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Acrylic transfer printing – building the print

Writer and photography / Anton Zytnik

Into transfers? Want to make them really big? Here is an excerpt from Acrylic Transfer Printing a book by Anton Zytnik teaching you how to make large-scale acrylic transfer prints for exhibition or private use.

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Creating drafts (optional)

Before embarking on a large-scale acrylic print, it’s a good idea to test the waters with some A draft prints if you are a newcomer to the process. Standard laser prints or photocopies are fine for A4 drafts; you don’t need a specialist printing shop. As I go through the process, I will note where you can skip steps and save time if you are in ‘draft mode’.

Organising your working space

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If you have a working space, lay your print out on a flat, horizontal surface with the face side up. In my case, I share a two room apartment with my wife and two kids, so I will be working vertically on the kitchen wall. To work vertically, I have made a simple wooden holder for the laser print (26). The upper piece of wood attaches to a picture hook in the wall and holds the print in place with five bull clips (27).

Coating your laser print with acrylic gel

The first step is to coat your laser print with acrylic gel, using either a brush or foam roller. I will be using a brush for simplicity and easy cleaning. A 1 litre bottle of acrylic gel costs approximately 12 €.

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Paint the image side of the print slowly and evenly (28-31). You can either paint the entire surface area, or stop short a centimetre or so from the edge, and crop the excess later on using a steel ruler and cutting knife. I will crop the print, as I have bull clips holding the print in place at both ends. If you are working horizontally and choose to coat the print’s entire surface area, be aware that it will expand slightly when wet. Use some scrap paper on the underside of the edges, which you will move around the perimeter of the print while coating. Avoid getting any acrylic gel on the reverse side, as this will make it very difficult to remove the paper later on.

Wait for the first coat of acrylic gel to dry, and then apply a second coat. Two coats are ideal for a final piece, but if you are working with an A4 draft, you can get away with doing only one coat to save time.

If you wish to, you can experiment in this step by mixing pigments, paints, and even textures (e.g. fine sand) into the acrylic gel to achieve some interesting effects. However, for the purpose of demonstrating the technique I have decided to keep things simple and just use clear acrylic gel.

Adding layers of colour

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Acrylic transfer printing gets exciting when you begin to add layers of colour to the original print. I will eventually flip the print and remove the paper, so any layers you add from now on will appear behind the image (which is now embedded in a layer of transparent acrylic gel medium). Use inexpensive acrylic paints.

There are endless creative possibilities at this point. Your layers could include stencilled patterns, collages, any type of mixed media, or even complete transparency, so that the surface you will transfer onto (canvas, wood, metal etc.) is exposed. Again, for the purpose of demonstration I will be adding only three acrylic paint layers: deep blue for the dress (32), antique white for the skin (33) and light cream for the background (34), in that order. I will paint the three layers using various sized brushes and with two coats per layer. If you are in A4 draft mode, just use one coat and blow dry the print if you are impatient to move on and see the end result.

After adding the three colours, I will coat everything with a single layer of acrylic gel and allow the whole print to dry. This final gel layer will bind the print with the canvas, which is described in the next step.

Finally, I will crop the print a few centimetres on each side using a steel ruler, pencil and scissors (35).

Conclusion

In October 2004, I exhibited a collection of acrylic transfer prints in Melbourne, Australia, for the first time (65-66).

Acrylic transfer printing offered an inexpensive and highly versatile method for bringing large-scale photographic images into the world of canvas, acrylics and mixed media. Back then, I made so many mistakes, and burned through a considerable amount of energy and materials to produce this small collection. The purpose of this book has been to share what I have learned about this unique process since then, so you can start producing great prints now.


Anton Zytnik is an Australian visual artist who has specialized in large-scale acrylic transfer printing since 2004, with a background in film/digital photography and screenprinting.

Acrylic Transfer Printing
Acrylic Transfer Printing
by Anton Zytnik
Acrylic transfer printing is an inexpensive, non-toxic method for transferring a photographic image onto another surface using a carbon print and an acrylic gel.
Teaches you how to make large-scale acrylic transfer prints for exhibition or private use.

 

2 thoughts on “Acrylic transfer printing – building the print

  1. Thanks for sharing but I think I am missing a step. How and when do you remove the paper? That part isn’t clear to me and it isn’t shown in the steps.

  2. Hi Natali, thanks for the question. The reason is that it is an extract of one Kindle book section, rather than an outline of the entire process. In summary, you would first select, produce and build your print (the building process is described), transfer to canvas, strip the paper away, add a layer of oil based varnish, stretch it and then add extra layers from there if desired.

    You can strip the paper away with water and your hands, or with a soft sponge/cloth.

    If you click on the link to the book, you can also get a quick overview of the process (with pictures) in the ‘look inside’ section without needing to buy it.

    Hope this helps,

    Anton

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