Instant Photo Transfers With Blender Pens

UPDATE: This post originally ran on March 28th but we’re still in love with this DIY and had to share it again!

For the first time in a long time, I bought a roll of film.

Brigette and I are so used to shooting digitally that the process of buying film and using a film camera was something we almost forgot how to do. There’s something about shooting on film that gives an image such character. It’s clean and crisp, yet moody. You never know what you are going to get; one click and you advance the film, leaving the image unseen until it’s processed. Such an element of surprise is incorporated that it makes each image a bit more special.

Fingerless gloves, camera

If you’ve recently shot some film and are looking for a fun little project to do with your images, Brigette and I worked on something this week that blew our minds: blender pen photo transfers.

This is the process of taking a photo and transferring it onto a specific surface using a special little gadget called a blender pen.

Blender pen for photo transfer

These incredible pens can be bought at specialty craft stores. They’re so easy to use — and your photo transfers are basically completed instantly. There’s no waiting here. Just be warned that they give off a very strong smell, so make sure to use them in a well-ventilated area — outside works best, if possible.

film pictures

After you get your film developed, make photocopies of the images you’d like to transfer. This step is very important — simply printing a photo from your computer unfortunately won’t work.

Next, decide where you want to transfer your image. Paper seemed to be the easiest for us, but this can also be done on wood, ceramic, and tin.

Photos of hands, hands

Flip your image face down, and hold in place while you completely cover the back using a blender pen. Keep in mind that your transferred image will appear as the reverse of the original — like a mirror image. If you’re nervous that the photocopy will move during the process, feel free to tape it down. The best way to do the transfer is to completely saturate one area with a blender pen before moving on to the next. A good way is to start in a corner so that you can lift it up and check to see when it’s time to move on to the next area.

Photo transfer onto journal

As you go, you’ll see the image appear through the back of the photocopy — it’s so cool to look at!Photo transfer onto paper

Here you’ll see the original photo, the photocopy, and the image transfer. We’re obsessed with the vintage, almost eerie feeling the transfer gives off. How awesome!Blender pen photo transfer

We decided to add a few more images into the journal, as well.blend1s

Then, we tried a wooden cutting board! We first cut the photocopy to make uneven edges so that there wouldn’t be a clear line showing the perimeter of the photo. If you do this to a cutting board (and plan to use it for food), make sure you use a coat of food-grade sealant over your image transfer.

blend2s

We also transferred a single image onto a piece of antiqued paper that was left over from making this botanical wallpaper!Photo transfer onto paper and cutting board

We love how the journal came out the most… so happy we discovered the joys of the blender pen. :)

blend4sWhat would you make with a blender pen?

More DIY ideas from the BLDG 25 Blog.

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Comments

  1. This has seriously just made my week, I cannot wait to play with these all weekend!

    Definitely going to make something for my mum as it’s Mother’s Day this Sunday (UK). x

  2. It might be important to mention that the reason photocopies are a necessity is because you need a laser-printed image rather than an inkjet-printed image!

  3. this is awesome! i loved the photo wood transfers you had on the blog a while ago, and this is even simpler! thanks for sharing this :)

  4. Ahhhh!!! I am so thrilled about this! I can’t wait to give it a try. Just amazing. Thanks for posting!

  5. Workable fixative works for photocopy transfers as well. You’ll want to spray a little bit at a time and smooth the fixative into the paper with something rigid like a piece of cardboard or bone.

  6. Hi Olivia! The original print becomes somewhat transparent. In the first photo, the picture of the cat taped to the notebook is an example.

  7. THIS IS SO COOL AHHHHHH. I can’t wait to make my friends one of a kind presents with this method!

  8. You can use nail polish remover instead guys!! And I think prints from a laser printer (NOT an inkjet printer!!!) work too… Just throwing that out there.
    Wonderful images you guys have photographed and transferred!

  9. This is such an interesting concept. Love that you used film to take the images. There really is something special about waiting to see the outcome of an earlier shoot. ♥

  10. This is incredible, Ive been wanting something like this for my travel journal whilst I’m in NZ, and this is PERFECT. Defiantly going to try this out soon. Thanks for the post!

  11. This is really cool, what camera are you guys using in these pictures? I’m looking for a camera that will take nice pictures but will be fairly simple enough to use.

  12. You say
    ” After you get your film developed, make photocopies of the images you’d like to transfer. This step is very important — simply printing a photo from your computer unfortunately won’t work.”
    Can you explain why? I would assume its the inks on the photocopy not the original, could you use the original photo if desired? Would it work on fabric?
    Great idea and thanks

  13. HI!
    I have some questions and I hope that you have time to answer.
    I wonder what paper you had on the photo you wanted to transfer to the “normal” paper in the book?
    You said that you could´t print it in a normal computer printer, but how do you do it then? Do you send it in to a “camera store” so they print it on a special paper, and then you can do as you did? Is it the paper or the print colour that has to be “special”? Can you print it in the computer printer if you have the right paper?

    Please be more specific on how you actually do it! Tell us how YOU really did it. (:

    And the final question. How long can it hold on the paper? forever? or does it fade away after a while? What do you think?

    Really love the idéa!!

    Lots of love and hugs!
    / Natalie

  14. I could´t send private message to you, so thats why I send a long comment! (:
    I hope you answer!

  15. I have a roll of film I still need to develop, I’m not really sure what’s even on it. I’ve been looking for an interesting way to start an art journal and I love that “eerie” feeling this technique gives. Great idea! I’ll definitely be buying a blender pen soon!

    Renee

  16. This is so cool. How do you photocopy the images? You cannot use the actual photo? Is the photocopy laserjet or inkjet? I tried to use the original photo and that did work, i think the paper was too thick.

  17. I’ve been trying to use this idea for a poster of a play I’m directing but it’s not working for me :/ Is it possible that I’ve gotten a blender pen that doesn’t have the same chemical as the one you’re using? Or are there photocopiers that are actually inkjet printers and not laser printers? I’d really like to be able to use this technique!

  18. Seriously how come I’ve never heard of this before!!! It looks like so much fun and you can be sooo creative with this! Can’t wait to try it, thanks for sharing!

    Please check out my blog as well: lulusandtiffanyblues.wordpress.com

    xoxoxoxo

  19. I’ve tried this so many times before and I can never get it to work :(
    I’ve tried with photocopies and inkjet prints and I’ve used acetone and I also have a colourless blender pen… nothing. Just slightly damp paper.

  20. If you use a color laser printer to reproduce your digital photo, can you use a digital photo?

    As per Alyssa’s comment on March 28
    It might be important to mention that the reason photocopies are a necessity is because you need a laser-printed image rather than an inkjet-printed image!

  21. You have to have the image printed on a printer/copier that uses TONER as opposed to ink. You copy or print it onto regular copy paper. You can use regular film photos or digital photos, doesn’t matter, just be sure to print or copy them REVERSED.

    This method also works with acetone, which you can buy at the hardware store much cheaper than a blender pen. Having it in the pen is just more convenient. Same method, just use a rag or paper towel to apply the acetone. It’s pretty much instant. Use in a well-ventilated area!

  22. I do not understand what a photocopy is. Iwould like to do this. Please send a detailed answer to my website.thank you. Paddy

  23. Wow, I’ve never heard about this before! I also love all vintage things so now it seems like I will decorate like this all I have… :) I’ve recently bought some IKEA shelves and then found an idea for making them more individual but still keep minimalistic. Your version of editing is even better because it makes things more personal, but I’m still not sure if I understand the whole process. Hmm, need to ask my photographer friend who is more into these things, especially the chemicals and developing films.

  24. Hi,

    Really cool idea, from the images I can see that the colours were all transferred into paper.

    What type of pen is that because when I went into the site I found a pen for each colour can you help?

    Thanks

  25. To answer some questions about printing and paper —- you can print images for transfer at home as long as you have an inkjet or laserjet printer. Those are the printers that most copy stores use because the way the ink is applied to the paper it sits on top to make it dry faster, which is helpful when making stacks of copies but also makes it possible for the pigment to come off when doing these transfers.

  26. Make sure you use a blender pen that contains xylene, like the one shown in the post. I bought the dick blick brand and it didn’t work at all.

  27. Ok, I can’t get this to work. My blender pen I tried first didn’t contain xylene. So then I just got some xylene from the hardware store, no luck. Then I tried acetone, nothing. I tried two different ink jet printers, neither copy worked. I tried transferring to water color paper, thinking my first paper in my journal was not the right kind. What else could I possibly try?

  28. An inkjet printer will NOT work. Must be a laser printer. Very important to know that so you are not disappointed.

  29. Dear Blog creators,

    You have so many comments here, but you are not actually responding to them. Your post is creative, but you don’t really explain steps in details. Just tried everything step by step and it didn’t work. :((( You have to state what paper you use for the copies, how do you actually photocopy the images (clicking PRINT from the computer after you have actually scanned the film with all the images OR?), how long do you wait for the transfer to come through, etc. A bit disappointing. I’m sure your followers would appreciate your time to clarify these steps.

    Kind regards,
    Kriss

  30. Hi! Lovely photos. I could use a little guidance. I just bought Promarker’s blender pen but nothing happens! Does it exists different kind of blender pens or why doesn’t it work?

    Kind regards

  31. A home inkjet printer wont work, you need to print on a laser type photocopier like you might use at work . The blender pen you use must contain the ingredient Xylene in it like the one by Chartpak.

    Hope this helps!

  32. If you want to do lots of these, blender pens are quite expensive. The fluid inside them is the same as the screen wash (used in screen printing). Any laser printed image will work (but not inkjet).

  33. I would transfer my own pictures. And make my art journal more complete. But I have a question where can I buy the pen. Because I live in the Netherlands so do have some sites?
    O for I forget I loveeeee your journal.
    Good vibes
    Rusha

  34. I think I’m the only one with this question, but when you photocopy your original pictures and you’re ready to transfer them do you put the photocopy on your workspace and then put the original on top? The directions were a little confusing and I just wanted to make sure I got it right rather than messing up my journals! (I’m Journal-Crazed and Proud! :D)

  35. I used to do this at art school in the nineties using cellulose thinners I spent hours transferring colour copies. This lookalike a less messy way- cool!

  36. So.. this is a bummer. I bought Prisma Color Premier Colorless blender pens, laser print copies of the photos, and it does not work :( Not sure what i’m doing wrong.. went over it several times. nothing.

  37. I have been trying this process but can’t get it to work. I readed your post twice where you have said printing a photo from your computer will not work so where did you get a photocopy from? Will a copy from target, or an cvs work just fine?
    Please email me back Thank you.
    Meghan

  38. Hi! Would other brand of blender pens also work? Printing at home – would this only work on laser prints or also inkjet? Thanks!

  39. I love this idea! Though, I’ve tried it and it didn’t work for me. I used a photocopy, I bought the exact same blender pen, everything. Is there something I may be doing wrong?

  40. OMG that is so wonderful! I will be able to transfer my best photos to everything in different places around my home! It will certainly make the place look even better than it does with just the dozens of actual photos of me I have had professionally framed and put up around the house!

  41. how come you use an image that you have simply printed? That way it can be mirrored (like if there was to be writing or lettering on the image).

  42. Okay so I bought 3 blender pens by chartpak there the same as you used in your blog I tried regular plain white paper and photo paper and nothing is working on wood or paper for my scrapbooks please tell me what I’m doing wrong

  43. Melissa, did you print out your pics? You must make copies with a laserjet printer, like at the library, or you can take your photos to any copying place like kinkos. Or your job. Anywhere that has one of those huge printers. And you can use regular ol’ copy paper. No special paper needed. I hope that helps someone. I noticed noone was getting answers. Any photo transfer you do will have to be copied on a laser printer. Wheter its transfering photos to wood with mod podge, or transfering to canvas, or fabric. Love this!!!

  44. I found out this particular blender pen is filled with xylene. It’s an item used in painting. I have a pen, that quickly ran out of xylene, so I went to home depot and bought a quart of xylene for $8.00. When I transfer images to wood, I use regular 20# bond paper, or 70# offset if it’s a color image and always print from laser! To transfer, I simply dip my pen into a jar of xylene and brush over it til I achieve the transfer I need. Let the wood dry before wood burning, or applying heat. Xylene is flammable. Use it outside or in a well ventilated area. If you print on regular paper and are transferring to wood, you can also use an iron instead of the blender pen. I have done that before as well. I just prefer the pen over the iron.

  45. I love your journal pages. Very lovely!
    I’ve heard of some trying this with orange based Citra Solve cleaner but claim the work is very strong smelling.

  46. hi!
    Thank for sharing this.
    When you say “After you get your film developed, make photocopies of the images you’d like to transfer. This step is very important — simply printing a photo from your computer unfortunately won’t work.”

    I understand that if we print the photo in our home printers it won’t work but If i have a digital camera and I send my photos to a web who prints photos for you. Will it be the same?. Just asking as I would need to buy the blender but if it doesn’t work, then I won’t be bother. *chuckles*

    Thanks!

  47. What am I doing wrong ? I have done this and it just doesnt work? Can you think where I could be going wrong? I have used images that I have printed out but they are from a laser/toner printer and not an ink jet. I have tried paper and glass and it doesnt work for me, I am going to try wood and see what happens there. Is there a particular type of paper that should receive the transfer? I wonder if the paper I want the image to transfer to is too shiny ? Any advice would be great as I really want to do this in a journal for my college fashion course. Thanks in advance x

  48. For all the people having trouble with this:

    -You DO NOT need any deep photography knowledge to do the transfer. It doesn’t even matter how it’s developed or if it is even film or digital. You just need an image.
    -Print the image or copy it with a LASER JET PRINTER!!!!!!!!! Printers for the home or used to print photos or high gloss images are not laser jet, they are ink jet. Xerox machines ARE laser jet. So take a trip to the library and print some photos. Yes libraries still exist.
    -PRINT ON NORMAL PRINTING PAPER!!! Not photo or presentation paper. Normal, everyday paper.
    -Blenders can work, like the brand used in the post. Prismacolor ones can work (at least older ones) if you SOAK AND RUB that mothertrucker into some really absorbent paper, but the image will still be very faded.
    Blenders can be bought at most art supply stores. If they have brands like Prismacolor and Copic, they will very likely have them. Chartpak can be bought at Utrecht but if they are being hard to get google is an amazing thing…
    -ACETONE WORKS MUCH BETTER! Much much much better. Soooooooooooo much better. Maybe even try a test with some nail polish remover, which contains Acetone. I have yet to use Xylene but I expect it would be similar to acetone.
    Keep in mind that acetone will soak through the receiving paper, so there will be blotches on the back side of the paper.
    -The MORE POROUS THE MATERIAL the image is being transferred onto the BETTER the transfer will be.
    You are essentially lifting the ink off of one paper and the receiving material is absorbing it. Papers and unfinished wood work well, but surfaces that have gloss will not really receive the ink well.

    The shinier it is=the less it will work.

    -If you do want to do a transfer onto something glossy, you must be SUPER CAREFUL. You do not want the image to move when you soak and let it dry. Might want to give yourself a lot of blank paper room around the image to tape it down. Don’t get the acetone on the tape, it will make it unstick. LET DRY COMPLETELY before removing.
    After that you MUST SEAL THE IMAGE with some sort of clear coat, or else the image will rub right off.

    -READ COMMENTS. I hope you did. It helps. I’m even going to go try Xylene and see how that compares.

    I hope that can clear up some confusion. This OP is a very inspiring idea but rather vaguely explained and kind of misleading with the photography intro.

  49. Love the ideas in this post! Thank you for sharing! This may be a strange question, but I also LOVE THE BRACELET that you are wearing, and would be interested in knowing where you got that…if you are open to share! God bless!

  50. I’m illiterate so bear with me. If I have a photo that’s been printed (say, by Walgreens or Shutterfly) and I’d like to transfer it to my journal, will that pen work?

  51. Kristen, what was the photo printed on and with? If it’s a high gloss, normal photo transferring it will not work at all. You will need to get a xerox copy or print the image with a LASER PRINTER, not inkjet,on NORMAL COPY PAPER.
    Then it will work. But I’d suggest using acetone for a better transfer than the pen. Up to you.

  52. I’ve bought one and it doesn’t work. can anyone help me out here? I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. When I photocopied it a photo with an injet printer, the image was only half-way transfered and when I photocopied with a laser printer, nothing happened. The pen only made holes through the paper when I tried to saturate it. The pen I bought is called Dove Blender and I got it from srapbook.com

  53. Hannah,
    From what I am seeing of the dove blender it looks like it is a water based blender. It will blend out watercolors, water soluble markers (like crayola) and other water based media. Inkjets are somewhat water soluble (if it gets wet the ink runs) so that’s why it’s kind of working with inkjet images. It will not do anything to laserjet images.
    You need a blender that is acetone or xylene based. This will lift the ink off the paper and onto the surface you’re transferring onto.
    Or skip the blender and get some acetone or xylene and apply with a brush, sponge, cloth, paper towel…
    Also, what you are transferring onto has an effect on how well the transfer will do. Paper and uncoated wood work well since they are very porous. When you get to plastic or glass it will not really hold.

    I’ve made a comment earlier with some helpful guidelines. See if there’s anything there that might help you out too!

    Good luck!

  54. Hey, i tried it but it didn’t work.
    I think its because the paper was too thick,
    Witch paper you used?
    like how many grams?
    Thank a head

  55. Jordan (or anyone else who may know the answer) – I noticed you mentioned that it’s difficult to transfer to glass, but I have a couple of questions regarding the process. I know you said to be careful to not move the image, so would I just dab the acetone or pen on it and not rub it in? Or would I just be extra careful rubbing the image onto the glass making sure not to move the whole paper? Also, you mentioned having to seal it with a clear coat. Is this something that I can rub on over it or would I have to get a clear coat spray? Lastly, do you have any other suggestions for a better process of transferring images to glass? The reason I was interested in this process is because there are no white edges of paper or medium transferred as well (if that makes sense) as I’ve seen in other techniques. Thank you in advance!

  56. Just to clarify, by photocopy, do u mean make another copy at a photo kiosk or make a copy on to a specific type of photo paper? :) cuz this looks awesome!!

  57. Hey Kristine!
    It is difficult with glass because glass isn’t absorbent in anyway, so the ink doesn’t sink into anything, just resting on the surface of the glass. It may work better with frosted glass, since it’s more rough, but I have not tried it.
    The reason it works so well on paper is that the acetone lifts the image off the original printing, and the receiving paper soaks up the acetone along with the ink that was lifted. Viola! Transferred!
    I’d suggest to dab acetone. Rubbing can cause the paper with the image shift, warping the transferred image. With a pen you have little choice but to rub, make sure your image is secured well so it will not shift.
    I’d completely suggest the clear coat spray. Rubbing anything on top might just burnish the image off… which would suck. Not sure how it will handle on glass, however. If you try, let me know how it went.
    As far as any other techniques for glass, I can only think of glass etching. It is a completely accessible thing today, more art/crafts/hobby stores have kits for such a thing. However, this makes frosted images mostly, not black. I haven’t done it, but I’d assume that dark ink or paint can be put into the etchings to make it darker. You’d have to research or experiment on that.

    I hope that helps.

    BEST OF LUCK!

  58. Hey Tara S.
    Photocopy is like a xerox machine, a copy machine. Pretty much not an inkjet. If the print is a nice, gloss, full color photography looking image then it’s probably an inkjet, not a photocopy. INKJET IMAGES WONT WORK.
    If a printer only prints in black in white or prints SUPER FAST, it’s fairly often it’s laser jet. That’s what you’re looking for.
    Print on normal printing/copy paper!

    Yeah, ‘photocopy’ is kind of misleading, isn’t it?

    Take a look through the earlier comments, I have made a general guideline and answered some other questions that might also help!

    Good luck!

  59. Noam,

    Are you saying the paper with the image you want to transfer might have been too thick?

    Some quick tips:
    Make sure the image is on regular printer/copy paper. (Normally 20 lbs weight / 75 g/m²)
    Make sure that the image was printed with a LASER JET PRINTER! Not an ink jet! Ink jet will not work!
    If you are using a blender, make sure it is xylene or acetone based, or just get some xylene or acetone and apply it with a brush/sponge/paper towel. Alcohol/water based blenders do not really work at all.

  60. I just want to say THANK YOU JORDAN! I have not tried this project yet, but have read all the comments, which apparently some others are not doing, since the same questions are being posted over and over. Just wanted to say THANK YOU for answering and clearing up ALL of the questions and recommend that others read all the posts if it is not working. You were VERY HELPFUL!

  61. Jordan…..Thank you too…. you made it easier to understand. I’m just going to get acetone and give it a try.

  62. It’s a shame that those commenting had to figure out how to actually do this process without help from the blogger. It’s not fair to people to put up posts on how to do something and then not tell how to actually do it. Thank you to all who figured it out and shared. The OP did not.

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