Until this week, I’d never have guessed transfer paper would open up so many possibilities for creative play. In her book, Hello Happiness, Kim Geiser shares several techniques for taking an illustration on paper and transferring it onto a variety of surfaces including fabric and art canvas. Because Hello Happiness is all about spreading joy into the world, being able to spread her positive messages in a variety of ways makes it easy, and that includes messages beyond simply those on paper.
To start doing my part in spreading happiness via Kim’s super cute illustrations, I wanted to experiment with transferring an image onto watercolor paper, onto fabric I could embroider, onto stamp-carving material and onto cardstock with the intent of doing some paper cutting. The illustrations you’ll see here all came from her book, which I printed out as photocopies to begin. The coloring pages are perforated, so it’s easy to tear them out and either color away the stress of the day or, use them as a template on something else, like I’m going to do.
Transfer paper comes in various sizes and you can even get it in white for transferring onto dark surfaces. I used Loew Cornell Grey Transfer Paper. It came with four 9″ x 13″ (228mm x 330mm) sheets.
Transferring an Image onto Watercolor Paper
Sandwich a piece of transfer paper between your illustration and the watercolor paper. Tape the papers in place so no shifting will occur when you’re doing the transfer.
Use a stylus or colored pencil to trace over all parts of the illustration you wish to have on your final composition. I didn’t use a colored pencil (Kim recommends using one) but wished I had as it would have made it much easier to see where I’d traced. Periodically, lift the transfer paper to check your progress and make certain you’re capturing everything you wish.
For a sweet little, stitched message, I used one of the six included on this page. Just as I did on the watercolor paper, here I sandwiched transfer paper between the illustration and my fabric. Then I went over all lines with a stylus.
The transfer paper worked great on fabric, too! I liked that it was faint but that I could still easily follow the lines with my stitches.
Side note: I adore french knots, and I learned something new with this project. If you use metallic sewing machine thread that’s typically used for art quilting (I had some Coats & Clark in my stash), it makes cute little loops!
Transferring an Image onto Stamp Carving Material
Who says you need to use all of an illustration? I decided I needed a butterfly stamp and this little beauty on Kim’s full illustration seemed just right. I cut out the part I wanted to use and again, tried using the transfer paper to get the image onto my carving material. . . . but it didn’t work. I resorted to the old technique of using graphite. I traced over the lines using a soft pencil.
With the graphite side down, I rubbed over the back of the paper with my fingernail to transfer the butterfly.
I went over the graphite transfer with ball point pen because it doesn’t smudge as easily as the graphite. From there I carved away.
I love my new little stamp! From illustration to carved stamp in no time.
Transferring an Image onto Cardstock
Lastly, it was time for some paper cutting. Because paper cuts tend to look best if you cut from the back, I needed to transfer a reverse of the illustration I wanted to use. Also, I wanted all of the letters to remain intact—that is to have no loose pieces such as the inner circle of an O. To tackle this, I thought of the letters as stencils and marked where I would need a bridge to keep the letters in one piece. Because the illustration I was using was on inexpensive copier paper, it was easy enough to see the printing from the back of the paper. Once again, I made a sandwich of cardstock, transfer paper and illustration and taped everything down. I could easily see the lines peeking through on the back, and I traced my lines using a ball point pen.
With all lines transferred, I was ready to begin cutting. Working with a standard #11 blade in my craft knife and on a self-cutting mat, I cut everything out.
After cutting all pieces out, I realized I should use the letters for yet a third project! Meanwhile, back to this project . . . I created a watercolor background to show through the cutout letters and I loved the ombre effect in the finished piece!