Make a Photo Transfer on Canvas

Transfer Photos onto Canvas

Transform your favorite photo into an art piece, or perhaps a unique gift idea? In this tutorial, we are going to show you how to transfer photo onto canvas in just a few simple steps. All the supplies you need can be found at your local craft store.

With this project, you’ll end up having a beautiful piece of canvas, perfect for home decoration, and also a great gift for holidays or special events.

How to Transfer Photos onto Canvas in 5 Easy Steps

There are 5 basic steps to this photo project. Watch the video to see how it’s done and follow along with the detailed instructions below.

Assemble your materials

Get your photo ready

Transfer your photo

Rub off the paper

Add texture effect

Assemble your materials

You will need the following materials for this project:

  • Photo
  • Canvas
  • PaintShop Pro or another photo editing program
  • Scissors
  • Smoothing tool (a brayer if you have one, but a credit card or any plastic card work fine)
  • Gel Medium or Mod Podge
  • Brush
  • Rag or sponge
  • A bowl of water

Get your photo ready

  • When the image is transferred to the canvas, it will be reversed so you will need to use your photo editing software to reverse the image first, especially if there is any text or other part of your image that shouldn’t be displayed backward
  • You may also need to resize your photo and/or crop it to the same dimensions as your canvas
  • Print your photo on regular printer/photo copier paper using a laser jet printer, or make a photocopy of the printed photo (a photo printed on photo paper or using an ink jet printer WON’T work)

Transfer your photo onto canvas

  • Cutout your photo from the printed paper
  • Apply an even layer of gel medium to the entire surface of the canvas using a brush
  • Place and press your photo face-down onto the canvas
  • Use a credit card or other smoothing tool to gently smooth out the photo and remove any air bubbles
  • Turn the canvas over and press along the backside of the canvas to make sure the photo is adhered.
  • Let it sit overnight or at least 5 hours to dry completely.

Remove the paper

  • Use a sponge and water to wet the paper.
  • Then use your fingers to gently rub the paper to remove it.
  • Repeat this process as many times as necessary to get all the bits of paper off. Remember not to press too hard or you might scrape away the image underneath.
  • Use a clean rag to lightly wipe the scrap of paper fibers over the photo.
  • Once it’s done, let the canvas dry completely.

Add texture effect

  • You can stop right here if you are satisfied with the look. Or you can follow the steps below to add a final touch.
  • Apply Mod Podge or gel medium to the canvas. Use your brush to apply an even layer to the entire surface, to top it with a clear coat.

How to Edit Photos

Before transferring your photo onto a canvas, make sure it is looking it’s best! These tutorials will show you how to crop your photo to the correct size, how to reverse it, and how to add some effects.

Reversing or Mirroring your Image
If you don’t want your photo transfer to end up backwards, make sure you reverse it first! Learn how to do this in PaintShop Pro.

Cropping and Resizing your Photo
This tutorial will show you how you can crop your photo to remove any unwanted parts and make it the right size to fit your piece of wood.

Removing Objects from Photos
Whether you need to touch up some blemishes, remove an unwanted object or erase a scratch in an older photo, PaintShop Pro has the tools you need – see them in action!

Don't have any photo editing software? Get your FREE trial today!

With PaintShop Pro, you can crop, straighten and resize your photo, and reverse the image before it’s transferred onto wood. You can also enhance the colors, clean up any blemishes and add special effects.

Convert to Black and White
Give your photo transfer an aged look by using a black and white or sepia photo. Here are a few ways you can convert your color photos using PaintShop Pro.

Add Some Creative Effects
PaintShop Pro’s library of Instant Effects makes it easy to spice up your photos by adding fun filters from a variety of categories like Film Styles, Portrait, Retro and more! Pick one or mix and match a few.

Transform your Photos with Scripts
Scripts are mini-programs that will automatically transform your photos with just one click! Watch this tutorial to see a few examples of incredible transformations.

Get your project started with these creative add-ons from the Discovery Center store

Light and Color Script Bundle

Easily create dramatic black and white or color High and Low Key images with this collection of 4 scripts.

Antique Painting Script

Create a unique piece of art by turning your photos into an antique painting with just one click.

Detail Enhancement Script Bundle

Turn any photo into a striking image with 4 detail-enhancing scripts, with light, medium, heavy and extreme effects.

Best-sellers Script Bundle

Easily transform your photos from ordinary to amazing with our 14 best-selling scripts for PaintShop Pro.

Comments (38)

  • Tabitha Reply

    Hi, I’ve developed my photos from Walgreens. Will they work to transfer to canvas? I saw above about you can’t use gloss pics. Mine are just regular photos but not sure if there is a “gloss” please help!!

    November 8, 2021 at 12:24 pm
    • gilliandarby Reply

      Hi Tabitha,
      It is best to use images printed on regular printer paper, with a laser jet printer. What you could do is make a photocopy of the glossy photo and use that to do the transfer on canvas.
      Hope this helps!
      The Discovery Center team

      November 9, 2021 at 7:51 pm
  • Cami Reply

    Hi thank you for the instructions. I am wanting to use a poster…. would that work or does it have to be printer paper from a picture? Thank you for your time?

    January 12, 2021 at 12:22 am
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Cami,

      The most important part is the laser printer! This transfer relies on the toner that these printers use to transfer, as it is a fine powder trapped within the paper fibers and not a liquid ink that is absorbed into or binds with the paper fibers. A poster would have used an ink process, meaning the colours are essentially locked in place and could not be transferred.

      Hope this helps,

      Discovery Center Team

      January 15, 2021 at 9:33 am
  • Gianluca Reply

    Hi Adam.

    I want to put a picture on a coated canvas wallet. Do you know if it will work? How fast would it wear out if do it? Naturally wallets will rub against the pocket of pants and slightly bend. How durable is it?


    January 5, 2021 at 9:10 am
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Gianluca,

      That is a good question! While we are not sure exactly how well a transfer would weather that kind of use, our guess is it will fade relatively quickly in that situation. This is meant as more of a decorative project and relies on laser toner, which could be worked back out of the canvas with enough stress.

      Hope this helps,

      Discovery Center Team

      January 9, 2021 at 11:12 pm
  • Marlene Hernandez Reply

    Cam you use any type of mod poge to transfer photo into canvas

    August 17, 2020 at 4:47 am
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Marlene,

      While there are probably variations of mod podge we haven’t tried yet, this method has worked with all the types we have encountered!

      Discovery Center Team

      August 19, 2020 at 10:54 pm
  • Sara Reply

    I keep getting wrinkles in my paper after I put it on the canvas. I cannot press them out. When I peel the paper off I have lines on the canvas.

    August 9, 2020 at 10:41 pm
  • Emily Reply

    I want to print my photo to A1 then transfer it. Does it matter if I can only get it printed on matte 160gsm… will it still work

    June 28, 2020 at 3:54 am
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Emily,

      While a heavier paper than strictly necessary, you should be able to transfer an image off of 160 gsm paper.

      Discovery Center Team

      June 29, 2020 at 10:04 pm
  • Beth Selby Reply

    Can I paint the canvas with acrylic paint first, then put the gel medium down, then the paper? I am looking to add some text to a canvas, but want color in the background. Thank you!

    April 16, 2020 at 7:39 am
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Beth,

      Yes, you could do that! We would suggest putting an initial layer of gel or two and let it set to make sure your original acrylic layer is protected, but once that is done this method should allow you to transfer additional text or imagery to the canvas.

      Discovery Center Team

      April 19, 2020 at 8:26 pm
      • Tomi Reply

        Can I print the picture on A4 paper

        June 30, 2020 at 10:13 am
        • Adam Reply

          Hello Tommi,

          A4 would work fine! Paper size doesn’t matter, the important parts of the printing process are using a laser printer and regular quality printer/copier stock paper. You can use higher weight paper if you like, but in our testing it does not add to the final effect – the usual 24 lb printer paper is less expensive and works just as well.

          Discovery Center Team

          July 1, 2020 at 1:08 pm
  • Roberto Reply

    Hi Adam,
    Tank you for answering my question, I’ll try to figure it out and if I can, I’ll let you know.
    One more question for you: when I rub the paper, it always break here and there. I rub softly or harder with my fingers, i use a small wet rug or a sponge, I put on canvas or wood a little of Mod Podge or more, I let it dry for 12 hours average, I use a little or a lot of water to rub. And still, I can’t finish an 8×10 canvas without seeing the white of the canvas.
    Any idea? Thanks

    April 3, 2020 at 11:51 am
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Roberto,

      Are you printing in ink saver mode? If you are seeing light patches or patches without any colour transfer, you may want to set your printer to photo print mode or ‘overprint’ if it has that option, to ensure there is enough ink trapped on the paper to transfer over to the canvas.

      Discovery Center Team

      April 5, 2020 at 9:06 pm
  • Roberto Mugnai Reply

    Hi Adam, I follow all the rule to print on canvas using an inkjet printer and regular paper. Modge Podge, brush, credit card etc. However, the color fades away, most of the canvas become greenish with darks spots all over. I’ve tried washing with water several times but nothing happen. The same happen when i transfer on wood. Do you know why? I like doing it but I’m losing the faith and I may quit. And I don’t want to quit. I love this hobby. Thank you for your help.

    March 31, 2020 at 11:47 pm
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Roberto,

      Unfortunately I am not sure what could be causing that! An unexpectedly green canvas is a new one.

      Discovery Center Team

      April 1, 2020 at 11:30 pm
    • Patricia Kennedy Reply

      Hi Roberto,
      You need to use a laser printer (carbon) NOT an inkjet printer. This should solve your issue.

      December 22, 2020 at 10:36 am
  • Adriana Ojeda Reply

    I have a question could you transfer an image from a postcard onto a canvas

    March 29, 2020 at 3:54 pm
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Adriana,

      Good question! This method is designed for inkjet inks on standard office paper, and can not draw the inks off of a glossy photo finish such as a postcard.

      Discovery Center Team

      April 1, 2020 at 11:37 pm
  • Braden Reply

    Do I need to put a layer of gesso on the canvas and let dry before doing this whole process?

    March 22, 2020 at 10:56 am
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Braden,

      It’s not required for this project, but we don’t see any problem with applying some gesso beforehand!

      Discovery Center Team

      March 23, 2020 at 12:29 am
  • Lillian Stewart Reply

    I had made photo transfers with Modge Podge years ago and I never had a problem, but now I have wasted 3 canvases trying to transfer a photo onto canvas for my nephew as a gift. I follow the instructions perfectly and let it dry over night, but I always have the same problem and that is usually one spot on the canvas part of the picture will come off, just one small spot. The rest comes off without a problem. I hardly touch when I roll the medium off so I am wondering if it is one of 3 things; the canvas, which I doubt, the paper, which is possible, or bubbles in that spot, which is probably the culprit. The canvas I did last night I did not see any bubbles at all and I kept checking to see if any were popping up. Also, the ink is coming onto my fingers when I roll and I never had that before. I am REALLY hoping you can help because this project was going to cover my Christmas list and I don’t want to lose any more canvases. I did use white paint to cover over one so that I could try again and not waste another canvas if it screwed up. Just please, HELP!!!

    March 22, 2020 at 10:47 am
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Lillian,

      We agree that a bubble is the most likely culprit. Smoothing down the paper can be tricky; air can sometimes enter through the canvas, creating a bubble you didn’t notice right away.

      That said, the paper can definitely make a difference! This process is designed to work with normal printer paper, but if you went with a paper blend with a higher proportion of recycled fiber, it may help – these papers tend to come apart a little more easily, which can help make sure parts of the image aren’t rubbed off during the cleaning step.

      Discovery Center Team

      March 23, 2020 at 12:36 am

        I use the Staples multipurpose paper. Do you have a better suggestion of a brand of copy paper to use? I am on my 4th trashed canvas and I appreciate ANY help.

        March 24, 2020 at 12:17 pm
        • Adam Reply

          Hello Lillian,

          Unfortunately, we have used that very brand successfully! Is there a particular section of the image it happens to every time, or is it seemingly random? If it is the same spot, is it a relatively contiguous colour or a more texturally varied region?

          Discovery Center Team

          March 24, 2020 at 11:45 pm
          • Lillian Stewart

            It is random and the odd thing is I had done one, after two mess-ups, that turned out fine. The only thing wrong with that one is I forgot to reverse, but it was a trial one that I used a fail that I painted over so I would not waste another canvas. The problem is, I don’t remember exactly what I did. The first video I watched said to coat the canvas and the photo and one said to use the Modge Podge spray to coat the canvas, I did both and I also just coated the photo, so I am not sure what I did. I even bought a router, but that was no help at all with the bubbles or wrinkles. The last one I did I was sure did not have any bubbles, just one wrinkle, but the part of the photo that peeled off was not where the wrinkle was. The only thing I can do is keep painting over the canvases and keep trying. I am a Virgo, so NOT a quitter. I will let you know.

            March 25, 2020 at 10:52 am
  • Lilly Reply

    Can I paint with acrylics (or gouache) on top of the canvas after the whole process is done?

    February 24, 2020 at 6:54 pm
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Lilly,

      Of course! That would be a great way to add some real texture and personal flair to a piece like this.

      Discovery Center Team

      February 28, 2020 at 1:26 pm
  • Kierah Beaty Reply

    Would an epson printer work for this

    December 14, 2019 at 9:54 am
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Kierah,

      This method requires toner and regular paper, so as long as it is a laser printer the brand does not matter! Be sure to use regular printer paper – ink doesn’t transfer well using this method, and photo paper will hold the colorants too well to allow for transfer.

      Discovery Center Team

      December 17, 2019 at 8:38 pm
  • Paige Buchanan Reply

    What type of photo needs to be used for this? Can it be printed on computer paper or does it need to be a specific type of paper?

    November 20, 2019 at 12:12 pm
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Paige,

      This tutorial uses a colour laser jet print, printing onto regular 20 lb office paper.

      Discovery Center Team

      November 20, 2019 at 6:16 pm
  • Bonnie B Reply

    Thanks so much for the simple instructions. I may sound nuts and for sure crazy but our two year old granddaughter and I try to start a new project every weekend. From reusing her wooden rocking chair using some old paint and homemade confetti or creating a beautiful garden scene on an old standard size plate using that same old pay, plastic flowers & curled ribbon or even an front door wreath using an old piece of wood, miscellaneous lightweight bird knick knacks, feathers, popsicle sticks (birds needed a house lol) … Saved gift bows with the wire and if course, a handful of those gift basket flowers we all dry out and save for some reason or another and finally, my previous glue goin comes to the rescue & helps us create another present for her Mommy ! This weekend I’m hoping that tiny little gift from the Gods themselves also likes the idea … They’re her personal gusts to her Mommy after all & had final approval ! Thank you so much
    Mimi 😆😁🤗🙃🤔

    August 28, 2019 at 8:46 pm
  • Isobel Lansell Reply

    If I do not have mod podge or a gel medium would normal PVA glue work as it is quite similar to mod podge?

    August 1, 2019 at 4:17 pm
    • Adam Reply

      Hello Isobel,

      This process works with any clear acrylic medium, so PVA glue would work! We won’t go deep into the chemistry here, but it’s worth noting that not all acrylates are created equal – so while PVA glue would work, we would suggest testing on a smaller canvas first before committing to a larger project.

      Discovery Center Team

      August 14, 2019 at 9:22 pm

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