How to make professional-looking wood prints for less than $5 each

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How to make professional-looking wood prints for less than $5 each
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All year long, Clark.com’s Michael Timmermann is sharing quick and easy ways to save money as part of our Michael Saves series. Check in every Monday as he puts new and familiar savings strategies to the test. Sign up for our newsletter to have these stories delivered to your inbox!

Searching the shopping mall for an inexpensive Christmas gift that doesn’t look cheap can be difficult, so why not make your family and friends something more memorable instead?

I was recently looking for some creative inspiration when I learned about a great gift idea that can be made for less than $5.

DIY Christmas gift: How to transfer your favorite photos to wood

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In a Reddit thread about frugal (yet thoughtful) holiday gift ideas, one user shared their experience transferring family photos onto wood — a project simple enough for a non-crafty person like me.

I’ve already made three wood prints for about $15. Read on for my step-by-step guide to do it yourself!

Here’s what you need:

  • Piece of wood
  • Laser-printed photo on copy paper
  • Liquitex Professional Matte Gel Medium
  • Mod Podge Matte Waterbase Sealer, Glue and Finish
  • Paint brush or foam brush
  • Soft kitchen sponge

These supplies are available at craft stores like Michaels, but I bought everything through Amazon. Many people get their wood at Home Depot and have it cut to size.

Step 1: Choose your photo and wood 

The first step is to print a photo on regular copy paper using a laser printer, not an inkjet. The photo can be either color or black and white.

I then bought a piece of unfinished wood as close to the size of the photo as possible.

Notice in the picture below that the image is reversed? This was my first mistake. I could have avoided that by flipping the picture in Microsoft Paint before printing it. Read more here.

This didn’t really bother me, but it would definitely be necessary if your image had words or numbers.

Before and after pictures

Step 2: Apply gel medium to wood and picture

Next, I applied a thick layer of gel medium to a sanded piece of wood and the printed side of the photo. You want to use a paint brush or foam brush to make sure it’s an even coat.

If you don’t apply enough gel medium, the paper may not stick to the wood properly.

Apply gel medium

Step 3: Place the print onto the wood

After I applied the gel medium, I placed the paper onto the wood with the photo side down. I used my fingers to smooth out the bubbles, but a butter knife or credit card will also do the trick.

Place print onto wood

Step 4: Don’t touch it for 12 hours 

Once I placed the print onto the wood, it was time for the gel medium to do its magic. I let it dry overnight and didn’t touch the project for 12 hours.

Step 5: Remove the paper 

Next, I removed the paper from the wood. I placed a soaked towel on top of the image to wet the surface, then used a soft sponge and my fingertips to rub off the paper.

My first attempt at this project was ruined because I scrubbed the paper too hard. You have to be gentle.

You may need to repeat this process a few times before there are no more tiny bits of paper left. Clean your work area before moving on to the next step.

Remove the paper

Step 6: Apply a coat of Mod Podge 

Let the wood print dry after removing the paper. Once you’re happy with your work of art, the final step is to apply a coat of Mod Podge with a foam brush.

Apply Mod Podge

Another lesson learned! 

After I sealed the wood print, I thought it would look better with some paint around the border because my picture was slightly smaller than the piece of wood.

I should have done that before I applied the Mod Podge, but there was luckily no harm done.

After the Mod Podge dried, I used some leftover wall paint for the border and other finishing touches, let it dry and then applied another layer of Mod Podge.

The end result is a wood print that I’ll definitely be displaying in my home!

Finished wood transfer photo

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Final thought

Although I spent $15 to make three wood prints, you can probably do even better! I’ve read that more experienced crafters can get the cost down to $2 each by hunting for inexpensive pieces of wood.

If you want to try this project, watch some of the YouTube videos that inspired me:

Watch below: How to transfer a photo to wood 

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Mike Timmermann About the author:
Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, Save on Almost Everything.
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