Make Your Own Polaroid Transfers on Wood

In Film, How-to, Inspiration
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Rocks Portrait | Nikki GardnerTo celebrate the last day of Spring Polaroid Week, I thought it would be fun to share a simple tutorial on how to make your own Polaroid transfers. There are a number of ways to make transfers and while I’ve made transfers using peel apart film and blender pens, I prefer the photocopy and acrylic paint technique. It’s dead simple and creates a washed out vintage image. You can add words and layer your images in paint washes and wax too. I like to use Impossible Photos here but any printed photograph will do the trick.

Rocks and Surf | Nikki GardnerI wanted to create a series of Polaroid diptychs using some of the Impossible Project Color Spectra Film I shot last summer at the ocean. The originals photographs looked sun bleached with a warm yellow colorcast. I had three wood panels saved from an art show I had a few years ago with this project in mind. Each panel measured approximately 5 1/2 inches wide by 10 7/8 inches high. I enlarged color photocopies of each image to fit the width of each panel (5 3/8 inches wide by 4 5/16 inches high). To emphasize the bleached out quality and texture in the photographs, I painted the boards with white acrylic paint although you can use any light or pastel color. You can also replace the wood panels with bookboard, metal, or cardstock.

Polaroid Wood Transfer 8 | Nikki GardnerFor our shared love of instant film, we partnered with the good folks at the IMPOSSIBLE Project to give away a pack of their new black and white film to FIVE of our ViewFinders readers! Today is your last chance to enter the giveaway. Leave a comment on this post, for your chance to win a pack of this film. We’ll announce all five winners in Monday’s post.

p.s. If you give the tutorial a spin, be sure to upload a photo on Instagram and tag #viewfindersio so we can check out your Polaroid art!


Polaroid Wood Transfer 1 | Nikki GardnerHow to Make Polaroid Transfers on Wood

With this method, the four main points you need to remember are: one, use black and white or color photocopies only (photo prints from an inkjet printer or photo lab won’t work), two, your photograph will be reversed (since you apply it face down into wet acrylic paint), three, paint your chosen surface with a fairly thick and even coat of paint, four allow the transfer completely dry, and five, work slowly to get the best results.

Polaroid Wood Transfer 2 | Nikki Gardner

Polaroid Wood Transfer 5 | Nikki GardnerMATERIALS

Blown up Black & White or Color Photocopy (note: an ink jet printer will not work!)
White (or a light color) acrylic art/craft paint
Wood panels (alternatively you can also use bookboard, metal, or cardstock), I used 5 ½ x 10 7/8-inch panels
Plastic credit or membership card
Sponge and water

Polaroid Wood Transfer 3 | Nikki Gardner

Polaroid Wood Transfer 4 | Nikki GardnerMETHOD

1. Cut the photocopy image to size.
2. Use a paintbrush to coat your chosen surface with an even and fairly thick layer of paint.
3. Place the photocopy face down into the wet paint.
4. Softly rub your finger back and forth over the photocopy. Don’t press too hard or the paint will squish out the sides. Finish adhering the image to the surface by burnishing it with your plastic card (to burnish, angle and glide your plastic card back across the surface of your photocopy).
5. Leave the burnished image to dry completely (leaving it to dry overnight gives the best results).
6. After the transfer is completely dry, use a damp sponge to gently wet the transfer. Rub away the paper backing in soft circular motions. Wipe away the small paper pills as you work. Continue to add small amounts of water, rub in small circles, and wipe excess paper pills until the image is revealed. If you rub too hard, you can remove too much paint from the surface, so keep a light touch.

Polaroid Wood Transfer 6 | Nikki Gardner

Polaroid Wood Transfer 7 | Nikki Gardner

*This tutorial is inspired by Courtney Cerruti’s Acrylic Paint Transfer found in her book, Playing with Image Transfers.


  1. That’s such a cool technique. I’ve done transfers on canvas board, but never wood. I’m inspired to give it a try!

  2. this is so great! Can’t wait to try it with my daughter. Thank you for sharing.

  3. oh my, I’ve got a couple of wooden boards just like these that would be perfect! Thanks for the tutorial!

  4. Can you use any type of a surface ? this is so cool 🙂 thanks for sharing:)

    • Hi Mony,

      Thanks for your comment! You can use bookboard (typically the end boards used for bookbinding), flat sheets of metal, and heavy paper stock. With paper, you’ll get texture in the image. Let us know if you give the project a whirl! Enjoy…

      p.s. You can also use acrylic gel medium in place of the paint following the same technique above.


  5. Awesome tutorial! I will put this one on my to-do list 🙂

  6. This is really neat! We used to do a lot of color copy transfers back in design school, but I’ve never seen it done on wood with acrylics before! Awesome!

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