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How to Print Photos on Wood (Wax Paper Transfer)

How to print on wood without any weird stuff you have to go to the store for. You need a printer, a piece of unfinished wood and waxed paper. That’s it. Maybe a Tom Collins if that’s your thing.

Printer on cabinet for printing on wood with just waxed paper.

Skip right to the tutorial.

I’m funny. Sometimes ha-ha funny, sometimes left-out-of-the-fridge-too-long funny. But as we all know, there are times for funny and times for seriousness. This is one such time. For seriousness that is.

So this post will involve no funny. No laughing, no snickering, no coffee spitting. Because the information I’m about to introduce you to deserves a reverence that can’t be accomplished when diluted with hilarious jokes or cutting sarcasm. When I first published this post in 2014 it got a bit of attention. Mainly because it takes a simple idea and allows you to do it at home without any special equipment.

I’m going to teach you how to transfer any photograph or picture onto wood.

You don’t need mod podge or any other weird thing that you don’t have on hand.

You don’t know it yet, but this is the greatest day of your life. You get to produce something beautiful without any pain or tearing of your woman bits. Plus it won’t turn into a whirling, dangerous ball of hormones in 13 years.

I decided I wanted to try making something but it involved transferring a photo onto wood so I did a little research. Most of the tutorials I came across involved a few specialty materials like matte gel and the backing paper of printer labels. I didn’t have any printer label paper handy and don’t even know what matte gel is. Like most DIYers I wanted to DIY, NOW. Right this second, NOW.

So I kept looking for a simpler solution. Mid search I suddenly remembered my mother mentioning something Mag Ruffman had done a couple of years back. It was the perfect solution and it works GREAT.

Can you transfer a regular photo to wood?

You bet you can. That’s what this is all about. You can use this same technique to transfer photos, text or anything else you can print onto wood.

What kind of paper do you use to transfer pictures to wood?

All you need is regular old waxed paper. And a dream of course.

That’s right. All you need is a regular inkjet printer (this one is the newer version of the one I use) and regular waxed paper. I have an HP wireless printer and this technique works with this printer. It’s the only printer I can guarantee this works with, although it will work with most as long as it’s an ink jet.

(update: since posting this a couple of years, there’s been a lot of success stories and a lot of frustration stories, mainly due to the printer you’re using. I can only guarantee this works with the kind of printer I have which is a cheap, old HP printer I got at Costco. )

How to Print Pictures on Wood

1. Cut a few sheets of wax paper to the size of a standard piece of printer paper.

Wax paper cut to size of regular printer paper.

2. Find a smooth, light coloured piece of wood. Actually find a few so you have some to practice on.

Raw wood ready for printing propped against a white wall.

Find a high resolution image you like. Or make your own. The Graphics Fairy is a great place to start for copyright free, high resolution images.

3. Once you have an image you like, reverse it using whatever photo program you have on your computer. If you’re not sure how to do that just Google it.

4. Put a sheet of your waxed paper into the printer and click print.

Inkjet printer with wax paper fed into it.5. As the waxed paper comes out of the printer, gently guide it. You have to be careful it doesn’t roll under itself or touch itself in any other way because it will smear the ink.

Printed wax paper coming out of inkjet printer.

6. Put your image exactly where you want it on the wood. Remember … this can be any unfinished wood. A bench, table, box, or anything!

Once you place your image you can’t move it. Do not move it. It will smudge. You will be sad. Then you will cry and it will smudge some more.

Laying printed wax paper on piece of unfinished wood.

7. Holding the transfer tight to the wood, and working quickly, swipe the edge of a credit card across the image. This pushes the ink from the waxed paper down into the wood, which absorbs it.

Don’t be wimpy about this. Push hard, but not so hard that you rip the waxed paper. You can gently lift the paper to see if it’s transferring well. If you notice spots that haven’t transferred, rub it some more with the credit card, this time burnishing it.

Running credit card over wax paper to rub ink into wood.

8. When you’re pretty sure that you’ve transferred as much ink as possible lift off your waxed paper and get ready to call someone. Because that’s the first thing you’re going to want to do because this method works so well.

You’ll be stunned.

You’ll naturally want other people to be stunned. It’s a DIYer thing.

Raw wood with perfect image of the word Vegetables and primitive images of a turnip and cabbage.

I tried a few images just because it was so fun.

Very detailed image of cutlery on wood.

Like I said earlier you can use this technique on any smooth, unfinished wood like old crates, tables, or chairs. For anything that’s going to have wear and tear, just remember to spray it with a a clear matte finish after you do the print. Any wood sealer will protect it.

If you don’t have a table, chair or dresser you want to print on, you can just find a nice old board and prop it against the wall, or hang it.

Raw wood with image of vegetables printed on it leaning against white brick wall in farmhouse kitchen.

Quick Reference Directions: Waxed Paper Transfer

1. Cut sheets of waxed paper to the size of computer paper.

2. Print your image onto the waxed paper with any Inkjet printer. (must reverse image first using whatever photo program you have) In answer to some of your comments, no, it doesn’t matter which side you print on. Both sides of waxed paper are waxed.

3. Carefully place the image on your wood (wet side down) and then rub over it with a credit card.

4. Removed waxed paper and the ink is now transferred to the wood.

5. Seal with a matte spray wood sealer if you like.


  • Use smooth wood. Rough barn board won’t work, but smooth barn board will.
  • Darker colours on lighter wood works best.
  • Dampening the wood a bit with a sponge will make the transfer darker, but it might blur and smudge if you’re not extremely careful.
  • If the waxed paper won’t feed through your printer, tape it to a piece of regular printer paper before feeding it into your printer.
  • Some readers have also had success by using the slippery side of freezer paper so you can try that.

I made my piece of printed wood into a rustic planter. Read how to make your own in this post.

Rustic planter box with image of vegetables printed on the wood.

Laughter may now resume.

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How to Print an Image on Wood.

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