With the help of a laser printer/copier, you can gel print your own photos, text and drawings, and works in the public domain. And unlike with magazine or book images, you can use the same image as many times as you like.
A successful laser image transfer starts with a good, high contrast black and white laser copy or print.
So the very first step is to edit your images.
Many ways lead to Rome; however, I will share one reasonably easy way to do it. In the video, you can see me use Lightroom; however, I’ve checked, and it works with photo editing apps for mobile phones too.
1. Open your image in a photo editing app or software.
2. Find the black and white filters and apply the one that increases the contrast of your image the most. I used the Lightroom preset ‘B&W punch’.
3. Go to the adjustment section and up the contrast of your image even more.
4. In addition, you can play with Whites, Blacks, Exposure, Highlights,
Shadows and Brightness settings too. Just play around until your image has plenty of white whites and black blacks.
Laser printing the image
I have never successfully pulled a transfer print with an image from a modern copy machine. So I can only tell you about my experiences with my own very basic black and white printer.
However, I have been able to pull prints with old school papers, so I’m positive it is possible. I guess that old black and white copiers are more likely to provide the toner layer you will need for the transfer because modern copy machines are set to save on toner.
It’s also important to note that not all printer toners are alike. So results may vary depending on the printer brand and possibly also the toner brand.
Laser printer steps:
Print the photo using a laser printer with the setting on black and white. Also, look if your printer has a ‘best quality’ setting because you’ll want to print the image with as much black toner as possible.
My printer doesn’t have a setting like that, so instead, I printed the same image three times onto the same paper.
You do not need any particular paper. Regular copy paper is fine. I used heavier paper because it was easier to put back in the paper tray for the second and third print.
Sometimes the paper misaligns, and you end up with a misprint. Don’t throw it away! Instead, use it to practise pulling transfers!
Transfer gel printing steps:
1. Roll a drop of dark paint out on the plate in a thin, even layer.
2. Place the image on the plate.
3. Lightly stroke the paper with your hand to ensure the entire image is in contact with the paint.
4. Lift the image.
5. Give the paint a minute to dry.
6. Roll a drop of light or contrasting coloured paint on the plate.
7. Place paper on the plate.
8. Burnish the paper and pull the print.
As with magazine transfer prints, some images and prints turn out better than others.
That’s just the way it is.
Sometimes the photo still needs more contrast, sometimes the amount of paint isn’t enough or too much. Sometimes you aren’t fast enough, or the temperature in your workspace is too high.
There are so many variables at play that successful prints are never guaranteed.
What if you haven’t mastered pulling magazine transfer prints yet? In that case, the advice is to practise that technique first before you attempt your hand at laser transfer prints.
Also, give the StazOn method a go. It can make all the difference! Birgit explains the method in detail in this video tutorial: Image Resist Printing Using StazOn + Gelli Arts® by Birgit Koopsen (link: https://gelliartsblog.com/2019/12/18/image-resist-printing-using-stazon/)
In any case: don’t give up! I know you can do it!
Laser printer (HP LaserJet Pro M15w with the original toner cartridge 44A)
Smooth drawing paper (200gsm, A5 size)
Acrylic paint (Winsor & Newton Galeria Mars Black, Mixing White, Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue, Pale Violet, Prussian Blue Hue, Liquitex Basics Rose Pink)
StazOn stamping ink
The images I used are my own or from Rijksstudio, the digital archives of the Rijksmuseum.