Digital Art – Ways to Repurpose Your Images

My grandmother was one of those people who saved wrapping paper and ribbons to use another day. I knew she did it to be thrifty, but I still mentally rolled my eyes every Christmas and birthday as she warned us not to ball up the papers and throw them away.

digital photo art printed on tissue paper
Nikki Smith’s custom digital art tissue papers.

Of course, I now do this myself. But while thrift plays a role, my real purpose is to use the papers-especially patterned tissue-in art. The problem is, unlike my grandmother who actually used the ephemera again, I have built up an unwieldy stash.

The worst of it is, when I do want to use some of my tissue paper stash, I rarely have exactly what I’m looking for. So I was thrilled to get a sneak peek of the November/December 2012 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors where Nikki Smith writes about how to print your own custom tissue papers using the computer and digital art.

“A terrific technique for getting artwork off of your computer and into the real world is to print your own custom tissue papers. Consider scans of your artwork, digital art, photos, or public domain images from sites like for printing images onto tissue.

“The effect is amazing yet it is simple to do. And it opens a world of possibilities for using your own imagery as transparent layers for collage, decoupage, ice resin jewelry, and more,” writes Nikki in the ongoing Getting Technical column.

It reminded me of another simple technique for repurposing your artwork via the computer, making packing tape transfers.

How to Make a Packing Tape Transfer

1. Make a toner (not inkjet) copy of your design. I took a digital art print of Nick’s drawing of a pear, resized it with my photo-editing software, and printed it out on copy paper.

Printed drawing covered with tape.

2. Take a piece of packing tape (the clear kind, not the kind with strings in it), and place it over the image you wish to transfer. Burnish the tape onto the image with a bone folder or similar tool (I used the handle of a pair of scissors).

3. Cut out the image. (I made two transfers. In one I cut out around the pear; for the other I cut the entire rectangular image.) Immerse the image in warm water and let sit a few minutes.

4. Remove the image and start rubbing the paper off the back with your thumb or fingers. If it does not start to rub off easily, leave it in the water another minute or so.

5. When all the paper has been rubbed off the back, you should have a see-through transfer. Pat it dry with a paper towel. It will still be a little tacky on the back, so you can stick it on your substrate like that to play around with it, but you may want to add a clear-drying adhesive like gel medium for more permanence. (Also, don’t rub the paper towel on the tacky part of the transfer, or you will have to immerse and rub that paper off. I speak from experience.)

You can read all about Nikki’s technique in the upcoming issue of Cloth Paper Scissors.

Now that I have a way to print exactly the kinds of images I need onto tissue paper, I don’t really have to keep adding to my ephemera stash. I can stop any time I want to. Really, I can.

If you want to learn more useful and artistic ways to apply technology to your art, check out the getting technical column. In the coming month, the planned topics are video simplified, adding watermarks and copyrights, clipping images, cloning tool tips, repeating simple backgrounds, and adding texture layers.

To be sure you don’t miss future tips and techniques, subscribe to Cloth Paper Scissors now.

P.S. Do you use tissue paper, wrapping paper, and other “celebration” ephemera? What does your family think? Let me know in the comments below.


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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