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How to transfer PHOTOS onto WOOD (…for our nursery decor)!!

I have a problem.  I want to make everything.  Like, everything I see…..I want to make it instead of buying it. My brain works on overdrive figuring out how I could make something for so much less than the price tag.  But there are not enough hours in the day, fingers on my hands, or space in my house for all the supplies.

We moved into our current house about 2 years ago and I still have bare walls in about half our rooms.  And that’s mostly because I have dreams of making really fun things that excite me……but I just never quite have enough time.  However, something triggered in me a few weeks ago when I realized this baby boy is coming in only 6 short weeks and his nursery wasn’t set up and I haven’t gone through any of Oliver’s old stuff to see what more I need to buy, etc.  Oh, and then the panic set it that I haven’t finished the other kids’ rooms either.  And by haven’t finished, I mean, they have never been started.  And I told myself months ago that I REALLY wanted all the kids rooms finished before the baby comes.  We’ll see if that happens…..but I at least wanted to finish putting together the baby’s nursery. And I finally gave myself permission to not make every single little thing that I thought would be cute to add to his room.


However, one thing I did decide to go ahead and make, turned out SO FUN!!  They are these little creatures that I transferred onto wood for this baby boy’s Woodland themed nursery.  (And no, we haven’t decided on a name yet, so I’ll keep referring to the baby as “he” and “him”.)

And ACCCKKK…….I’m dying over how cute they turned out!  And how perfect they look over the baby crib!

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Even though there’s still a bit more to do to consider the nursery “finished”, the majority of it is DONE!

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And these image transfers are my most favorite part!  Aren’t they perfect on these slices of wood?

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I don’t know what it is about adding baby animals to a nursery….but it just makes the whole room happy!

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That rope shelf is an example of seeing something that I knew I could make for much cheaper, but I decided to just buy it instead (using my 40% of coupon of course…haha!).  But it’s perfectly “woodsy” and holds more of the decor very nicely!

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Over on the other side of the room, I did another image transfer of little baby and full grown animal tracks on this slab of wood.  Hangs perfectly beneath that stuffed bear head, right?!

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I learned how to do this technique about 2 years ago and have tucked away the idea until now.  You’re going to be SHOCKED by how easy it is!  Oh — it’s also SO MUCH CHEAPER than buying large canvas prints of your photos (which gives you that similar 3D pop-out look).  This technique also gives your photo such a fun rugged look.  I can hardly wait to transfer more images of my kids onto wood…..and then hang them in our entryway!  (See?!?!  My to-do list is ever growing!)

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Now, you could add images to any ol’ slab of wood.  And the cheaper the wood, the cheaper the project….but you can go as fancy as you want with your wood as well.  It’s up to you!

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What a fun addition to this baby boy’s nursery though.  It gets me all excited to meet him in just a few short weeks (technically 6, but who’s counting?!)….and introduce him to his new little woodland buddies! :)

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Do you have some images you want to try transferring onto wood??  Let me show you how easy it is to do!!!


  • Printed image (using a LASER JET PRINTER) onto regular weight printer paper.
  • Gel Medium (I bought some at my local craft store but found the exact same stuff for MUCH cheaper —> HERE)
  • sponge brush
  • wood surface
  • white acrylic paint (optional)


Okay, first of all, decide on your wood.  I found these super cool slabs of wood at Michaels and they worked perfectly for my little woodland animals.  But you could use very inexpensive ply wood from the hardware store (check the scrap bin) or even an old 2×4. Your options are endless….including how big or small you want it.  Once you decide on your wood, you’ll want to add a layer of white acrylic paint to your surface.  Let dry completely.  (SIDE NOTE: you can skip the paint but if you look at your image…..anything that’s white in your image will take on the color of the wood, unless you add some paint down first.  You can always experiment on some scrap wood to see what you prefer!)

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Next, your image.  For this project to work, YOU MUST print your image using a LaserJet printer.  I happen to have one in my home office that I use (for anything 8.5 x 11 inches or smaller)……but don’t worry, you can print for very cheap at your local printing store (i.e. Staples, Kinkos, etc.)  You can also print very LARGE prints at your printing store if you want to transfer something really big.  Just ask for their “engineering print”, which you can do in black and white or color….and it’s only a few dollars to do.  Yes!!!

Oh, and VERY IMPORTANT… sure to print a MIRROR IMAGE of your picture!  This is especially crucial if you’re printing words!

Once you have your image, cut around it, making sure to not cut off any details.

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Then, use a sponge brush to add a layer of your GEL MEDIUM (found HERE) to your wood surface, right on top of your dried white paint.

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You want a nice smooth layer that’s nice and thick not globbed on.  It’s kind of hard to see how thick it is below but there’s a nice thick layer on my wood.  The reason being, is that you want this stuff to soak in the laser ink so none of it rubs off when you remove the paper later on.

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Then, place your printed image FACE DOWN, right onto your gel medium.  Press down with consistent pressure, using the edge of a craft stick or ruler to smooth it out, making sure that the image is completely flat and pressed into the gel medium.

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Let the gel medium dry completely.  (I usually let it dry over night.)

Then, using a wet rag, soften up the printer paper and then begin rubbing the paper free from your wood.  You will notice that the image remains stuck to the board, will the paper kinda rubs off.  (If it’s not rubbing away very easily, add more water.)

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Continue rubbing off your paper with your wet rag.  The more paper you remove the better clarity you will have of your image…..but you don’t want to scrub so hard that you scrub right through to the wood.

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Once all of you paper is removed, let it dry completely.  Now, you can rough up your wood a little more and help fade some of the painted edges and lines by using sandpaper on the surface.  Be careful around the edges of your image or directly on top of your image, as you don’t want to sand through the image…..unless you are going for a more distressed look.  But you can also sand through any excess lines of your gel medium if they’re showing up as well.

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And that’s it!!  See how easy that was?!??!

Now, go proudly display your piece(s) of art…..on every wall of the house!!!

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Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
How to transfer photos onto wood (…for our nursery decor)!!
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  1. Fay says:

    I followed your instructions for transferring the pictures onto wood but when I was rubbing off the paper it took some of the picture – what did I do wrong? I was gentle and careful about how hard I was rubbing. I would appreciate any tips. Thank you.

  2. Christine says:

    For your HELLO sign- do you have to paint the wood with a clear paint first? and I would transfer the mirror image of the printed sheet onto the wood? Is this correct?
    Thank you!

  3. Therese Gordon says:

    This is so adorable, I’ll have to make these for sure! How did you hang those wood slabs?

  4. Gabrielle says:

    Hi! I just wanted to know what paint color you used? I’d like to do that for my nursery.

  5. Tanea says:

    I love your wall paint color. You mentioned the blue paint name but what is the color of the other walls? Is it a taupe or gray color? I see white baseboards and a white ceiling, so it’s obviously not white! I’m looking for a similar color for my kiddos room. Thanks!
    Also, love the image transfer tutorial!

  6. Grace says:

    I honestly love your creativity ideas. I sometimes wonder how you do all you do with 4 children (turning 5). There is so much I want to do as I like to do everything by myself for our 3 children but I seems not able to after my 8-5pm office work. I love the wood print, my children will be going away for a month and that will be a project to welcome them home to for their rooms. More specifically for the shared girls room. I will be waiting for the boys room decor. Thank you for sharing your wonderful creations which is a big motivation for some of us.
    Enjoy your new addition.

  7. MacKenzie Burk says:

    Hey Ashley! Congratulations on your New little man!! It’s been a while huh!?! I was wondering on these wood pictures if you could use any color? Or if the picture is like a sketched picture should I use any color?

    1. MacKenzie Burk says:

      And by any color I mean paint wise :)

  8. Penny says:

    That is so darling! I went to the etsy shop and got the safari babies. Can’t wait to try it!

  9. Natalie says:

    If I print on an inkjet, do you think it’ll still work?

  10. Tracey O'neill says:

    Omg this is so lovely. Where did you get he images from? I don’t have a nursery to de irate by might try this for art pieces around the house.

    Well done !

  11. Heather says:

    Adorable project!! Where is the rope shelf from??

    1. Ashley says:

      I found that at Hobby Lobby! :)

  12. tammi schmorleitz says:

    I have a grandson coming in July and the nursery theme is woodland. I will ask if I can make these for the room! I have used a very similar technique for a weekend women’s retreat craft. Instead of the gel, I used WATER based Polyurethane. It dries in only 30 minutes! the rest of your tutorial is the same. thanks!

  13. Mary says:

    Do you have to press the picture onto the Gel Medium with a craft stick after you lay it down?

    Thank you, those look so cute, you did a wonderful job.

  14. Elisheba says:

    So cute Ashley! Is there any way to get copies of those pictures? My daughter is into animals so much and I think she’d love something like this. Thanks for the consideration (and the tutorial).

  15. Janet Johnson says:

    Cutest little plaques and I would love them for MY room! I’d love to know as well where you got those baby animals!

  16. Sharon says:

    What great instructions on “how to”. I have seen this done before except the instructions were not as clear!
    Thanks so much,
    I love this!!
    Your project is extremely “cute”.

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh good, I’m so glad this helped! Good luck!

  17. Amelia says:

    OMG those animal tracks are precious!!! LOVE!

    1. Ashley says:

      Aren’t those fun?! Glad you liked them too! :)

  18. Chris from Maine says:

    This is the easiest, most clearly explained instruction I have seen for printing onto wood.
    I, too, would love to know where you got your animal (and especially the animal tracks) photos?
    Thank you for sharing!

  19. Cheryl from Seattle says:

    Do you know how to transfer an image to glass? Or a photo? It would be awesome!

  20. Debbie says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the animal theme!

    1. Ashley says:

      Thanks Debbie!

  21. Nina says:

    I would LOVE to know where you found these adorable images!!

    This is an adorable project for an adorable nursery!!

  22. Amber Martin says:

    What color paint is that? I love it!!

    1. Ashley says:

      It’s called Tempe Star by Sherwinn Williams. Hope that helps!

  23. Pat says:

    These are so cute!!

    1. Ashley says:

      Thanks so much Pat! :)

  24. Katrina Horne says:

    Where did you find those adorable animals? I would love to use the same ones!

    Awesome Project!


    1. Ashley says:

      Sure! I bought the animals images here:

      Hope that helps!

  25. Candace says:

    I love the photo transfers on wood! I’ve transferred photos onto a canvas before but I like the looks of these better and your tutorial looks more thorough.

    Where did you get your woodland animal prints?

    Thank you!

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh yes, definitely try the wood. It’s pretty fun!

      And I bought the animals images here:

      Best of luck!

  26. Margaret A. Patterson says:

    I SO need grandchildren! In the meantime, I’ll be trying this for my own photography.

    1. Margaret A. Patterson says:

      Yikes! I didn’t even say how incredibly adorable your nursery is. What a beautiful job you did.

    2. Ashley says:

      Thanks so much Margaret!

  27. HolleyV says:

    These are adorable! I can’t wait to try this technique.

    1. Ashley says:

      Thanks so much! And good luck!

  28. Maïlys says:

    Oh Gosh, I’m in love!
    I’m 25, and I’d love nothing more than to have my bedroom look like your nursery <3 !!

    1. Ashley says:

      Awww, thanks so much! And DO IT!! :)

  29. Amanda says:

    OMG this is the coolest thing EVER!!!!!! No babies for me but I know I can do something with this newfound info ;-) You’re amazing!!!!

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh yes, give it a try! You’ll love it! :)

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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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