transfer images onto rocks

image transfer onto rocks

I know there are a ton of tutorials online for image transfer, but when I was making these, I couldn’t find a good technique that worked on rocks, or that had a perfect transfer.  I also have a fondness for tutorials with lots of pretty pictures.  No sports car images or poor quality images, thank you very much.  Sorry, just saying….

Technically, a gel transfer is just a transfer of ink into the gel medium so that the majority of the paper can be removed, leaving only the image. Trying to glue the paper image directly into the rock could be done, but the rock would have to be pretty flat. Making a transfer image allows the image to curve with the rocks surface with very little wrinkling.

For this project, I used Golden matte medium because when I opened my trusty jar of regular gel medium, it was all gone (gasp!).  I imagine that any acrylic clear medium would work as long as you apply the right amount of medium to the image. Also, this technique can be used for many different mixed media projects as well.

About the images:  Inkjet images don’t really work well for this.  Book  or magazine images (that are not glossy) and laser images work best. I found my images from a book that I had thrifted ages ago. An incredibly lucky find.  It’s a catalog featuring John James Audubon’s bird paintings, which are just beautiful.  When choosing your own images, make sure there is a lot of contrast so that the image transfer is clear, and recognizable.

image transfer to rocks

You’ll need:  Matte medium or gel medium (heavy or regular), images of choice, rocks with smooth, flat-ish surface, scissors, paint brush, soft cloth and tray for water. Optional: heat gun and fine grit sandpaper.

1.  Prep rocks.  Make sure they are free of dirt, sand, etc.

2. Cut out images keeping in mind the size of your rocks.

image transfer

3. Cover the image side with 5-10 coats of medium.  The more coats there are, the less likely the image will tear later. If you are using heavy gel medium, you could probably get away with using 3-5 coats.  Allow to dry completely. (I used a heat gun during this stage to speed the torturous wait time between coats)

image transfer

4.  Put images into tray of water to soak for a 1-2 minutes.  You can lightly sand the back of the image to allow water to soak through the paper faster. This is especially important if the paper is quite thick. Just soak the paper for a little longer if you don’t have any sandpaper. Matte/gel medium will become cloudy during soaking period.

image transfer

5. Once paper has become quite soft, lie image face (gel side) down onto a flat surface (glass or table top) and start to gently rub paper off with finger.  Wipe with soft cloth to remove tiny bits of paper.  Allow to dry.

image transfer

6. Now you will have a very thin almost tissue paper like image.  It is actually much more flexible and durable than it looks.  Trim images to fit the rock you have chosen.

image transfer onto rocks

7. Using matte/gel medium, coat the top of the rock and apply image. Brush another coat onto the image, then gently use finger to securely press down all the edges and remove any bubbles.

image transfer onto rocks

8.  Allow to dry for several hours (or over night).  It will look a bit murky for a while, but when it is completely dry, the image should be clear and bright.    At this point, you could use paint, colored pencils or pen into the image if you like.  Maybe glue on a inspiring word and then add another protective coat of matte or gel medium.

If the transfer doesn’t work, soak the rock in warm water for a while and rub off the image.

pretty rock collection

Now go forth and make pretty rocks!!

This entry was posted in i make stuff, Tutorials, how to. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to transfer images onto rocks

  1. angella says:

    thank you for this great tutorial Regina!!! I love your transfer rocks.

  2. cheryl birt says:

    I have been working on a memorial for my Mother and Brother. The rocks inspired me to find pictures of their interest. Our family and friends can take one home. Fishing and gardening for my Mom and art and history for my brother. I also stenciled words on some rocks for contrast.
    The instructions and pictures where clear and inspiring. Thank you for sharing Regina!

  3. Bev Chapman says:

    Hi I was wondering about transferring my dogs foot print from paper onto a garden stone. I bought liquified gloss medium and varnish at Michaels. They weren’t exactly sure if it would stand up outside or not. I want to make sure I have the right stuff. Thanks.

  4. Cheryl says:

    Why not transfer it right onto the rock? Very curious as I have done this with Golden and have not been happy with the results. It changes the rock color slightly where it is placed/brushed, and shows edges where it ends on the rock, no matter how careful or thin I make that edge. To me, this looks like an extra step, but the pictures above are so clear! Very nice work, I’m very impressed and this is how I wish mine to be. Have you had any of the difficulties I have with Golden? I use Golden regular gel, Matte. Thank you for your reply.

  5. A great tutorial! Thanks for the ideas x

  6. never fore says:

    thanx very much for the great tutorial you have given me a fishing rod here in zimbabwe where unemployment is high thanx once again l hope and look forward to get more tutorials and put them into practice and earn a living out of it .

  7. Ron says:

    TY, great tutorial.

  8. Laura hickey says:

    I used liquitex medium gel but the gel came off and not the paper! The bottle doesn’t say acrylic – could this be the problem? Thanks!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Please note that copyright images taken from published material cannot be used unless entirely for personal use or without the artist’s prior permission. Please respect and protect artists’ rights.

  10. Cristi says:

    Ordered matte gel on Amazon but they shipped me gloss! Will that still work???

  11. Lynda Iverson says:

    my email :

    when I try to transfer a picture on my rock when it drys I gently try to remove the picture transferred and the picture also comes off. What am I doing wrong ?

    Please give me tips

    Regards Lynda ty

  12. Cindy Desmond says:

    Question: When using laser picture. Is it best to use a fresh print or let the print set for a day or so??? I have not seen this question answered online.

Comments are closed.