Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Using Xylol and a Laser Printer to Transfer Images

Transferring complex sketches onto the board you will use to etch or paint them can be a tedious process.  Recently I read of a way to quickly use a solvent to transfer the toner from a laser-printed image onto a board.  I promised to show you this method after I tried it.  Well, I tried it today and it works beautifully!  Here we go...

I transferred a complex design (the rosebud line drawing I showed you a couple of days ago) onto black clayboard.  It also works on white clayboard or a gessoed board as well.

Be very careful.  Xylol is a dangerous chemical (found in any hardware store) so be very careful using it! No children or animals should be present! The technique only takes a minute or two, so your exposure will be negligible if you take precautions.  

  • Xylol solvent
  • Screwdriver
  • paper towels
  • sturdy rubber gloves
  • tape
  • laser printer (not ink jet)
  • board

Assuming you have scanned your line drawing into your computer, print it out onto a normal piece of paper.  This only works with a laser printer so, if you have an ink jet, you may want to take several drawings to someone with a laser for printing and save them for future use.  Remember that the transferred image will be backwards, so be sure to flip your image on the computer before you print it out.  Make sure it is the correct size for your board.  Then trim your paper so you are able to see how to place it on the board. Place it printed side down.

Tape your paper on the top to make a hinge so you can lift the paper without it shifting. Now pull the paper back to expose the board.  Go to a well-ventilated spot (outdoors is best) and pry open the can of xylol.  Make sure you have the gloves on because this is a dangerous solvent and you should not get it on your skin.  You may want to wear glasses as well.  Quickly pour some of the xylol onto your wad of paper towel and close the can of xylol again. (The fumes are potent!) Now brush the soaked wad of paper towel in long, even strokes onto the board.  Work quickly because it evaporates rapidly. When the board is wet with solvent, turn the paper down onto the board.  

Now take another tightly wadded strip of paper towel and rub the paper against the board. You are doing a rubbing. Work quickly.  You should see the image bleed through the paper a bit as you work.

Now lift up the paper to check how well the image transferred.  If there are blank spots, wet that part of the board again and re-rub it. 

NOTE:  I've done this many times and find that it works just as well to rub right through the paper until you see the design bleed through the paper.  This way you don't have to rub zylol onto the board, which sometimes causes streaks.  Either method works well. The point is to dissolve the toner and transfer it to the board.

Voila!!!  It would have taken me at least an hour to transfer this image by hand.  This method literally took me two minutes!

As you see, I forgot to flip the design before I printed it out.  But it doesn't matter with this one.  Anything with words definitely must be flipped.  Tonight I will start etching.  Stay tuned.

This process can also be used on white clayboard.  Here is a photo of another design I began. You can see the xylol transfer easily.

PS:   Make sure you put the xylol-saturated paper towel outside for a while to let the fumes evaporate out of it.  Then dispose of it in a safe way.  This paper will remain very flamable so either immediately burn it, put it in the outside trash, or in the fireplace - somewhere safe.  (I'm not scaring you too much, am I?  Better to be safe than sorry, m'dear.)


  1. I like the way on how you put up your blogs. Wonderful and awesome. Hope to read more post from you in the future. Goodluck. Happy blogging!



  2. Life is like a battle, if you don't know how to defend yourself then you'll end up being a loser. So, better take any challenges as your stepping stone to become a better person. Have fun, explore and make a lot of memories.