. I have not tried out on other surfaces. I would believe it absolutely would work however in the woods was sealed to a smooth non-porous surface.

    • Michelle

      I have used the same method with other surfaces like wood. I have only used either raw wood or wood painted with water color paints first, no acrylic. It turns out gorgeous. And the best part of doing it on wood if it doesn’t turn out it takes only a light sanding to start over

  20. Thanks, will let you know.

  21. Lyn

    Everyone keeps calling it Modge Podge, it’s MOD Podge. Short for modern, as in modern decoupage.

    • You are absolutely right! Modge podge though is a reference to a style of layering and eventually kind of just stuck. Upon the release of Mod Podge, which is also used most in modge podging, it kind of just stuck.

    • Mod Podge is also one specific brand, podge podge is a bit of an umbrella term to cover various brands that have the same purpose

  22. Lyn

    Interesting, I just thought everyone was mispronouncing Mod. Didn’t
    know there was another meaning.

  23. Sima

    The image I want to transfer is on a dark background. Can I use black acrylic paint as the first layer instead of white? Will the colors transfer just as well to a black background?

  24. Sherice Marggraf


    • Hi Sherice! Actually mod podge is the brand of glue, Modge podge is the process of gluing paper down, usually in layers for decorative purposes. I say modge too cover all brands of modge podging glue. Thanks for looking out though!

  25. Brittney

    Hi there will this work with text as well? I want to transfer a quote onto a canvas.

  26. Viviane

    Total ignorant beginner .. U use “white acrylic paint” = from Home Depot or a small bottle from Michael’s? Can you have ur colored photo printed at staples & there, enlarge photo on reg paper as I do not possess inkjet printer?

  27. Any acrylic will do. I use the small craft bottles. A laser jet printer works as well. You just want it on plain printer paper and not photo paper

  28. Help I did just what you said and Holes Holes. I used my finger tip got all the right supplies and Holes. I want to do this I love creating art but what am I doing wrong. Please help me I don’t want to give up on this. Kathy

  29. I did just what you demenst ed on how to transfer a picture to canvas. I did everything you said using a vet lite touch rubbing off the paper. No matter how gentle I was I still got holes. I’m so disappointed and I tried again and then one more time. With the same results holes. I’m so sad about this. Can you please help me. Kath

  30. Andrea

    Did you paint the black accents/edges prior to your last coat of mod podge or afterwards? I want to add paint accents into the photo after the transfer. Thank you!

  31. Rebekah Kessler

    Do I put the Mod Podge on the front or the back of the picture??? I know that is a silly question, but I dont want to mess this up! 🙂

  32. Rebekah Kessler

    Do I cover the back of the picture with Mod Podge as well. Or just on the canvas and then press it on there.

  33. Kelly Rowekamp I

    I don’t know what went wrong but the picture rubbed off even when I let it dry over night

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