How to Transfer Images and Graphics onto Wood

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Inside: Transferring images onto wood using wax paper! A full tutorial for how to make a DIY serving tray with a custom graphic transfer; plus how to put wax paper in your printer.

I’m always on the hunt for fun and innovative ways to decorate my DIY projects. I know the farmhouse and vintage look is becoming a bit overdone, but I still love the way a soft, worn graphic looks on weathered wood, ya know? Today, I’m sharing a tutorial for how to transfer a graphic onto wood using wax paper!

I’ve done quite a few other image transfers in the past, including transferring words onto wood using just a pencil and some paint.

If you’re looking to use decals instead of a transfer, you might want to check out this tutorial I did using vinyl lettering to create a subway art look on wood. 

And if you want to transfer an intricate pattern onto wood? Try this decoupage method for adding pattern to wood with a paper napkin!

Okay, on with how to do a graphics transfer with wax paper onto wood. It’s really not hard, but it does require a bit of attention to detail. This entire tutorial required that I build a little wooden tray too – so that’s included here as well. 

Yield: 1 graphic transfer

How to Transfer Images and Graphics onto Wood

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $5


  • wooden tray or board
  • wax paper
  • ink jet printer
  • graphic image
  • paint
  • wax sealant or varathane (your choice)


  • (If you're building the tray)
  • Nail gun
  • Wood Glue
  • Drawer hardware
  • black and white chalk paint


  1. First things first, cut your boards or have them cut for you at the hardware store. Then assemble your tray. Affix the short 1x2s to the short ends of your large board using wood glue first and then nails. Then once those are on, attach your longer boards to the outsides using the same method.
  2. I wanted my tray to look a bit shabby chic, so once my tray was assembled, I went over the edges with a bit of black chalk paint. Then go over that with a couple coats of white paint. Once it's dry, sand down the edges to create a distressed look.
  3. Find a graphic image online and print it out IN REVERSE. I'd choose something with distinct lines that looks good in black and white. Cut your wax paper to the exact size of your printer paper (8.5"x11" should be fine). Feed your wax-lined paper into the printer tray of an ink jet printer and print as normal! Let it sort of dry for a few seconds so the ink doesn’t smear and then place your designed wax paper onto your (in this case) tray and use a credit card or something to smooth it down.
  4. I went back over a few places with a light hand and a lead pencil. Then I added the hammered metal hardware to the sides of the tray.

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

This little tray turned out super cute. I mean, the wax paper transfer method does not yield a really dark transfer. I think if you wanted it to be crisp and really clear, you’d need to try something a bit more refined.

Here are a few burning questions I know you’ll have about wax paper transfers!

Can I put wax paper in my printer?

Yes. You technically can put wax paper into an ink-jet printer and you need to do it one sheet at a time. Use a regular piece of paper as a backing and make sure that you guide the wax paper as it’s printing. Don’t let it fold or curl under itself otherwise the ink might smear. 

You don’t have very long until the ink dries out on the paper, so if you are using this wax paper method, you have to work a bit quickly.

Can you use wax paper instead of transfer paper? 

Wax paper can be used as a type of transfer paper, but there are a few key differences. The wax paper cannot be moved AT ALL once you place it onto the wood. If you move it, you will smear the image and have to start again (and repaint and wait for it to dry etc.). 

Transfer paper can be like a wax paper transfer – think of it like one of those removeable tattoos from when you were a kid. But it can also help with transferring things like vinyl graphics onto wood as well. 

Can I use wax paper to iron on vinyl? 

I’m gonna go ahead and say a big fat ‘no’ to using an iron with wax paper. If you are using a heat based transfer, you should use parchment paper or a heat safe paper. Wax paper will get messy very quickly if you use it with an iron. 

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