January 6, 2013 by another1bitesthecrust
One of the first things I pinned on Pinterest and one of the things that will always stand out in my mind as just so creative and inspirational are these photos transferred onto tiles.
While I’m a big fan of shiny new gifts for holidays and birthdays, there is nothing like giving someone a thoughtful, meaningful and touching gift, especially one that you spent the time and effort making yourself.
As the holiday season rolled around this year, these just kept popping into my mind every time I thought about gifts. I decided that for my mom, grandma, mother-in-law and aunt-in-law, I would make these each a set of coasters. My husband has lost both of his maternal grandparents in the past few years so I thought it would be a nice tribute to them to find photos from when they were first married. My mother and grandmother were really close with my great grandmother, who passed away when my sister and I were pretty young so any photos we all had together with her were a no brainer.
I went through a ton of old family albums and pulled out a bunch of photos that would fit nicely onto a 4×4 tile. One thing that the original pinner’s blog post said that I am so grateful for is that you need to print these in reverse imaging. Makes sense when you think about how to create these but I wouldn’t have thought about it until I was done and saw the final image!
Another thing that the original pinner discussed was that the ink needs to be toner ink, not laser or jet ink. When I took my photos to Kinko’s and mentioned it to them, they had no idea what I was talking about so I risked it and went with what their standard printers are. Luckily there were no issues when I actually transferred the images so I was really relieved. If you photocopy the pictures yourself, there is a setting on the photocopier where you can choose to print/copy in reverse. Or, if you have a digital file, you can flip the image in the Paint program (on a PC, not sure how to do it on a Mac…sorry). DO NOT have Kinko’s reverse the image for you. They claim it needs to be sent to their designer to be done in Photoshop for $15 an image! What a rip off…Just print/copy the images onto regular printer paper, nothing special like photo paper. I recommend that you print two copies of each photo, I’ll explain why later.
Once you’ve got all your pics printed out, you will need: nail polish remover (warning: do not use the purple colored removers, they do not work. Get the standard, basic pinkish/white remover. I just got the generic CVS brand and depending on how many tiles you’re planning to do, get at least two bottles); something rigid but not sharp like a bone folder (about $5 at Michaels in the scrapbooking section), an old credit card, etc; cork board; rubber cement or other glue; tile sealer and some clear acetate sheet protectors. They had them at Kinko’s and I recommend getting a few because they can rip a bit after some vigorous use. Also, if you get the kind that you slide a piece of paper in between, I recommend that you cut it so that you only have a single layer of plastic, otherwise they shift around as you’re trying to transfer the image and it gets annoying. Make sure that you work in a well ventilated area, the nail polish remover can get really obnoxious after a while.
Before you start, get everything organized and ready to go, including cutting the photos down to just less than 4×4. I worked in the garage with an old towel under the tiles, just to keep the garage floor as clean as possible.
Most important part of this whole process: warm up the tiles!!! A giant thank you to the original blogger who inspired this project, as she discovered this trick through (probably frustrating) trial and error! I would put 3-4 in the microwave at a time for 1 minute. They get pretty warm so be careful when you take them out.
Place the first image down onto the warm tile, ink-side down, and make sure that it’s all centered exactly how you want it. NOTE: now it was my turn to learn the hard way. I first started using some tumbled travertine tiles which have a gorgeous color and are uncoated so that the ink will transfer well. However, I was so excited to start the project that I didn’t pay that close attention to the natural pores/divets in the tiles. Obviously the ink won’t transfer into the “holes”, and while a few little spots on the tiles give the coasters a wonderful grainy/old look, which matches the old photos perfectly, too many or too big of a hole will just leave massive white spots on the tile. No bueno. I had to redo a few at first then I started sorting the tiles into use-able and un-use-able tiles. The ones that are use-able may still have some holes, you just need to make sure that you orient the picture the correct way on the tile so that you’re not making a big white spot on someone’s face 🙂 This is why you want at least two copies of the image, just for dumb mistakes like these.
Once you’ve placed the image onto the warm tile, generously dump some nail polish remover over the entire thing, don’t skimp. If the liquid doesn’t make it to an edge, you can either use a foam brush to gently spread the nail polish remove or once you put the acetate sheet over top, it should spread out and cover the entire tile.
Next, quickly cover the tile with the single-layer acetate sheet, and, while holding the acetate in place, start rubbing the image onto the tile with the credit card/bone folder. I pinned down the acetate firmly on two sides of the tile to ensure that my rubbing wasn’t shifting the plastic around over top of the tile. Rub in all directions, getting every millimeter of the tile. You can lift the plastic, pour a bit more nail polish remove over it and repeat the process if you see that it’s evaporating. I, of course, lost the bone folder that I had purchased and decided to try using a chisel. It worked well except it ripped the acetate pretty easily.
Take your time and be thorough with this part, it’s the only opportunity you have to transfer the ink. Once you’re done, remove the acetate and peel back the corner of the nail polish remover soaked paper, You’ll get a good idea of how well the ink transferred when you lift back the corner. Slowly peel away the paper, and don’t worry if it rips. It won’t affect the transferred ink if you have to remove it in pieces.
Let the tile dry and cool down, allowing all the nail polish remover to evaporate and the inky photo top to dry out. Get to the other warm tiles quickly, before they cool off too much. This part is actually really quick, especially once you get the hang of it. It’s the prep that is time consuming!
After the tiles are dry, follow the directions on the tile sealer bottle. Sealing them will not only protect the image but allow them to be hand-washable. Once the tile sealer is dry, cut out either pieces of cork board, or even some sticky felt pieces, and glue or stick them to the underside of the tile to protect whatever table or piece of furniture they’ll be sitting on.
Overall, I was beyond pleased with these tiles. I stacked them and wrapped them up with twine and Christmas ribbon, and put them in a gift box. I was so excited to give them to my family, and love seeing them around the house when I visit. Everyone was surprised that I actually made them myself…they’re not difficult, just a bit time consuming in the prep. Not every single tile will turn out – either the ink just didn’t transfer that well, the paper shifted a bit after I put the acetate down and the image got blurry, the pores were too bad on a tile that I thought would be ok, etc. I eventually went to Lowe’s and found non-porous tiles to use for a different set of coasters. The ink transferred a bit lighter on those tiles but they still had the same effect 🙂
I tried making a single 16×16 photo collage tile for my sister but it turned out pretty badly. I had to lay down two separate sheets of paper because the photocopiers can’t print bigger than 11×17, I had to use four acetate sheets and just couldn’t rub down the images fast enough before the nail polish remover evaporated. So you can see the lines where the acetate sheets overlapped, the paper didn’t peel off very well and it hardened and dried before I could scrape it off, and the photos on the bottom half of the tile barely transferred.
I have been finding other ways to transfer photos, so I’m going to re-do my sister’s project using ModPodge – stay tuned for a blog post dedicated to that!!