direct photocopy transfer

This is a simple, direct process that transfers photocopies on and laser printed images directly to a surface: paper, drafting vellum, glass, mirror, metal. Because solvents and strong oils are used (acetone, goof off, Naz-Dar oil transparent base, or wintergreen oil) use personal protection and test the substrate you are transfer to before proceeding.

Advantages – direct, easy to do, spontaneous and low tech. Images often transfer with “flaws” or defects that in fact can be quite helpful and beautiful. Images can be worked into by hand after transferring. Transferring the photocopy reverses image providing a different perspective. The image can be reversed in some copiers or a copy can be oiled and photocopied from the backside. Photomontages can be made during the photocopying, or more interestingly, during the transfer process.

Disadvantages – sometimes images are lost because of poor copy quality or lack of control (technique). Practice with extra copies on scrap material before final application.

Though wintergreen oil (or other essential oil) is safer product for use in this process, it can irritate skin, eyes, and mucus membranes — use with adequate ventilation and personal protection. Wintergreen oil may be ordered from your local pharmacy or off the web. When using strong solvents* safety precautions must be undertaken or this process may be hazardous to your health. Always use solvents with adequate ventilation and personal protection – gloves, apron and eye protection. Put any rags or pads with solvent into red metal waste cans with lids.


Paper photocopies or laser prints, personal drawing materials and tools

Substrate for transfer to, scissors, masking tape

Newsprint or plain paper, gloves, apron, and eye protection

Solvent-wintergreen oil (acetone or goof-off*)

Cotton rags, webril wipes or make up removal pads?


Rubbed: Position image to be transferred face down upon substrate. Masking tape can be use help hold down the image. Apply a very small amount of solvent on a small pad of cotton rag. Apply the pad to the back of the copy and rub in small circular motion with pressure. Rub hard, being careful not to let the copy move. If necessary transfer the copy in small manageable sections. The copy will become transparent as it transfers. Check your progress, by lifting up an edge while keeping the copy in registration to the substrate.

If you need to be precise registration marks can be places on the back of the paper and the substrate.
Remove copy before solvent dries. When using oil this rarely happens. If the copy adheres to substrate use a damp pad to release it.
On textured paper a burnisher made of wood, plastic or metal can be used to improve transfer.
Color copies may require the use of a burnisher for transferring.
Transferring to non-porous surfaces requires less solvent.
Transferring with Naz-Dar transparent base for oil based screen printing inks is performed by brushing a thin layer onto the back of the copy, placing the copy over the substrate, covering it with a few sheets of news print, and running it through a press under firm pressure.
Press: Set the engaged intaglio press’ pressure so that it is hand tight to the press bed. Swab or brush on a thin coat of oil to the back of the copy. Lay paper on the center of the press bed. Position the oiled copy on the paper and cover with 2-3 sheets of newsprint and run through press. When finished clean press bed and reset pressure for 16 gage metal.


Try transferring just brush strokes, cut or torn shapes.
Use a rounded pencil or burnisher to transfer lines.
Use less oil to achieve a grainy transfer.
Using too much oil saturates the paper, takes days to dry, and makes it difficult to draw in immediately afterwards. Not to mention it gives off a strong and potentially aggravating scent of wintergreen.