Yet another gel transfer. But different.

There’s a story behind this one. My dad, in his office, has a massive collection of pictures of various RCN ships he was involved with, ships’ crests, together with some sketches my grandfather did during the war. It’s a very nautical room. For his birthday yesterday, I wanted to give him another nautical trinket, using that nifty new technique I learned of gel transfers … but on wood.

The two most important ships in his history (that I can remember at least) are the HMCS Miramichi, which was his first command, and the HMCS Regina, which he commissioned as Executive Officer and which was the last ship he was on before we moved to Ottawa and he eventually retired.

In debating which ship to use, I was having trouble finding a good one of the Miramichi. It’s no longer at sea so there aren’t too many shots of it on the internet (if you do a Google image search you come up with only a handful of pictures of the exact Miramichi – 163 – I’m looking for). Except perhaps this one, which looked really familiar to me:

readyayeready.com

You see those two people standing in the foreground? That’s my mother on the left, and the short one is me. I have my hands behind my back because I used to like to stand like a weirdo, and my mother is taking a picture with her camera, which is why her elbows are up. There weren’t many other little girls living on that particular base at that particular time, so it is definitely me and my mum. Whenever my dad went off to sea we would go down to Duntze Head (which is where those cannons are) to wave goodbye. When he came back, and he sailed past our house (yes, I was that lucky), he would have someone signal us in gibberish Morse code. It became a sort of tradition.

Dad Gel Transfer 2

So anyway, because I’m actually IN that photo, that’s the one I have to use, naturally. It’s not a terribly high-quality shot – taken before digital photography became really popular, this was clearly developed from film and then scanned on some terrible early digital-era scanner (I am that old), so when you blow it up it doesn’t look perfect. But the nice thing about these gel transfers is that the lack of detail actually improves the result. So I cropped it to fit on my work surface, boosted the contrast, and desaturated it. Remember when you do this to print the image with a laser printer or photocopier, as inkjet images are too heavily sunk into too many layers of the paper to work properly. Also remember to print it in reverse!

Dad Gel Transfer 5

My supplies: 8″ x 10″ artists’ board canvas ($3 at Dollarama, bonus!); reversed laser printout on regular printer paper; sponge brush, gel medium, and a squeegee.

Dad Gel Transfer 4

We’ve done this twice before. You’ve probably got it down pat. But I’ll do it for you again, just so you can be confident. Use the sponge brush to smooth a generous amount of gel medium evenly across the surface of the board. Pay close attention to the edges, as they will tend to accumulate less medium (though it enhances the effect in the end if you aren’t looking for perfection).

Dad Gel Transfer 6

Make sure there aren’t too many big brush marks on the surface. These are fine; you just don’t want huge peaks and valleys of the stuff.

Dad Gel Transfer 7

Use your squeegee to flatten the image face-down on top of the gel medium. Set that sucker aside to dry for a couple hours.

Dad Gel Transfer 8

To rest for readiness, peel up one of the corners a bit and see how much toner stayed stuck to the surface. If it’s all still stuck to the paper, you either didn’t use enough gel medium, you used the wrong type of printout, or it’s not dry yet.

Dad Gel Transfer 9

Spray the surface of the board with water and let it sink into the paper.

Dad Gel Transfer 10

Use your fingers or a soft cloth to rub off the bits of wet paper. You will likely have to let it dry and wet-rub it again a couple times before you get all the white paper off that you want.

Dad Gel Transfer 11

Finally the surface was as smooth as I could get it.

Dad Gel Transfer 12

The yellowish tint of the wood underneath added an antique cast to the picture that I quite liked, despite the pixellated nature of the shot.

Dad Gel Transfer 13

I painted the sides of the board frame a mixed turquoise with craft paint, then sprayed the whole thing once with a satin-finish sealant.

Dad Gel Transfer 14

It doesn’t suit my gray walls but I think it will look great on my dad’s wall!

Dad Gel Transfer 17

Best of Friends.

Okay, so the thing I made for the Pie’s birthday, remember that? Well if it wasn’t quite your style, maybe this one, using the same technique, will be more to your liking.

Cait’s dog, Ruby, is very sweet, but, being a dachshund, she doesn’t really get along with most other dogs.  When Cait became  mom to an anxious golden retriever named Cooper, we all held our breath to see what would happen.  It turns out we needn’t have worried.  Ruby enjoys having a big brother to boss around and take care of, and Cooper’s anxiety is so much less with a constant companion. I took this super cute photo of the two of them at a cottage last summer (for the microsecond they actually sat still).  They are the best of friends.

Cottage Life

Now, Cait’s birthday is only four days after the Pie’s, so, working on the success of the Pie’s gel transfer painting, I decided to do something along the same lines.  I messed this up before I got it right, so I’ll show you what I did.

First, I had to alter the photo to make it fit on the 16″ x 20″ canvas, and change the colours a bit in the photo to make sure both dogs stood out.  It’s hard when you have a dog with a black face and another  with an almost white face to make sure they both show up.  So I put a vintage filter on the photo, put a light vignette at the edges, and boosted the contrast a little.  These things tend to work better with high-contrast pictures.  Then I flipped it horizontally so it would come out facing the right way.

*RoobyCooper - FINAL

I had the picture printed out at Staples, and because it was so big it came out on their high gloss poster paper. My first mistake.

Best Friends 2

Best Friends 3

I couldn’t find my sponge brush, so I just used a regular plastic bristle paint brush to smear on the gloss gel medium.  My second mistake.

Best Friends 4

Then I used my squeegee to smooth the photo face-down onto the gel medium-ed canvas.  The centre of the canvas was pretty flexible, so I should have put something underneath to support it as I pushed around on top.  My third mistake.

Best Friends 6

You’re supposed to leave it to dry overnight, but after an hour I could see that the thing wasn’t working.  The poster paper was too thick to conform to the huge grooves in the gel medium left by my paintbrush, and there were giant streaks everywhere.  Because there was no support in the centre of the picture when I pushed down with the squeegee, there were whole spaces where the medium hadn’t adhered at all to the photo.

Best Friends 8

Part of Ruby’s face was completely missing.

Best Friends 9

No worries.  I can fix this.  I scraped off the parts of the gel medium that were still wet and left the thing to dry completely.  Then I covered the thing completely in a few coats of antique white craft paint.

Best Friends 13

It left a bit of a texture, but nothing that couldn’t be smoothed over with a new batch of medium and some careful application.

Best Friends 14

To get the picture printed on thinner paper (the regular 25lb stuff that comes out of photocopiers), I had to split the photo in half, so each part measured 10″ x 16″ and would fit nicely on a tabloid (11″ x 17″) piece of paper. You need a photocopier or laser printer for this job, as the ink in an inkjet goes through too many layers of the paper and will not work.

Best Friends 16

Here I am trimming the white edges off the paper.  My paper cutter is really nice, but it isn’t big enough to do the long edge of the 17″ sheet.  I managed, but it was dicey.

Best Friends 17

This time I put some books under the centre of the canvas to hold it up.

Best Friends 18

I used a sponge brush AND the squeegee to get the medium evenly across the whole thing.

Best Friends 19

I did my best to line up the photos as closely as I could, though it wasn’t perfect.  I was very careful with the squeegee when pressing it down not to press too hard in any one area.  I examined it minutely for bubbles and pushed out any that I found.  Then I left it the hell alone overnight.

Best Friends 22

The next day I had roofers come to fix our leak so I hid out in the kitchen while chaos reigned.

Best Friends 23

I used my handy spray bottle full of water to wet the paper.

Best Friends 25

Then I began to rub off the wet layers of paper.  I used just my fingers, because I didn’t want to rub too hard on the dogs’ faces and accidentally remove the colour.

Best Friends 26

I ended up wetting it and rubbing it at least three times before I was happy with how much white paper I took off.

Best Friends 27

It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s supposed to be, so it looks good with the vintage cast of the photo.

Best Friends 29

Even the dividing line turned out mostly okay.

Best Friends 30

Because there is a big chunk of empty deck space in the centre of the photo, I wanted to put in Ruby and Cooper’s initials, to make it extra cute.

I freehanded the letters onto some card stock.

Best Friends 32

I then painted the card stock.  With glitter craft paint.  Just to be ridiculous.

Best Friends 34

When those were dry I glued them to the canvas with Mod Podge and left that overnight.

Best Friends 35

I then painted it with two coats of gloss polyurethane to seal it.

Best Friends 36

And added picture hanging hardware, same way I did for the Pie’s present. So shiny …

Best Friends 37

And there it is!

Best Friends 38

Hakan-Themed Gel Transfer

Hakan Gel Transfer 28

I’ve been sitting on this project for what feels like FOREVER.  I made it for the Pie’s birthday and despite it being a first attempt I’m nevertheless pretty stoked about how it turned out.

I’ve seen a few blog posts on the internet where people take photos or photocopies and use a medium to transfer them to canvas or wood for a folksy sort of artistic-like thing.  And I wanted to do that.  So I did.  But a bit differently.  You’ll have to forgive the photo quality, as I did most of this at night while the Pie was out.  Playing Street Fighter.

First I took this image, which is Hakan, the Pie’s character of choice in Super Street Fighter 4.  You may remember him from a birthday cake I made a few years back.

From http://streetfighter.wikia.com/wiki/Hakan

Then I ran it through Rasterbator.  Because I like dots.

Hakan Gel Transfer 2

Then I printed it out. Trimmed it.

Hakan Gel Transfer 3

Assembled it with tape.  If I did this again I would skip the tape part and just assemble it in situ.

Hakan Gel Transfer 4

Then I cut it into four pieces and hid them in the closet where the fuse box is and worked on my canvas.

Hakan Gel Transfer 5

These are four 20″ x 16″ canvases I got at DeSerres.

Hakan Gel Transfer 1

Hakan’s colours are sort of maroon-y purple and turquoise, so I vaguely mixed some craft paint together in a dish and smeared it across the four canvases.

Hakan Gel Transfer 7

I’m quite pleased with the effect.

Hakan Gel Transfer 9

Hakan Gel Transfer 10

Once it was dry I grabbed my gel medium.

Hakan Gel Transfer 13

I smeared that generously across the whole surface of each canvas.

Hakan Gel Transfer 14

I then used my screen printing squeegee to smooth the printout pieces face down onto the gel medium.  It’s important to note here that your image will be reversed from how you originally printed it out.

Hakan Gel Transfer 15

Then I hid it back in the fuse box closet to dry overnight.

To remove the paper, spray it with water and get it nice and soaked.  Then you can just peel off the other ply of the paper, leaving the ply with the design on it stuck to the medium.

Hakan Gel Transfer 18

You can use your fingers or a soft towel.  If you pull up some of the design, don’t freak out — this is supposed to look a little weathered.

Hakan Gel Transfer 20

I used a gentle scrubby for it as well.

Hakan Gel Transfer 21

This takes for-freaking-EVER, FYI.  And it’s messy.  Paper bits get everywhere.  This is blurry but you can see the scrubbed side versus the non-scrubbed side.

Hakan Gel Transfer 29

And then once it dries you can still see some white leftover.  So I went over mine a few times.

Hakan Gel Transfer 23

Eventually I had to give up and just leave it as-is.  It’s not supposed to be perfect, in any case.

Hakan Gel Transfer 27

Some of my dots are missing.

Hakan Gel Transfer 26

But the rest looks pretty badass.

Hakan Gel Transfer 30

Look now neat that is!  I did fill in a few spots with black craft paint where I thought it was necessary.

To get rid of some of the whiteness, I coated the whole thing with glossy polyurethane top coat a few times.

Hakan Gel Transfer 32

Nice and shiny.

Hakan Gel Transfer 35

The finished piece, assembled on the floor.

Hakan Gel Transfer 33

Now to make it hang-able.  Gren stood watch for me while I did this in secret.

Hakan Gel Transfer 36

You can get little hanging hardware kits from department stores, grocery stores, and hardware stores.  In each kit will be a bunch of these little loops with screw ends.  Measure down from the top of your canvas an equal length on both sides and screw them in.

Hakan Gel Transfer 37

Then you have this wire stuff.

Hakan Gel Transfer 38

Cut a length and loop it between the two screwed in hooks.

Hakan Gel Transfer 39

Pull it tight and wrap the ends around the wire to keep it secure.

Hakan Gel Transfer 40

Hakan Gel Transfer 41

Make sure if you’re using multiple canvases that the length of the wire and where it’s situated on the canvas are consistent across the board.

Also make sure when you’re putting in hanging hardware that you can hang the picture without the hook pushing into the surface of the canvas.

Hakan Gel Transfer 42