Easy Packing Tape Transfer with Digital Art

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digital art packing tape transfers
Pear transfers on background paper.

A few months ago I wrote about how to make better photo transfers on fabric, metal, and so on. I asked for feedback on your favorite kinds of transfers and tips, and many of you responded that you enjoy making packing tape transfers.

Now, I have to admit, I have never made one of these before. I know, I know. Packing tape transfers are about the easiest art trick there is. I just never felt motivated to make one.

But recently I have been playing around with digital art images of my husband's drawings. (I think he is both mystified and pleased to see me constantly trying to "do more" with his drawings. The truth is, I'm so proud of them, I keep looking for new ways to expose his art to the world.) Because his drawings are black, white, and gray, I thought it might be interesting to layer them over a solid-colored or printed fabric or paper. I'll get to the fabric part in a minute.

But first, here's a tutorial for making the packing tape transfer. I figure, if I, who have been hanging around the paper art world for seven years, hasn't made one, maybe some of you need some prompting, too.

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.)

transfer artist paper with digital art
'Quote Box,' by Lesley Riley,
using TAP.

I placed my digital artwork transfers on top of some scrapbook paper that had a nice mottled and aged appearance. The background shows through the transfer, integrating the digital image of the pear drawing with background in a way that couldn't be achieved if I simply cut out the pear from a photocopy and pasted it on a page or canvas. You could use this technique to incorporate an image in an art journal, a collage, encaustic art, and more.

Now, how to transfer digital photo art or an image of a piece of artwork to fabric? There are many options. The easiest way, in my opinion, is to get a hold of some of the products that are printer ready and run them through an inkjet printer.

One of the most versatile products is Transfer Artist PaperTM (TAP), by Lesley Riley. This paper allows you to achieve the same effects you would via a manual photo transfer with gel medium, but more more quickly and reliably, and you can transfer the image from the paper to a solid color or patterned fabric.

If you want to transfer the outline of an image for stitching or translate the design to fabric for appliqué, there's Wash-Away Appliqué Sheets by C&T. With this product, you can either print onto the sheets or draw onto them directly. Stitch through them onto your base fabric and wash away the paper. There are also printable fabric products that are ready to go through the printer; you just print, peel off the backing, rinse, and stitch.

There are so many ways to explore your art images through digital art and transfers, and this is just a start. To find supplies and more information on digital art, making transfers, and more, be sure to visit the Cloth Paper Scissors Shop.


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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