Image Transfer Coasters
Cocktails are for grown-ups and your coasters should feature artwork that reflects it. For our coasters we chose a long gone, but not forgotten illustrator named Aubrey Beardsley. A french artist of the art nouveau period, he was best known for illustrating classics such as Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, and his drawings for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome.
Using our wood coaster blanks as a base and a black and white image print-out, follow these instructions to get a store-bought quality coaster with your own custom image. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes along the way. If you’re nervous, try executing the image transfer process on a scrap piece of wood first, just to get a feel for how it works before you go full stream ahead onto the actual coasters.
- Wood Coaster Blanks
- Spray Adhesive
- Masking Tape
- 8.5″ x 11″ Label Paper
- Matte Medium or Gloss Medium
- Medium Grit Sandpaper or Emery Board
- Envirotex 4oz. Kit
- Mixing Cup & a few Popsicle Sticks
- Black and white artwork scaled to a 3.5″ square
Step 1 – Sanding Peel off any barcodes or price tags, and sand down any rough edges. Sand the face of the coaster very well so that it is perfectly smooth. The finer the surface of the wood, the easier it will be to transfer the image onto it.
Step 2 – Priming Now that the coasters are sanded and smooth, brush away the dust and apply a coat of acrylic medium. We used matte medium, but the gloss version works just as well. Let them all dry completely before moving to the next step. This should take about 20 minutes if you applied a light coat. Now apply another coat to the surface and let it dry again. Now decide about the color of the sides. If you want to paint the sides, go to step 3. If you want to leave the wood bare all around, skip to step 5.
Step 3 – Masking Take the primed coasters and mask off the faces of each coaster. This is to keep paint from getting on the face.
Step 4 – Paint the Sides Apply the color of your choice. We used a simple acrylic semi-gloss black to match the imagery that will be on the face. You could also skip the masking tape and paint the face of the coaster if you wanted, but we chose to leave the natural grain of the wood as the background for our image.
Step 5 – Prepare the Image Transfer Paper Take your label paper. It can be any sticker paper, as long as it has that waxy backing sheet attached. That’s the part we want to use, not the sticker part. Before you go peeling the sticker part away from the backing, flip over the label paper and inspect it for divisions (sometimes sticker papers have a helpful cut in the back to help you peel it away, but in this case, its not so helpful). If your paper has one of these divisions, simply run a piece of masking tape over the seam, and then peel the sticker away. You will be left with a perfect 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of wax paper. You will be putting this through a laser printer or xerox machine to print out the images to transfer. How it works – the toner from a laser printer or copy machine lays just on the surface of the wax paper where it would normally soak into regular paper. You cannot use an ink-jet printer for this.
Step 6 – Printing Choose your imagery for print. Duotone images that are 3.5″ square seem to work the best. The face of the coaster is actually closer to 3.75″ across, before it bevels down. We chose to give ourselves 1/8″ margin around the edges to make positioning easier. Remember to reverse the image because it gets mirrored when it transfers to the wood. especially important if your image includes text. If you can manage it, lay out the image in 300 dpi for extra crisp detail. Do a few test prints on regular paper first, to make sure its aligned correctly. Print the imagery onto the waxy side of the paper.
Step 7 – Cut and Spray Cut the square out from the sheet, leave yourself some room around the border. LIGHTLY mist the artwork face-up with the spray adhesive. If you apply a heavy coating that has puddles, it will be a nightmare trying to peel off the paper. We have found that holding the can 6″ to 8″ away from the paper, and making 2 or 3 quick passes with the can provides an ideal layer of adhesive.
Step 8 – Transferring Lay the sticky image face down onto the wood. Do your best not to touch the image or else it will transfer to your fingertips instead of the wood. Use a popsicle stick to burnish the image down and press out any air pockets. The more time you spend rubbing down the image, the better the transfer will be, so remember the proverb “the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it”.
Once you start feeling the burn on your bicep from obsessively burnishing this thing down, it’s time to sit back and take a break. Let the spray glue dry for a good long while. I decided to take myself out for dinner, and out of the house to the avoid temptation of peeling the paper away too soon.
Step 9 – Remove the Paper After about 2 hours I began the process of removing the wax paper. (if you have more patience, feel free to let it dry longer than that, i estimate 4 hours being most ideal). Go slowly here. Start with a corner and peel slowly until you hit a point where the image wants to stay on the paper instead of the wood. When you see bits of black on the wax paper as you lift, lay it back down and burnish it again until it all transfers over. It takes about 3 passes to get all down from the paper. 3rd time is (usually) the charm. I Also used the back of a spoon for this part, but often reverted back to the popsicle stick for the tiny details.
Step 10 – last call before the sealer – touching upNow that your image is completely transferred, take a look at it. But don’t touch it! It’s probably still sticky from the spray glue. You may notice some tiny spots where the image didn’t transfer all the way. 2 of my 4 image transfers went absolutely flawlessly, but the other 2 had a couple missing spots. This is super easy to fix. Just take some ordinary black drawing ink or some very thinned-down black paint and dab in some black where it needs it. Use a tiny paintbrush or a sharp toothpick.
Step 11 – Sealing the coasters You can seal your coasters with a variety of sealants, but the most ideal one is called Envirotex – epoxy resin with a perfect viscosity for pouring onto flat surfaces. It levels itself out without dripping off the sides, and hardens to a glass-like finish. It highlights the natural beauty of the wood and darkens the blacks because it makes everything look ‘wet’. Follow the instructions on the box. We used about 1 oz for all 4 coasters.
After your sealer has hardened they’re ready to use. The surface is fully waterproofed and are scheduled to last a lifetime.