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!


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

    • 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.

  1. 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”

  2. 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!!

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

      • 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.

  4. 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)

  5. 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.

  6. Pingback: Third Time's A Charm - love hilarie

    • 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

  7. 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. 😵


  9. 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??

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

      • 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.

  12. 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 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

  13. 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?

    • 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!

  14. 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?

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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!

  18. 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! 🙂

  19. Wow, I’ve been trying to do this on wood with polyurethane with mixed results. My problem has always been that milky residue because I couldn’t quite remove enough paper without tearing too much off. I just used your technique on a small canvas and the olive oil was like a miracle!! I’m going to try that on the wood. Thank you so much for sharing!

  20. Hi, I recently taught a modge class using your method and I’m having trouble with the canvases turning white after a day or two. Have you run into this problem before? Hope you can help!

      • Yes, we used the oil after they peeled the paper off and the pic had dried. When I first saw how white the transfer had become I started rackng my brain, what could of gone wrong!! So I said what the heck I’ll reapply the veg oil again even though they all put a finish coat of modge podge on their pictures. I can’t believe it after about 12 hours after it took most of the white away!! So I wonder what’s going to happen when this oil dries up will it turn white again? Maybe I should of had them use an acrylic sealed after 24 hours. Any help/ideas would be greatly appreciated!

    • I am having a terrible time with the transfer pictures some work some don’t my biggest problem is the picture starts turning white. Once this happens the transfer just gets whiter and whiter even though I applied the Modge Podge and sealer. What do you think is going wrong??? I would like to keep doing these transfers but I can’t get this process consistent. Is it possible I am not putting enough oil on the picture? I’ve blamed the canvases and the paper but…… if that was the problem Thanks

      • The oil is the culprit in this case. You want it to be greasy! Let the oil soak into the thin paper layer a good full minute and seal with the mod podge, letting the glue and oil mix. What type oil are you using?

  21. Can white gesso be painted on clean canvas first, let dry, then paint white acrylic paint and while wet, brush heavy coat of mod podge to which you apply, face down, your photo made from ink jet printer? Thank you for your response.

  22. First, thank you for sharing. I am confused.. ink jet or laser jet print works best? Also i found somewhere that the thinner the paper the better( ~20 pounds i think)

    • The printer type wony matter as your sticking the actual layer with the photo on it and not the ink. For this type you want thicker so it doesnt tear as you peel away layers. Not thicker than average printer paper though

  23. I actually did this with inkjet and just used puzzle saver modge podge, because it’s all I had and transferred it onto a pc. Of plywood, worked beaitifuuly. I did leave it transferring overnight.

  24. Great tutorial! Can I still use the oil technique to achieve a more vivid picture if I’m working with gesso instead of modpodge?

  25. Super Awesome! I’m looking to transfer a photo of a little boy’s face onto a stretched canvas, then paint him to look like he’s a transformer. I’m going to test on some practice boards. Just wondering since I have multiple gel mediums already, can I use that INSTEAD of Mod Podge? No sense buying another product if the Mod Podge you are using was a substitute for the gel medium…as long as it works

  26. After the oil it says to add more modge pod… I did that and my pic is now white, did I do it wrong or is it supposed to do that?

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