Image Transfers and Art Journaling: A Blender Pen Technique and More

15 Oct 2012

Whether you make journal pages to create art, to experiment, or a little of both, it's fun to make image transfer techniques part of the mix. Image transfers can give your journal pages depth and interest whether you use them in layered backgrounds or as focal points.

image transfers on journal page dea fischer
Dea Fischer used three image transfer techniques in her 'Dictionary of Sorrows' journal page spread.
There are many ways to make image transfers. You can use everything from a water-based inkjet image transfer to photo transfers using an emulsion transfer technique.

Here are two examples of journal art using image transfer techniques. In the first, Dea Fischer uses three kinds of image transfers to create her spread in the round robin project "The Dictionary of Sorrows."

"I worked the piece in multiple layers, journaling in indelible ink onto tissue paper, and then layering in image transfers," says Dea.

The door image is a gel medium transfer or 'skin' she created from a photo she had taken of a doorway. The piece also contains a 'quick and dirty' gel medium transfer method; Dea printed some text in reverse and then transferred it onto the surface of the piece as a final layer. There is also a subtle blender pen transfer of a map in the background, laid down over the background layers and before any surface layers were created.

Because of the layering, Dea's image transfers have a subtle effect on this piece of artwork. Contrast that with Seth Apter's journal page, which puts the image transfer front and center-even though Seth used one of the same techniques as Dea, a toner transfer method.

Seth Apter used a toner transfer method with a blender pen
on the image of the feet.
"The image of the feet, anchoring this page about balance in my art journal, is an image transfer that was made using a Chartpak blender pen," says Seth, who outlines his steps for us.

1. I first photocopied the image that I decided to use, as you need a toner copy for this process to work. Images printed on an inkjet printer will not transfer. It is also important to remember that the transferred image will be the mirror image of your original copy.

2. Next I laid the photocopied image on the journal page, toner side down.

3. Using the heavy tip from the blender pen, I then repeatedly burnished the back side of the photocopy. When you begin to see the image appear on the backside of the copy paper you know it is transferring. During the process, I lifted the corner of the paper periodically, careful not to move the image, to see when the transfer was complete.

Note: This is a very simple, no-mess process but it is important to do it in a well-ventilated area as the xylene in the blender pen is toxic, Seth says.

Image transfers are, by nature, imperfect. Therefore, your art journal is a great place to experiment with different image transferring techniques. For more art journaling ideas and techniques, we have an amazing deal for you on some of our favorite products.

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P.S. What's your favorite image transfer technique, and why? Leave a comment below.

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on 18 Oct 2012 8:25 AM

My transfer methods depend on the surface (plain paper, already painted, gesso'd collaged, written on) and the available time. Rustic, imperfect transfers appeal to me, so alcohol (or vodka) transfers are good for fast work and gel medium transfers are great if I have lots of time to let it dry. I mix them with acyrlic paint- or tar gel pours for real depth.

Jaycoomer wrote
on 20 Oct 2012 10:39 AM

Beautiful work but it is way over my head!

windycindy wrote
on 20 Oct 2012 10:43 AM

I am always willing to try a lovely new technique!

Thanks for this information...



CatNa wrote
on 20 Oct 2012 11:04 AM

I really like the simplicity of the clear packing tape transfer.

Put clear packing tape over the picture burnish well and then either peel slowly away or wet the back and "roll' the excess paper away.

If the tape seems to shiny for the art piece I have used 2 pieces of tape over the picture and then very very gently buffed some of the glar off the top tape with fine sandpaper or magic easer (cleaning aid)

I also sometimes add hand stitching around the pieces of transfer or machine stitching if the art is on paper or unbacked fabric.

I like some back ground showing through my transferred image so I try and leave some little clear areas.

kattfive wrote
on 20 Oct 2012 1:59 PM

I love your emails and love to try out the new techniques.

kfordwalters wrote
on 20 Oct 2012 2:31 PM

Love both pieces.  Amazing how divfferent they are.

joanvanc wrote
on 21 Oct 2012 7:13 AM

Wow, this sounds like a fun technique. I have a toner copier and a blender pen. Guess I will try this in my art journal. Thanks for the tutorial. Love Dea's journal pages.

Rita Remix wrote
on 21 Oct 2012 1:32 PM

I love transfers of all kinds...but my favorite is graphite because I can use my own artwork and I love the richness of the look.  I usually put encaustic over it but I've also added markers and colored pencil transfers (which I also LOVE) on top of the graphite and it adds a lot of interest and depth. Graphite images are the perfect compliment to my B&W work.

NancyL1980 wrote
on 21 Oct 2012 7:28 PM

What is a "blender pen"?

Sandy Babb wrote
on 22 Oct 2012 7:11 AM


Thank you so very much for this article, you just solved a problem I have been trying to puzzle out on my latest piece of artwork.  I wanted to get writing on my piece but actually do the writing on the piece and the technique of using indelible ink on tissue paper is perfect!

Indigo Girl wrote
on 22 Oct 2012 11:24 AM

Being a fiber artist, I prefer to use heat transfers onto fabric from either a computer or Canon laser copier,  which both use the 4 print process colors (cyan, magenta,  yellow, black).  Also works on paper of course.  I miss the old Sharp copiers that used RGB light primaries like Tv.  It often made for interesting effects when copying black and white photos because as the image enlarged it would break down into "visual noise" that rendered grays into subte pinks, greens, aquas.

Seth Apter wrote
on 24 Oct 2012 8:08 AM

To answer your question NancyL1980, a blender pen is a marker, with a hard tip, that is filled with xylene - the solution that actually creates the transfer. You can see examples at the following, google search link: