DIY Rub-On Transfer

Okay, so you may know this already, but I haven’t run into a crafter yet who does.  So I thought I would share.  When I went browsing on the internet  late one night to solve a crafting dilemma, I ran across this quick and easy trick which totally blew my mind and allowed me to do so many things I previously couldn’t.

The dilemma was this:  I do not have a printer that will allow me to print onto card stock.  This hinders a number of my creative pursuits and is the reason I am not currently creating invites or wedding programs for my shop.  But this little technique I am about to show you allows me to essentially print on card stock in very small batches.

I am going to show you how to make your own rub-on transfer at home.

You will need:

  • A computer
  • A word processing program
  • An ink-jet printer
  • One transparency
  • A wet paper towel
  • A dry paper towel
  • Your thumb
  • Card stock

The first thing you will need to do is type out what you want transferred.  For the purpose of this tutorial, I will show you how I label the divider tabs in my perpetual calendars.

So I will type “Jan” into Microsoft Word, pick a nice font (Blackjack), a dreamy color (teal), and even some text effects (a brown outline).  Don’t forget to size it correctly.  If you’re not sure about the size, fret not, you can easily make that adjustment after a trial run and only waste a small amount of ink.

Now you’re going to print.  Make sure your transparency is in your ink-jet printer and that the printer accepts transparencies, I had to pull my old printer out of retirement because my new fancy high tech printer is a transparency snob.  Before you hit that print button, go to your printer properties, click the “finishing” tab, and check the box for “mirror image”.  This step is important, if you don’t do this, your text will come up backwards.

Now go ahead and click that print button.

Once the transparency goes through the printer you want to work fast before the ink dries.

Hold the transparency over the paper and get it lined up just right before you place it down.  Once it is in contact with the paper, do not move it or the ink will smudge.

If the size is not right, go ahead and wipe the ink off the transparency with your wet paper towel, dry it with your dry paper towel, put it back in your printer, adjust the type size and print again, no biggie!

Press the transparency against the paper, hold it carefully in place with your non-dominant hand and then start rubbing over your text with your dominant thumb.  Rubbing with your thumbnail works best.  You can pick the transparency up a bit to see if you’ve rubbed all the right spots;  if not, just place it back down and keep rubbing.  This step shouldn’t take you more than 30 seconds.

Pull up your transparency and voila!, you’ve printed on card stock.

There are a few things to remember.  You can use your transparency over and over again, just make sure you wipe it down with water and then quickly dry it.  Any large office store will sell you individual transparencies in their copy center, so do not buy a $3o carton of transparencies just for this technique!

The image will not be as crisp as a print job; it will look more like a stamped image.  Be warned!

I use this all the time now.  Here are a few examples from my recent work:

Have fun with this and keep pressing on,


33 thoughts on “DIY Rub-On Transfer

    • I think they sell for about a nickel at Kinko’s or Office Depot (don’t quote me on that). I bought a stack of five about nine months ago and I’m still using the first one. So glad you like the post!

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  3. It sounds like a great and creative idea. I must try it, as I also have a rather snobbish printer — my card stock was jammed last time, and I have been thinking of a solution…….and THIS may be my solution. Thank you!

  4. Really loved this! I tested it with my Epson R800 which isn’t able to print on transparencies according to Epson – worked out nice! Now I’m able to have rub-ons in my own language 🙂 Neat!

    • I’m so glad it worked! I had to take an old trusty printer out of hibernation in order to do this, but it is so worth the lost desk space. Thank you for the comment and feel free to send me a link to anything you make with the technique. I would love to see what you come up with!

  5. Nice! Wish I had an inkjet printer… and color printer. But definitely storing this idea for future use! The possibilities are endless!! Sharing on Facebook!

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  7. Perfect! I noticed two different versions of your perpetual calendar box pictured & would love to know all the ways that you put one of those to use. Would you be willing to share what you track with them? Many thanks! ~ Ami

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  13. Do you think this technique would work on a canvas? I have been trying to find a way to get quotes on art canvas’s for my workout room and I am having hard time coming up with anything that I can do at home.

    • Trysha, so sorry for the late reply. I haven’t tried it on canvas, my gut says that it will work , but because of the canvas texture, it may not be as crisp as you would like. I say give it a shot and let me know how it goes.

  14. I stopped at Office Max today to get some transparencies. They asked what type of printer I had, and if it was an InkJet (I have a deskjet) that the transparencies they sell would not work. They told me that the ink leaves a real mess inside the printer. I asked what they had — laser copiers, They wanted me to bring in my file to print on a jumpdrive and they would print it. I said that it wasn’t going to be a one-time printing. Is there a special type of transparency I need to get? thanks.

    • I know this is outdated but for anyone wondering the answer to this, I think I know. Since you want this to rub off you want to use a transparency that will NOT hold the ink permanently. That’s why you need an inkjet, not a laser printer for this technique. It’s been awhile since I’ve done it, but I don’t remember buying special transparencies and I’ve never owned a laser printer. The office supply people probably weren’t grasping that you wanted to use this for a rub on technique and thought you wanted a permanent image, which is not what we want here 🙂

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