DIY Wood Photo Transfers

Today’s DIY is something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time – wood photo transfers! This is such a fun project and a great way to turn your favorite photos into artwork. Once you get the technique down there is SO much you can do with it! I also found that there is a much faster and easier method to doing this than a lot of the tutorials I’ve seen online. You just need a few supplies and about an hour or two, and you’ll have beautiful wooden images to hang on your walls or give out as gifts. Next time I want to try doing this with coasters and instagram images!

diy wood photo transfers

What you need: Piece(s) of wood – I had my heart set on using these circular slabs and was so happy AC Moore had them! Mod Podge, a paint brush, a towel or rag, and photos. If you’re using digital photos that you print out, be sure to flip them horizontally first so that they aren’t backwards once you transfer them, and print them on a high quality color printer or laser printer. I used a laser-jet printer and it worked perfectly!

diy wood photo transfers

Cover the front of the photo with a thick coating of Mod Podge.

diy wood transfers

Place the photo face down on your piece of wood, and trim off the edges if needed. Use a credit card or driver’s license to smooth out any air bubbles. Let this sit for about an hour to fully dry.

diy wood photo transfers

Next, place a wet towel (not sopping wet, but more than damp) on top of the photo/piece of wood. Let it soak for about ten minutes or so, softening the paper.

diy wood photo transfer

Using the rag, gently start to rub the white paper backing – it will start to rub off, leaving your image behind!

diy wood photo transfer

For mine I chose an image of the location where Woodstock 1969 was held – as a lover of classic rock, visiting this place was very special to me. I love how you can see traces of the wood peeking through the sky!

diy wood photo transfer

Once you’ve removed all of the white, add a thin coating of the Mod Podge on top of the image to protect it. Let it dry, and your wood photo transfer is complete!

diy wood photo transfer

More DIY projects from the BLDG 25 Blog.


  1. I am going to try this for my wedding! Do the pictures need to be printed on any particular type of paper? (photo paper vs. printer paper?)

  2. I saw on ebay and amazon that there are various kinds of mod podge, may you let me know which is the right one to buy for this awesome diy :)

  3. So I tried this with photo paper and it is just a pain to try and get off all the paper from the wood. And even by being very careful I’m still getting spots of my picture missing. I’m going to try this again, but this time should I use regular paper instead of photo paper?

  4. I love this DIY project! It’s very easy and there is a lot of opportunity to be creative. I wonder if it works on material other than wood. Woodstock- that very road is where I live <3 xxxo Bethel, NY.

  5. I’ve tried this 4 times and it never worked :(
    Could you be more specific as to what kind of paper you used?
    Cool idea though!

  6. This didnt work. I printed my pictures at Walgreens. The white paper was so hard to take off. I waited 2 hrs to dry and even then it was such a hassle. The picture didnt stay on the wood. There’s so many blank spots missing from my picture. This should be explained in better detail.

  7. Use regular printer paper, if you don’t have a laser printer go to staples and have them do a regular laser print on regular printer paper. If the paper is thicker (cardstock) or has a finish to it it will not absorb the water properly and/or won’t rub away properly! Hope this helps! Make sure to put a thick coat of mo doodle on too! :)

  8. This is my signature topper for whatever gift I give to friends and family for special occasions. My favorite was a sonogram I transfered. You need to use regular paper. If you use anything else you wind up rubbing so hard you remove some of the transfer. Photopaper is the hardest. I like to blow them up to 8x10s first too. Also, 2 hours is not long enough most of the time. I let mine sit for 8 or more usually and have never had a problem. This is a LONG process and there are several layers to do…but if you are patient, the final product is beautiful. Also, a little flair tip: add those little wooden, pre-painted flowers, animals, etc from craft stores around the edges to give them a little extra :-)

  9. I absolutely loved this project, so much so that I wrote a mini tutorial on my blog . I’d be happy to answer any questions about the project if anyone is having issues. This is such a great idea, I can’t wait to make even more now that I have the supplies. They make the best gifts!

  10. Does the type of wood make a difference? I tried this and I am having a hard time getting the tiniest bits of paper to come off…any suggestions?

  11. I tried this, it worked perfectly expcept when the photo transferred it was cloudy and it started leaving cracks. I used a photo paper. What did I do wrong?

  12. Will this also work with printing? I would like to transfer a typed poem onto a wood plaque. If I printed the poem using a laser printer, would it work using this process? Thank you!

  13. Thanks for this DIY! I woke up this morning with the idea that I wanted to transfer some photos to wood and found this. I can’t wait to try it out.

  14. I JUST tried this and it was almost successful. Unfortunately a strip of the image didn’t take and/or came off when I rubbed. I’m going to try again and let it dry a lot longer (I think I put too much Mod Podge on it to start and then didn’t let it dry long enough).

  15. finally….I have been trying many differant ways to do this. Your instructions are the only 1 that works. Thank you

  16. I’m having problems with mine. I did two. I’m using black and whites. I’m using orange mod podge. I did as you said and painted it on thick onto the picture and put it on the wood. Let it dry and the coloring is different on both pictures. And some of the mod podge got ink in it and went into the wood unevenly. I tried to use sand paper to get it off. It’s not helping

  17. I just did this with a photo of my son for an xmas present it turned out amazing thank u this tutorial helped big time :D

  18. I’m in the process of doing this. I’m using the image transfer by Mod Podge. It was $9.99 at mikaels I’m doing mine on pallet wood! I LOVE pallet wood! I have a big piece and I’m using my kids pictures on it and leaving it sit over night. I also went to staples and had them print it on the 20lb weight cheap printer paper. I’ll be posting updates on this on my fb page and my husbands fb business page as we’ll. his page is called Sapien & Sons my fb page is Dianne sapien if anyone wants to see the results good or bad I’ll be posting them :) love your picture though! It came out beautiful!!!

  19. When I take the paper off my picture turns white. When I spray it with water it clears but when it dries it turns white again. Please help. What am I doing wrong?

  20. holly there is probably still paper on the wood you need to wet and continue to gently rub till all paper is off sometimes you will think its off till it starts to dry then you see the white or flaky finish just keep wetting and gently rubbing

  21. If anyone has any advice I would really appreciate it! I have attempted 3 of these transfers and none of them have worked. I’ve let them sit for 8, 12 and 24 hours respectively. I’ve used tons of gel medium and the picture never transfers. Instead, when I start rubbing off the residue, the whole image just rubs off. I am using normal paper not photo paper. The closest I’ve come to the transfer actually working is whenever I just stopped rubbing and left a layer of the paper with the image still on it, on the wood. I don’t know what I’m doing incorrectly! Any advice?

  22. I am in SERIOUS need of help!! I am trying to make several of these for Christmas, but when it comes to the rubbing part, portions of my photos keep coming off. I printed the copies at the self service copier at Staples which I thought was right & I allowed the photos to dry overnight, but when trying to get the layers of paper off , it’s getting pretty frustrating bc it just is not coming out right. Someone PLEASE help!!!

  23. I did the exact instructions and my photo paper wouldn’t rub off. The water didn’t even seem like it was seeping through. I got my picture developed at Walgreens and I have no idea why it isn’t working. This pisses me off and I think I just waisted money on this project

  24. Love this tutorial! I design personalized chalkboard prints which can be framed but I wanted to do something a little different with them for gifts. So for Christmas, I transferred a print to wood blocks for all of my family members– it was a huge hit! Thanks!

  25. Is really amazing, it looks very good look, my friend bought this product, really very good, do decorative items, commemorative items are really appropriate.

  26. Thanks for this DIY! The transfer I did turned out so well I gave it as a wedding gift to my sister. The look was so unique I wanted one for myself and then I found they print photos directly on wood for you. It turned out great without the hassle of trying to remove all the paper residue left over from the transfer.

  27. WOW COOL I’ve never seen anyone do it on a piece of wood that still has the bark from the tree! That’s a great organic look. I have a couple wood prints I got from Plak That, you design it all online (and you can see the wood grain effect while you do it which is great) and then they print your photo on wood, often on multiple wood slats instead of just 1 piece which also gives it a really cool effect. Here’s the link:


  28. Is that regular Mod Podge? Because i saw people use some new version specially made for photo transfer, but they don’t sell it in my country.

  29. This is really the best method to use! Much faster and looks a lot more natural than other tutorials! Tried and tested.

  30. But instead of Mod Podge for the last step, I’d use Minwax polyurethane clear wood finish in satin. Mod Podge is necessary for the 1st step though.

  31. I followed these instructions and everything went great until I applied the modge podge after. It totally ruined the whole picture and now I have to start over. I will go with a clear coating spray next time.

  32. This is amazing. A definite decoration for my dorm room- maybe with a picture from home! :)

  33. Pretty great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and
    wanted to ssay that I have really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    After all I ill be subsdribing for your rss feed and I’m hoping you write again very soon!

  34. For the folks printing at Walgreens & similar places:

    The reason it doesn’t work with many retail/commercial photo prints is because the printing process is so drastically different. It’s not actually printing, to be specific. There is no ink involved. Rather, the images are developed onto the paper via projection and chemicals, much like images are captured on a camera and developed into film negatives. In addition there being no ink to transfer to the wood, the paper is actually still somewhat water resistant by the time you get it — it is manufactured with a waterproof coating to protect it from the chemicals that develop the images onto it.

    I am not typically encouraged to say these words, but for this project,
    you are better off printing at home with your inkjet on some sturdy copy paper. =)

    Your Friendly Neighborhood Walgreens Head Photo Specialist

  35. Help!! I have done this a million times and I want it to work out so badly! I tried with finish wood and regular ink to start and changed to toner ink from staples and even bought unfinished wood at farm and fleet and it turned out wayyyy better. BUT it turns white :( I have no clue why like I didn’t get all the paper off? I put the mod podge on it and it’s the glossy kind so it shouldn’t have but it still turns white! Someone please help?!

  36. please help!! i used a laser jet printer in black and white and when i tried to rub away the black had spread all throughout the picture and rubbed off. Please Help!!!

  37. I am in the process right now. Wish me luck. If all goes well I will be making Christmas gifts early this year….lol

  38. Diana, more than likely with a program such as paint which comes on all windows pc’s, or Adobe photoshop, or paint shop pro, I can’t remember exactly how I’m on a phone right now but it’s in one of the top menu buttons/bars just click on file, edit, ect. until you see something like flip image then save it & print it. Hope that helps.

  39. Hey guys I’ve tried this many times I bought my pictures from office Max on regular paper. I put it on the little plaques I got. Let it dry for 8 hours. Now when I start to rub the picture off little spots come off as well. Some of the picture stays on which I’m happy but I’m still getting spots where the picture is coming off am I rubbing too hard am I not using enough gel? Please help me by telling me what I’m doing wrong. I rub off with my fingers after I wet the paper. I let it dry a little bit come back and rub some more.

  40. I’ve seen this DIY using a gel medium. But I’m hoping that using just mod podge works just as well so I don’t have to go out and buy the gel medium!

  41. I love doing this, the only problem i seem to have is there are cloud like spots left on the wood, I thought I was
    taking my time and going slow and rubbing easy,. Does anyone have any suggestions or maybe tell me what I am doing incorrectly.


  42. I’m trying this right now but my photo paper wont’ dissolve. I have gotten the towel wet twice now and I’m afraid I’ll get it to wet and ruin the project any tips?

  43. Thanks for posting! How thick should the layer of mod-podge be? Has anyone tried this or another type of transfer on cardboard? What do you recommend? I already have laser-jet prints drying after applying acrylic gel-medium, not sure whether to tear off the image or rub off as done in this mod-podge process… Thanks!

  44. When removing the paper do you remove all of the paper? I am working on removing the paper right now but if I remove all the paper there is a very faint picture left behind. If I don’t remove it all then there are some fuzzes left behind. I don’t know if it matters but I am using a hp office jet pro printer, regular paper, liquitex matte gel and was going to use mod podge for the top coat but my picture came out barely visible.

  45. Nice tips. It is very simple but interesting and creative. I like wood working, too. And I often do some simple things for my family. I’ll do it for my family,too. Thanks.

  46. I followed these instructions and everything went great until I applied the modge podge after. It totally ruined the whole picture and now I have to start over. I will go with a clear coating spray next time.

  47. Using black/white picture, regular printer paper. When I rub paper off picture is so faint you ban barely see it. Does type of wood matter? If not why is picture so faint?

  48. Photo to Wood transfer is the biggest pain in the butt!

    I’ve spent 20 hours the past 2 weeks trying different methods trying to perfect this art. Mod Podge pealed away the image too quickly and Gel Medium leaves these thick glue patches that are impossible to get off. You have to sand and sand and sand with a heavy duty sander to remove.

    I have restarted many times. . . . .by that I mean, scrubbed the heck out of the wood for hours to start over.

    I’ve applied a normal layer of Gel medium and the glue was puckered in many places. So, I tried again and applied more Gel medium and I got the same results.

    I don’t mind the flaws and scrapes. . . . .just not across people’s face and that’s where they always seem to land. You can’t display a picture of the family with 3 kids missing their eyes. . . . yikes!

    What amazes me is how 90% of a cheap laser print adheres to the wood so well. This stuff is really hard to get off. What is stumping me is the thick glue patches. Even when I only apply a thin layer, I still get these patches. They ruin the whole photo because the only way to remove them is to sand them and then it takes off a huge piece of the image.

    I am ready to throw in the towel. Please share any advice you have . … .it would be greatly appreciated.

  49. I just tried this and it turned out BEAUTIFULLY! :) I stuck with these instructions, but used mod podge matte instead (so more of the wood grain could show through). I tried using a towel to rub the paper backing off but found that dipping my fingers in water and gently rubbing in a circular motion worked best (and prevented little spots from coming off). It does take patience, because you have to go over the photo several times to remove all white fuzzies. Also: make sure you use regular copy paper, a laser printer, and invert your image before printing.

    The only step left is to apply mod podge as a finish… I’m a bit scared to do so because I don’t want to ruin a good thing. Will the photo begin to fade if I don’t seal it with a clear finish?

  50. ^ Oh, I also let the mod podge dry overnight before covering with a damp towel. Didn’t seem dry enough after only an hour. Just fyi :)

  51. One thing I struggled with was getting that last tiny film off it kept getting blurry when it dried I was wetting and rubbing and it would turn blurry I was really worried about losing spots in my picture so I decided to try something. .. I put a very very thin layer of mod podge on like i was going to seal it but instead I very gently rubbed it off with my wet rag let it dry and thankfully it had completely removed that fine film

  52. I just did this project and it worked really well! With the laser printed image and the mod podge the picture comes out almost exactly the same–I expected it to be a bit faded so if you want that look maybe edit the picture with a different filter before you print it.
    Also, be careful not to get the wood slab wet. It doesn’t take as much water as you think it does to wet the paper and to rub it off! I learned this the hard way: my wood got wet in the center, warped, and then cracked in a few places as it dried. It still looks alright with the image, but it is a bit unfortunate.
    Overall an awesome tutorial! Really easy and fun! Thanks FP!

  53. I used an image printed on a laserjet printer. I also used a gel medium I bought at Walmart. Here’s the tricky part. after it dries for 8 hrs and you soak the paper, if you use the rag to take off the paper fibers it will distort it some, you may have better results using your fingers to remove it.

  54. I followed these instructions and everything went great until I applied the modge podge after. I would like to find out if I can still varnish it after I did it?

  55. you gave me great ideas for recycling wood, I think I can make it right now, I have a lot of wood, and I do not know how to handle them.

  56. So amazing! I have never thought that transfering a wood photo is so easy like that. I will do as a gift for my girl friend. Thanks

  57. I am regularly to blogging and i really appreciate your content. The post has really peaks my interest. I ‘m going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new information.

  58. I use this as part of my mixed media art. It is really important to use a laser printer image, the ink sits on the surface the best. Cheap Cheap paper is an essential mix. Laser and cheap paper. You need to ensure when applying the gel medium that you use a nice brush that will leave minimum brush marks. The brush marks will show through and often not leave enough gel to hold the ink. This is why in place the image comes away completely. I sometimes use that as part of my technique if I want something to be aged. If you are looking for an even finish it has to be an even soft brush. Also don’t press down super hard. You want to lay the image down and the work from middle and smooth out. I often print very large and have 6-12 sheets of paper which leads to other more exciting issues. BUT for the case of one sheet, lay the piece down and then work outward if you don’t do this it will bubble as the paper is now taking on the gel and it is softening and stretching (as paper does). Let it dry anywhere from 3 hours to 24 hours depending on what you applied it to.
    Removing paper: I run my board under water until i can see image. I then carefully wipe off excess water and wait 2-3 minutes. Rubbing ever so lightly with my finger in small circles. This process can take hours and hours. If the image dries to much, just dip your fingers in water and get it wet a little again. The process can be a lot of fun. Hope this helps answer some of the questions I read. Thanks to the FP Julia. Great post.

  59. Where would you get these printed if you don’t have a Staples near you? I only have an Inkjet printer and the closest staples is 4 hours away. Please help!!

  60. Tried this and did everything correctly. paper came off well. only problem is my image is barely visible. question is should i have used a lighter shade of wood or is it because the image is black and white??? the wood is reclaimed privacy fence boards. i sanded them before using.

  61. Do not use photo paper. Tried that, not even a little bit of the photo transferred. Going to try with copy paper now that we’ve found a laser printer to use. Really excited, I really hope it works!

  62. Hey I have tried this method a couple of times and it hasn’t worked for me. The ink never transfers to the wood, instead it just leaves a paper layer on the wood. I used Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium for the project and just a regular copied picture. I was wondering if you might know what I am doing wrong thanks.

  63. One thing I struggled with was getting that last tiny film off it kept getting blurry when it dried I was wetting and rubbing and it would turn blurry I was really worried about losing spots in my picture so I decided to try something. .. I put a very very thin layer of mod podge on like i was going to seal it but instead I very gently rubbed it off with my wet rag let it dry and thankfully it had completely removed that fine film

  64. I have to say my mind is blown right now. No i know how to “frame” my wedding photo. Our anniversary is coming up soon and my hubby is a passionate woodworker. The perfect gift!!!

  65. I really want to try this, but I want to do it in a larger size on pallet wood. Any advice on where to get a photo printed the right way for this project in that size? Thanks!

  66. I have been wanting to do this for awhile now. I have photo graphs printed from Walmart. They are not on paper that you would write on. I don’t know the difference between this whole inkjet and laser thing. I just have the actual Polaroid picture. Like if I took a picture with my camera and it came out of it directly, can I just use that? It’s mirrored the way I want, I have the wood piece, the mod podge and brush. Do I need anything else? Am I doing this right or should I have copied those pictures to regular printer paper? Help me :(

  67. Such creative ideas are very interesting indeed.Your article actually developed an interest in me to search on viralvog about latest creative art ideas.Thanks for post.

  68. I love this DIY project! It’s very easy and there is a lot of opportunity to be creative. I wonder if it works on material other than wood. Woodstock- that very road is where I live <3 xxxo Bethel, NY.

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