Friday, September 26, 2014

the statue of liberty is NOT left-handed (observations and tips for working with ink jet transparencies)

today on the daisy yellow blog, i'm talking about using one of my favorite "non traditional" art supplies: transparency sheets made specially to use with an inkjet printer! i ♥LOVE♥ printing photos and other elements on them to simultaneously add my own personal content plus another texture and finish to my work! my daisy yellow piece references the images and results; this companion piece talks about the more practical/mechanical aspects of using them. please feel free to ask any questions via email or in the comments!

the transparency element is the yellow hibiscus photo. i lightly penciled the word "aloha" on the paper below the transparency, and hand-stitched along it with embroidery floss.

1. first things first: inkjet transparencies aren't cheap. sorry. i realize that the price alone will deter a lot of crafters, and i completely understand not wanting to dive into something you may not even like working with! keep an eye out at garage sales (where i often scoop up 2/3 full boxes of bargain office supplies) and maybe occasionally cruise the clearance aisle at your favorite discount office supply store. meanwhile, if you work for a business which uses transparencies, or know someone who does, you might be allowed to buy or borrow a few to experiment. it can't hurt to ASK, right?

2. since they ARE pricey, i like to use the entire 8.5x11" sheet every time. i add "filler" in the form of re-sized photos, digital papers and brushes, real-life or digital collages i've made, scans of vintage postcards or book pages... whatever's laying about my computer's desk top when it's time to print is fair game! (sometimes the weirdo "extras" turn out to be cooler than the well-considered image i intended to print in the first place, lol!)

the transparency element is the chandelier, from the first digital brush set i ever bought c.1999 from scrap-n-fonts; the great advantage of digi is you can print things any size, any color, and you never run out!
(for the record i STILL love this set!)

3. all inkjet transparencies have a smooth side and a pebbly side... it's the latter which is able to hold the ink and allow it to dry. this is actually the "back" of the sheet, so if your image contains text you're going to need to flip the whole thing. most printers have a dialog box somewhere --it might be in a printer menu called "paper settings" or "print properties"-- that you can check to do this easily. it could be called mirror image, reverse printing or iron-on transfer mode.

the geisha is the transparency element in this one, i scanned her from an old book 

4. i've occasionally forgotten to do the above, and it's not the end of the world. you CAN place the transparency pebbly-side-up on your work, with very little chance anyone except you will notice. in "borderline" cases, without text, you can also just go ahead and use the image in reverse. the title of this post alludes to the fact that i've done this, even with fairly well-known icons! :)

three index-card sized examples from last year's ICAD, the transparency elements are: the 1950's lady, the chandelier (told you i love those!) and a real-life collage of random text papers i scanned. 

5. if your printer has a setting for transparencies, you should definitely click it, or the one for high gloss paper; this allows the printer to use exactly the right amount of ink to avoid smearing!

6. forget about using proprietary store-bought scrapbooking transparencies (such as the late great hambly) in your ink jet printer. the ink will literally never dry, and it WILL smear... maybe even while it's still inside the printer.

the face is from a magazine, the transparency here is a very subtle watercolored pink background paper from a discontinued vera lim digital kit. I placed some sequins between the layers before sewing them to the ledger page... it's kind of a new take on a shaker card.

7. ink jet transparencies are not archival, if that kind of thing matters to you. some may even go slightly yellow over the course of time. (we're talking YEARS, though!)

8. you may need to fiddle about a bit before you find a brand that works perfectly with your particular printer. my old hp photosmart liked 3m brand transparencies best, they're a tiny bit thicker than normal and have a little "gripper" strip at the very edge which helped the printer grab the slippery surface better to draw it into the printer. my epson artisan 837 prefers highland brand, which have a thin cover sheet of paper attached to the reverse side of the transparency. it may be possible to "fool" your printer by using a thin line of repositionable adhesive to add such a sheet to a brand that doesn't have one.

The butterfly's a store-bought transparency; you don't HAVE TO create your own elements... but it IS fun! :)

9. the good news is that the print quality seems to be uniformly good and once you find a style that your printer is willing to "grab" your worries are over. it's POSSIBLE that you might find transparencies made for copiers or laser printers that will also work in your ink jet, but you would definitely want to try before you buy!

the letters are old heidi swapp acrylics that i frankly didn't like anymore until i outlined and layered them over an enhanced and stamped photo; gave them a whole new vibe, because staples are COOL, lol!
10. a few thoughts about adhesives: dryline glue (the kind in taperunners and ATGs) and gluedots will be very hard to spot under dark ink, but may show on lighter colors. wetter glues, gel medium and some brands of gluestick MIGHT smear or erase the ink, so be sure to test on a corner! i use hardware a lot: staples, brads and eyelets are all fairly awesome and give a nice industrial vibe. i also love to sew on top of transparencies since it adds such a nice texture. (if you sew only on three sides you have a transparent POCKET... just sayin'...) photo corners also work not to mention washi tape. like everything else in creative life, sometimes a "problem" like this inspires the most creative new ideas!

looking for cheaper alternatives to add customized clear elements to your work?

A. the clear labels for inkjet printers do a similar job of letting you layer a computer-printed image over something else. i buy the 8.5x11" sheets, but seldom work with a single image greater than about 4x6" since sticking a BIG label onto paper without wrinkling can be challenging. oh and test a scrap of the label on your preferred background because sometimes they can look cloudy; as a rule of thumb lighter backgrounds will look more seamless.

the small square bird collage tucked somewhat behind and to the left of the vintage landscape photo is a real life piece i scanned in and printed on an avery clear label made for inkjet printers. it's layered over some neutral text paper.

B. bits of clear plastic packaging (such as the salad bar containers from the grocery store or the extra-heavy zipper bags for freezers) won't work in your printer, obviously, but you can use permanent markers to draw, doodle, letter and sketch on them. the same is true for pre-printed transparencies and acrylic embellishments, actually, you can alter those to make them into your very own creations!

this window is also made of packing tape, with smooshed up cellophane and magazine bits inside and a photo + doodles + machine stitching on top. the best part of journaling is you can make WHATEVER you want using ANY ingredients you choose!  so g'head... walk on the wild side!!!

C. clear packing tape can be used for image transfers, which can be incorporated in a similar way to digital transparencies; but you can also use it to "float" real life elements over... or within... your main design. i like doilies, sequins, and bits of cellophane, especially. if you work neatly and flatly (see doily pic below) you get a window... if you scrunch and wrinkle the tape (see pic above) you get texture and interest. now that's what i call win/win! :)

this page is in last year's DPP journal, right before the "shaker card" one i showed you earlier. i cut a hole in the page and made a window of clear packing tape with doilies sandwiched inside; but plastic packaging, cellophane, or a commercial transparency would work just as well.

i hope this post has given you a bit of practical advice for using inkjet transparencies in your creations, and maybe even inspired a few new ideas you'd like to try. i'd love to see what you make, so please leave me a link! ♥


  1. Ya know, you sent me a few of those transparencies, and as soon as I find them again, I'll USE them!

    Love all of your projects, and all the LEARNIN' you shared.

  2. Seriously mad skils girlfriend ... I want to spend an entire day just watching you do this process ... love how you think & how you design.


the *BEST* part of blogging is the comments, dontcha think? thanks for taking time to leave one! ~♥~