Ink + Wood = Awesome!

Posted by popular request - how to do your own photo-to-wood transfer.  Yay!

So we are by no means the first blog to post about this.  What?  Yeah that's right, we know what's up!  That said, we wanted to share what worked for us and how we made this very large (48"x37") historic statement piece for our living room.

Before we get started, we have a few shout-outs to make.  First off, if you want to just buy something like this, we would highly recommend Woodsnap.  Their product is awesome and has a more finished look than these DIY versions.  The reason we decided to do it ourselves was cost.  To do a similar piece to ours it would have cost upwards of $350 retail.  That said, this project took an exorbitant amount of time (10+ hours) and again, it's very large.  We highly recommend them!

Second, the blog that helped us, that we followed almost to the letter is The Brandon Family Blog.  They have a lovely (detailed) tutorial and we would highly recommend it.  We also found The Wed Loft Blog since doing our project and it is for colored photos.  Cute stuff!

Ok, off to the races!  The initial inspiration for this project came from building a new house in downtown Huntington Beach, CA.  By participating in the building process, all the way from tearing down the existing 1960's cottage (it was gross, not cute, don't worry) to testing the soil for oil remnants, we really started to get caught up in the history of the land.  Going back, we realized that where we were building (not that long ago) was completely covered in oil derricks.  This photo in particular caught our eye.  It was taken from the Huntington Beach Pier on Jan 28, 1940 for The Los Angeles Times.  As soon as we found it online, we purchased it for our project.  

For more info about the history of oil in Huntington Beach, CA we really like 1x57 Blog.  Here are some other photos that caught our eye.  It's hard to believe the changes that have taken place in 75 years!

After choosing our photo (it could be any photo, even one you take!) we had to decide how big we wanted our finished product.  We measured the wall and went to Home Depot to buy plywood.  The thickness really doesn't matter, just depends on the look you want.  We went with a 3/4" piece and they cut it for us.  

Then it was off to Staples to have our photo printed.  The key to success here is to have a LASER print done.  Also, you want to reverse the photo before printing (think of looking in a mirror).  For this project, we had to cut the photo in half and have two prints done.  Don't worry, these prints are "mucho cheapo" and they can help you set it up.  We're talking under $4!

Plywood and photo home, we were ready to begin.  We already had some Acrylic Gel Medium from Hobby Lobby.  This is one thing you might want to have a coupon for - $28.99 full retail!  

We painted the gel on the board and laid the photo FACE DOWN on top.  Using a wooden dowel, we rolled out as many of the creases and bubbles as we could.  We also made sure that the photos lined up (since we have a split down the middle) and that there wasn't a gap.  We let it dry overnight and awakened to find a hard, white, board.  Is this really going to work we thought?!?!  

The fun step!  Take a damp cloth and wet the area that you want to work on.  The overall idea is that you will rub off the paper, leaving the ink on the wood.  Guess what!?  It works!  

We wore gloves and actually rubbed a little with the damp towel too.  There really isn't a way to explain this other than use the amount of water your project needs, rub the paper until it comes up under your fingers, and be careful not to rub off the ink.  Our suggestion would be to start in a corner and work your way across.  This is what it looks like as the paper peels away.  So cool!

Ok, initial coolness excitement over, this was taking forever!  We spent, all said and done, probably about 8 hours of rubbing to get this paper pealed off.  Sheesh!  We had to bring in the big guns toward the end.  Thanks Paige!

Once we got as much of the paper off as we could (whatever is left will soak up stain, which might not be bad if you want a vintage look, otherwise get it all off) and our fingerprints were no more, we hurried through the last couple steps so we could hang it on the wall.  We sanded the edges so any accidental gel drips were gone.  We then stained the entire piece, with a particular focus on the edges.  We also added some craft paint for a darker look.  No raw wood showing here!  

Finally, we used a photo bar on the back and hung it on the wall.  We love this finished piece and the history that it reminds us of.  What a conversation starter!

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