I’m working on (water-based) ink-jet ink transfers to wood by printing images on freezer paper and then rubbing the ink into the wood. I’m using aspen and poplar for this project.
The issue I’m having is the wood isn’t as smooth as paper so it ends up with micro gaps in the ink giving it a really grainy look. But at the same time the ink bleeds a tiny amount so the finer details blur.
I’ve been trying to figure out either a way to prevent the ink from bleeding or if nothing else, color the wood just a tiny amount so the lighter colored "grainy" parts don’t show as much.
So far I’ve tried a golden oak stain, which if I use a tiny brush and wipe off almost immediately it sorta works but tends to make the image look more golden yellow than I’d like. I don’t have any other colors of stain to try right now but if the images are black and white, maybe a gray or black would work. I don’t think it would work with colored ink, though.
I’ve also tried Gesso canvas primer but it actually made the ink bleed more. The other one I tried was Liquitex Matte Medium over the ink which gives a neat look by blending the ink to fill in gaps but it makes it too dark.
You can see in the top image the grainy gaps; the bleed is a little harder to see. The picture below it shows the gaps a little better. I did buy some 400 to 3000 grit wet dry sand paper to try and get this wood smoother. I’m hoping that’ll help too.
I’m just a bit stumped on what else to try. I wonder what would happen if I used wood conditioner and then did a very light gray stain before the ink transfer.
So, I don't have direct experience here, but I have a friend who does a lot of transfers to wood, metal, glass, etc. Here's what he said:
Canvas gesso isn't good for ink. It's quite porous. He should probably start with a matte clear coat spray varnish. That's if he wants it to look like he's printing on wood. Otherwise, paint it, then varnish, then print, then clear coat again. Or switch to a water transfer method. That's what I'm using these days.
Almost certainly you want a smooth matte finish to print onto, so no sanding the base-coat.
Since I went out of my way to make a comment about addressing both your questions, you will probably have to sand to a much finer level. The last pass should be a pretty fine grit, possibly wetting the wood first to get the fibres to swell up and be cut nicely.
Though, for the cleanest cut you cannot beat cabinet scrapers. A sharp scraper will make a very smooth surface with very little fibre ends.
That being said, if you wet sand before applying your base-coat, you will have the opportunity for a quick pass with sandpaper before a second base-coat, which will make for a very smooth starting point for your printing process.
Correct answer by jdv on August 30, 2021
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