Iron Transfer Canvas Wall Hangings

Naptime Gnome #40

I think it’s time for a transfer!
Screen shot 2014-10-03 at 12.36.37 AMThis has quickly become one of my favorite methods for displaying digital photos. This super simple project only requires about $6 to $1o worth of supplies (depending on the size of your canvas), and a few things from around the house. You simply print your photos, graphic files or word documents on printable iron-on transfer paper and fuse to a blank canvas to make inexpensive original art, no creativity required!

The possibilities are endless! You can use this technique to display all sorts of images including scanned old family photos, inspirational quotes or phrases, a favorite photo or downloaded image and even reproduced the kid’s art to share with family.

For a low-key girls-night-in, get a few inexpensive wrapped canvases and some transfers. Then have your guests email you their favorite digital pics and just add wine! You can see some of the products from our little photo party in the tutorial below (THANKS GIRLS!).

What you’ll need:DSCN9996

  • 1 inexpensive canvas wrapped frame (gallery wrap looks best)
  • An iron
  • Printable iron-on transfer paper
  • Access to an ink jet printer (you can even have prints made at a copy and print shop, just bring your printable transfer paper)
  • A ruler
  • Scissors or a paper cutter
  • A book small enough to fit in the recess in the back of the canvas, but at least as large as your trimmed photo
  • Masking tape to help align your project (optional)


If you’ve done transfers in the past, you can skip all this and just have fun, if you aren’t sure where to start, here’s a detailed tutorial:

  1. Select your canvas, find the dimensions and determine how much “mat” you would like around the photo. You can wing it, but I prefer to have a uniform mat around the photo which requires a little simple math (see Step 2). When selecting your canvas, you want one that is free of support columns in the space you wish to transfer. Some larger canvases actually have a piece of wood that spans the frame which makes it difficult to get even pressure over the entire transfer. You can remedy this issue by using multiple transfers on one canvas with the spanner running in your white space (like the one on the far left below).


    Note: This weathered look was achieved by printing the photos in warm tones and painting the white space of the canvas with thinned acrylic paint after the transfer has cooled. Avoid painting the transfer. I learned after some experimenting (and a few ruined attempts) that the transfers bubbled and peeled where they had been painted.

  2. To maximize the size of your photo, when using a larger canvas (I usually try to get as much photo as I can on the canvas), subtract the shortest dimension of your transfer (8.5″ in my case) from the smallest canvas dimension and divide by 2. That will give you the depth of the matting on either side, then multiply that number by 2 and subtract from the longer dimension, that will give you the other photo dimension.   So for example, if you are using a 12″ x 14″ frame, you would start with (12″ – 8.5″)/2 = 1.75″ (or 3.5″/2), then 14″ – 3.5″ = 10.5″ (or 14″- (2 x 1.75″)). NOTE: if your printer will not allow borderless printing, you will need to account for the border, which in many cases is a 0.25″ margin, or 0.5″
  3. Once you determine your dimensions you simply crop a digital file to the appropriate height and width, modify the image however you like (desaturate for black and white, reduce saturation and increase warmth or temperature a bit for sepia, blur or fade edges, and/or amp up the color). If there is directionality (ESPECIALLY if there’s verbiage) to your photo you will need to flip the pic to yield a mirror image.Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 9.47.49 PM
  4. Once you’re happy with your photo, load up your photo transfer paper and print. Be careful not to touch the ink, it will often run or leave finger prints prior to the transfer process.
  5. Now you will need to trim your edges to remove any portion that is not to be transferred (white space/margins).DSCN9995
  6. Place a book (preferably one you will not likely ruin with heat… or one you simply don’t care about) in the recess of the canvas frame. This will give you a firm surface on which to iron.
  7. Place your photo on your canvas and measure out your mat as determined in step 2.
  8. Mark the edges of your photo with masking tape. DO NOT tape the transfer down, simply put a few pieces down as a frame. This isn’t required, but it will help you keep your photo lined up while ironing.DSCN9997
  9. If you haven’t already, flip your photo transfer over so the image is in contact with the canvas.
  10. Following the directions on the transfer packaging, apply a hot iron to the back of the transfer. Don’t forget to turn of the steam setting.
  11. Most transfers I’ve used recommend using firm, steady pressure, while moving the iron slowly over the canvas. Be careful along the edges to make sure they adhere, but try to avoid smearing the melted transfer onto the white space, sometimes it will seep out a bit.
  12. Let the transfer cool according to the directions and peel the backing paper back. If you notice it is not detaching smoothly, replace the backing and iron a bit more in the location that was stuck. Be careful to avoid over ironing as the image can begin to smudge or run a bit.
  13. Display for all to see and enjoy your masterpiece!

NOTE: This technique will give you a slightly vintage or antique look, with occasional cracking of the image and a slight muting of colors. You can see the detail here:


PHOTO CREDIT: The original photo used to produce this gorgeous piece is from the collection of Pettet Photography. The original bird photo and this reproduction have been used with permission from Pettet Photography .


Canvases and iron-ons can be pricey, but you can often find them at discount stores like BigLots! and the 99¢ Only Stores. The canvases pictured above were all under $5 each at BigLots!. The transfers are harder to find, so I stock up when they pop-up.


-The Naptime Gnome

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