Wax and Paper Workshop: Image Transfer Tutorial

Wax and Paper Workshop

“Studio Sample: Going in Circles”
(Cotton, abaca, beeswax, resin, toner-image transfer)
Michelle Belto

We are really excited about the very recent publication of Michelle Belto’s Wax and Paper Workshop that we had to give you a sneak peek inside! This book teaches you everything you need to know about creating your own paper and using it in your encaustic art. But even if you haven’t started making your own paper yet, you can still try this fool-proof Image Transfer tutorial on a primed substrate you already have!

(This tutorial was previously published in the book Wax and Paper Workshop by Michelle Belto, copyright 2012; republished here courtesy of createmixedmedia.com)


The technique of transferring an image from a toner copy offers a way to incorporate your own drawings or  photographs into your encaustic work. Copyright infringement is always a concern. Although there are  gray areas in the art world, I prefer to use my own imagery, even if my drawing abilities are somewhat inadequate. If you do use purchased imagery, be sure that the images are free to be used.
In my earlier work I found that transferring imagery was a hit or miss experience. Sometimes I was able to get a pretty good likeness; other times the image was damaged along the way. I learned a process from Gina  Adams, in a workshop through R&F Handmade Paints, that is laborious but 100 percent effective. I have never since had an incomplete toner copy transfer. This process works the same with color or black-and-white toner copies.


primed support
toner image in black and white or color
burnishing tool
spray water bottle
paper towels or rags
heat gun

Tips Before You Get Started:

  • Use a primed support for this process.
  • Usually I add transfers toward the end of my layering process. It is a lot of work to get a good transfer, so I prefer that the image remains strong and visible through the wax.
  • Make a toner copy of an image in either black and white or color. The copy can be either laser or photocopy toner. Feel free to use the cheapest grade paper available, even with a color copy.
  • The support you use should be freshly fused (within a day) and cool. For best results, the copy should also be fresh, if possible.
  • If you are using lettering or an image that you want to read exactly as you see it, use the mirror image mode on the copier.

Step 1

Cut out the image leaving about ¼” (6mm) of white paper all around the outer edge of the image.






Wax and Paper Workshop

Step 2

Place the image face down on the wax. Use a burnishing tool (or the back of a metal spoon) to rub and apply pressure to the copy. To ensure that I get a good  burnish, I will burnish twice in every direction. This is the first step in transferring the toner image from the paper to the wax.
It‘s not possible to burnish too much.

Wax and Paper Workshop

Step 3




Add a small amount of water to a sheet of paper towel so the towel becomes just damp. With the damp paper towel in one hand and the burnishing tool in the other, alternate between pressing the damp towel into the paper image and burnishing the image. If the paper towel is too wet, you will most likely tear the image as you burnish it.



Michelle Belto

Step 4


Continue this process, adding more water to the towel as necessary, until the paper begins to lift as you burnish. Make sure that all edges and areas of the image are lifting.

Michelle Belto

Step 5




Add a little water onto the image and gently roll up the paper with your fingertips until all the paper is removed. You will see the transferred image. As it dries, you may find a light coating of paper residue.


Image Transfer Tutorial

Step 6




Fuse lightly to saturate the paper with wax. Add a protective layer of medium, if you desire.






Michelle BeltoFrom Wax and Paper Workshop by Michelle Belto, 2012: Courtesy of www.createmixedmedia.com.

To learn more about or purchase Wax and Paper Workshop by Michelle Belto, click here.




You might also enjoy these other Image Transfer tutorials:

Fusible Web Image Transfers: A Tutorial

Creating Gum Arabic Image Transfers

And be sure to check out Image Transfer Workshop by Darlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Duran Wilson







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