Transferring a Printed Image to Wood

Today I’m going to show you how Travis and I transferred an inkjet printed design to a wooden sign for my sister and brother-in-law’s new home (yay to being first time homeowners!)

Skipping ahead to the end result… this is how the sign turned out (I’d say better than expected for a first-timer.)

diy transfer image to wood

The sign we made was 13″ x 32″ so the supplies below reflect those dimensions.


  • (2) 1″ x 4″ x 6′
  • antique glaze
  • acrylic paint
  • paintbrushes (household and artist)
  • sandpaper
  • wood glue
  • tools/metal objects for distressing sign (screws, hammer, old hinge, wrench)
  • chop saw
  • pneumatic stapler and 1.25″ staples
  • drill and 1.25″ screws
  • parchment paper or wax paper
  • old credit card
  • scissors
  • inkjet printer
  • spray clear coat

Building the Wooden Sign

We started by cutting the wood into 13″ lengths. I knew I was after a distressed look so we positioned them in an uneven fashion with gaps and all. Travis then cut a piece of wood for the back of the sign to hold together all of the horizontal pieces.  Then we applied the wood glue and stapled everything in place. And when I say “we” for all of the sign building steps, I really mean Travis did all of this and I pretended to help.

wooden sign layout

wooden sign glueing

Wooden Sign attaching pieces

wooden sign nailing

You’re probably wondering where those screws came from, right? Well, I got impatient and decided I didn’t want to wait for the wood glue to dry so we added the screws so we could move on with the project. In the end, the staples ended up being unnecessary. Oh well.

building wooden sign

Sign Design

While Travis painted the sign white, I designed the layout on my computer. I started with the design in Adobe Illustrator and then moved it into InDesign where I broke it up into small, printable pages. Since our sign is 13″ wide, I designed the pages on legal sized paper.

I chose a few lyrics from Phillip Phillips’ song “Home” because it felt fitting for my sister and her husband. Life has been far from perfect, especially these past few months and buying their first home has been awfully bittersweet for them. I hope when they see this sign every day, that they’re reminded how strong they are and that we’re all here for them.

wooden sign image transfer design

Transferring the Image

Now that the design was final, I was ready for transferring the image to the sign.

***Make sure you reverse your design! Otherwise it will be backwards on your sign.

I gathered the parchment paper, scissors, an old library card for rubbing the image and turned on the printer. Since my design was separated into legal sized pages, I trimmed the parchment paper into 8.5″ x 14″ pieces. I hand fed the parchment paper into the printer. This was a little scary because the parchment paper made all sorts of funny sounds but it actually printed on it.

wooden sign image transfer supplies

transferring image to wood

I printed one page at a time so that the ink didn’t have any time to dry. We immediately flipped the image over, ink side down, and used the library card to rub the image onto the wood.

transferring printed image to wood

Since we were transferring onto a painted surface, you can see how the print ended up. Had we transferred the ink onto raw wood, it would have been darker and less smeary.

wooden sign image transfer

transferring printed image to wood with parchment paper

transferring printed design to wood

Finishing Touches

I was after a specific look, so I used acrylic paints to fill in the lettering to darken it up. I didn’t paint it perfectly because I wanted it to look old.

transferring image to wood

Once the painting was finished, I was ready for the distressing. I placed a screw in different places on the sign and used the hammer to hit it, leaving the impressions in the wood. I used whatever we had laying around (old sandpaper, a door hinge, a wrench and a screw) to make marks in the wood. In my opinion, the hinge made the best marks. Then I sanded random edges and corners to wear down the sign.

wooden sign image transfer distressingAfter I was done beating up the sign, I applied glaze all over with an old t-shirt and then wiped it off immediately. The glaze sunk into all the distress marks and where I sanded leaving the sign looking antiqued and old. Some of the distress marks didn’t hold the glaze so I faked it with a little black paint. After the glaze dried, I quickly sprayed the entire sign with a clear coat to lock in the glaze. I used gold leaf sealer since it was on hand.

antique glaze for wooden sign

wooden sign transfer distressing

I nailed a sawtooth picture hanging hook to the back of the sign and called it done… for now. I was thinking about adding a few wooden knobs to the bottom so they can hang their keys since this will be hung by their front door.

transfer text to wooddiy transfer image to wood

 This was our first time transferring a printed image to wood. I found it to be surprisingly easy and quick too. I’ll definitely be doing this again in the future. I hope you’ll give it a try and if you do, please share your results!


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12 Responses to Transferring a Printed Image to Wood

  1. heidibird says:

    This was very cool, thanks!

  2. limelanelove says:

    Beautiful! We are a military family and I told my hubby that I’m gonna play that song for our kids in every one of their new houses as we move around. I hadn’t thought to make it artwork–what a great new home gift!

  3. I never thought that printing on wood would be so interesting until I spotted this post. The message is nice and it seems like the type of project that you will surely enjoy doing. Gotta gather my tools to see if I can create one!

  4. Tora Geirs says:

    This is awesome thank you for sharing your work. I´m wondering if I could use Freezer Paper instead of parchment paper? You must be a very special sister 🙂

  5. Newzaholic says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    A great DIY Present you can use for Valentines Day, or Bdays coming up 😉

  6. Pingback: Oversized Paper to Wood Transfer: Method 2 | Design Waffle

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  8. Chris says:

    This is so awesome! I’ve been chalk painting EVERYTHING and have seen some pieces with vintage french sings on them. Gonna try this this weekend!

  9. Lisa says:

    Really lovely turn out excellent and very creative
    be proud !!

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